The release of EA sports’ annual football franchise has now become about as predictable as Christmas – and is equally celebrated by football fans. Fortunately, once unwrapped, FIFA 15 largely manages to avoid disappointment.
The most noticeable changes come from the presentation department. EA would have you believe this is principally down to the game’s new ‘emo- tional intelligence’ feature: now, it’s claimed, all 22 players have ‘a range of emotions’ that evolve contextually throughout the match and ‘tell the story’ of your game.
Unfortunately, however, the same story seems to have been written for every match. Players scarcely react in a noticeable way and, if they do, it’s usually repetitive and lifeless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a player express their ‘emotional intelligence’ by awkwardly chest bumping a member of the other team. Despite the supposed 600+ different emotions present, ‘mild rage’ is the only one you’re likely to see – an arid political correctness purveys this feature, no doubt a consequence of the title being an ‘official FIFA product.’
Fortunately, the game’s presentational changes fair far better elsewhere. This is largely down to a new partnership with sky sports. Now matches are displayed in a classy, televisual, manner, that has been bor- rowed from the broadcaster. This adds a neat touch, as do the new replay screens. At full time you’re treated to a nifty highlights reel, accompanied by a catchy, yet durable, custom soundtrack – no more deeply irritating pop tunes to reinforce the losers pain as they re-watch goals conceded. Graphically, the game looks stunning. Player likenesses have been improved significantly (for the top leagues that is) as have the pitch visuals. Thanks to a new ‘Living Pitch’ feature the grass now shows impressive signs of degradation as matches wear on, especially in bad weather conditions such as snow and rain. Though far from perfect the in-game commentary has been much improved too. Commentators now read out the full team sheet and players position information at the start of the match. Martin Tyler’s habit of repeatedly picking out the same fact or story about a player or national team’s performance at the recent World Cup is less enjoyable, however.
FIFA 15’s gameplay updates, though by no means revolutionary, are amongst the most noticeable of EA recent iterations. Here, the game’s biggest changes come from a tweaked physics engine. The ball now moves in a near-lifelike manner, making the experience feel incredibly authentic. A change some players will not find entirely welcome. Though adding a layer of realism, this feature makes the title feel less like a fun football game and more like an admirable football simulator. The increased realism also males defending a nightmare at first, leading to some incredibly frustrating goals early on. still, there’s an undeniable thrill to be gained from watching the ball rumble the net as it takes a natural trajectory from a well-hit volley. The same great game modes are all present with some minor, largely forgettable, changes.
FIFA is as great as it’s ever been, and though this year’s title is by no means ground-breaking, it’s certainly the prettiest, most life-like, and most complete football video-game yet.