Platform: Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 4
Release date: 26 September, 2014
Developer: EA Canada
It’s that time of year again. As the weather worsens and the nights grow longer, a new FIFA is released. Last year’s release was as popular as ever, but for some fans it was ruined by a range of minor problems: The First Touch Control system, introduced in FIFA 13, was as dodgy as ever, resulting in sloppy play and dozens of missed chances; too much emphasis was placed on physicality, and lobbed through balls were nearly unstoppable due to problems with the positioning of players. FIFA 14 felt sluggish, unrealistic, and less fun than its predecessors.
But things have changed, and FIFA 15 is a significant step up for the series. Whilst EA Sports has presented us with all manner of buzzwords to confuse and confound, the game itself is certainly better than last year’s edition. The Impact engine has been swapped for the new Ignite engine, with the aim of achieving atmospheric and realistic matches. The fans in the stands actually look human for once, although they still behave like an army of angry apes. Due to the new Emotional Intelligence feature players and fans can go through a variety of emotions over the course of a match, changing the mood of a game. And whilst we’re still stuck with the same old duo of Martin Tyler and Alan Smith for commentators, they now pick up on fan chants and the atmosphere of matches. All of these minor improvements help to keep FIFA 15 fresh.
Gameplay has also been improved. Offensive play is more fluid than it was last year, as dribbling has been improved with realistic player agility and balance. The First Touch Control system has been removed and ball physics are now more realistic, so no longer shall the ball go flying off in cartoonish fashion when coming into contact with a player. Goalkeepers have also been given special treatment, with improved reactions, a greater number of save animations and better AI.
For the first time every Premier League stadium is included in the game, and the faces of the world’s best players have been recreated with more detail than ever. The level of detail is frightening, but gives FIFA 15 a real sense of authenticity.
Some of the new features are a tad silly, such as the Dynamic Match Presentation, which tries to turn each game into an episode of Match of the Day, using match highlights stylised with filters and lots of slo-mo footage. It’s a nice thought, but the novelty quickly wears off – this is one feature that just doesn’t work well with the rest of the game.
There are a few other areas of FIFA 15 that need to be worked on as well. The Creation Centre, which had been my favourite feature over the last few years, has been left out due to the shift from Impact to Ignite. No longer can you create your own teams, with their own unique kits and crests. Career mode feels the same as ever, despite the new lick of paint, and custom tournaments have also been left untouched. It seems that the focus this year has definitely been on improving the action on the pitch rather than tackling game modes.
For the last few years the FIFA series had been flagging, barely changing from one year to the next. This year, however, EA Sports have used the move to a new engine on next-gen consoles to bounce back, introducing a wide range of useful, if poorly named, new features. Some of the game modes are the same as ever, and the Creation Centre has been dropped, but the developments on the pitch are remarkable and work well to make this one of the best FIFAs in years.