Electronic Arts, more specifically the FIFA franchise, is well known for its outstanding level of detail and its ground-breaking improvements year after year. For example these ground-breaking improvements could extend to the updated defence mechanic first shown in 2012’s iteration of the game and the revitalized crowd physics shown in just last year’s next generation port. This year’s FIFA, named FIFA 15, doesn’t follow this trend of overhauls. In fact, it’s opting for a much more subtle approach by adding enhancements which don’t revitalise but fine-tune the diverse experience instead. With that lack of innovation in mind, is FIFA 15 the best football game on the market?
In FIFA 15 you have to look closer than normal to find the improvements. However, when you do, you realise that they make the overall successful FIFA formula more diverse and as a result, a much better overall football game. The biggest improvement is the updated goalkeeper physics, which in turn make them way more realistic and therefore harder to score against. No more will the goalkeepers snap unrealistically into a save to deny you of that ninety minute equaliser (in FIFA 15 they are lifelike and unpredictable to match their real life counterparts). Another great addition to the package is addition of all 20 Premier League stadiums plus updated match day presentation to boot. This is a real treat for those in support of teams like Burnley where now you have the option to play at detailed stadiums like Turf Moor with a match playing out just like you see on Sky Sports every Saturday.
Gameplay has received some minor updates too with matches being played at a much faster pace now compared to FIFA 14. In last year’s title, matches felt a bit slow and you felt like you had to pass the ball around more to get a shot at goal. In FIFA 15 this is not the case as players run, jump and head quicker allowing for some truly memorable goals and more enjoyable matches all around. In the background of this action is incredible detail that helps immerse you in the world just that bit more. Ball boys run to collect balls and throw them back. Camera men stroll up and down the touchline projecting various camera angles that actually appear on your TV. And stud marks are left in the grass to create actual pitch deterioration as the match wears on. The much needed speed in gameplay, matched with the truly outstanding level of detail and realism, means that this is a great leap forward for the franchise.
Even though FIFA 15 is a giant leap forward in gameplay for the series, there are still a few notable gripes that set the game back and stop it from becoming truly revolutionary. One of which is the game mode, Ultimate Team, which was and continues to be very unstable post launch. Ultimate Team, a mode which allows you to become a manager and create your own fantasy team, crashed on me at any given moment and ultimately caused me to lose matches due to my inability to access and buy better players from the transfer market. This follows the same trend of other EA games like Battlefield 4, where players couldn’t access the multiplayer at launch, which suggests that EA need to invest money in better servers to keep players online.
It would be helpful for long-time veterans of the series if they could access that content quicker and not have to sit through lengthy frustrating tutorials at every new button press of the controller. For players who just want to dive straight into the action and experience all that FIFA 15 has to offer, it leaves them feeling like the game hasn’t fully opened up to them until all the tedious tutorials have been mind-numbingly skipped. For newcomers though, where FIFA 15 could be their very first FIFA experience, the lengthy tutorials could be intuitive and informative. But still I just wish they could be bypassed.
Ultimate Team, advertised as “Fifa’s hottest mode”, makes a return this year with some noticeable bells and whistles to get FUT players excited for the new season. One of which is the ability to loan out star players. This addition changes things up greatly, as unlike before you don’t have to grind to get better players. Instead, you have the likes of Messi and Ibrahimovic at your disposal from the get go. These players can be loaned out from the catalogue using in game currency. The online is where FIFA 15 truly comes into its own though and the share functionalities associated with the new consoles only add to a truly rewarding online experience that allows you the ability to share great moments with your friends. But in hindsight, these memorable moments can be interrupted by some strict refereeing decisions which can be a detriment to the suburb experience. Juxtaposed to Ultimate Team, however, are modes like Career and Tournaments which haven’t undergone major improvements this time around. Instead, they have ultimately been copied and pasted from previous iterations.
FIFA 15 is not an innovative game per say; however, the crucial enhancements that have been made really do refine the experience and ultimately make it a truly great football game. Yes, some EA associated problems do occur with some irritating crashes and the tutorials do become tedious for long-time fans. However, the much needed pace and the improved goalkeepers more than make up for it. But the question still remains as I’m sure some of you are asking it right now – is this the best football game you can buy? Well, PES is still to be tried and tested. What I can tell you though is that no sports game reaches the level of detail and realism that FIFA 15 reaches and that’s what will keep me coming back time and time again throughout the long season ahead.