The next sports genre in this year's lineup of EA Sports titles is football - and to be more precise FIFA.
Being one or rather THE most succesful sports game franchise in Europe, there's quite some pressure put on FIFA 15. Last year's FIFA 14 may have already been utilizing EA's Ignite Engine, yet FIFA 15 completely devotes itself to it. With so many gamers curious about what EA tries to do next with that new Engine with FIFA 15, is this year's FIFA a crucial step forward for the series or just more of the same?
Updated Core Mechanics - "Polishing the Details"
Right from the start it gets clear fairly quickly, that FIFA 15's basic mechanics haven't changed that much - and for the most part, that's a good thing. By having such a foundation in FIFA's previously established very solid, easily accessible yet hard to master gameplay mechanics, FIFA 15 presents itself as a sports game that is likely to appeal to newcomers and diehard fans alike - for better and for worse.
With that said, while the this year's entry in the successful sports franchise handles its mechanics and controls with great precision and does a great job in getting newcomers into the gist of the game by its respectably large amount of training modes, for fans of the franchise, FIFA 15 might easily feel a bit too similar to its predecessor FIFA 14.
Being the first (or if you count FIFA 14 as well, the second) FIFA game that completely bases its visuals on the power of EA's Ignite Engine, instead of changing much about the game's controls or core mechanics, the developers instead focussed clearly on the details of the game, taking the saying "don't fix what ain't broken" to heart.
Therefore, while the main controls during FIFA 15's matches are generally the same, body movements of players are the most obvious improvements in FIFA's succesful formula. The factor of "realism" has been visibly amped up in FIFA 15. Details like, referees realistically taking a bit more time to notice fouls, players now having much more varied and flexible movements or the fall and impact on a player by an enemy's tackle clearly depending on the speed both players gained before, makes FIFA 15 matches overall feel a bit more organic.
|Impact by tackles are much more refined affairs.|
And while this improved sense for realism is easy to be admired, it does come with some occasionally annoying negatives.
In that sense, while injuries on the field are unpredictable aspects of a match that can drastically change the pace of the game as well as simultaneously underline great immersive tension during hard matches, injuries in combination with occasionally weird teammate A.I. can grow quite a bit annyoing in FIFA 15. With that said, it often occured that during a play other A.I. controlled teammates performed illadvised maneuvers passing to hurt enemies for the final stretch towards the goal. Although injured teammates on the field are nothing new to FIFA and are always marked with according icons during matches so that human players can always strategize whether to risk passing to them or not, A.I. teammates often seem to ignore injuries in a way, making them treat injured players quite a bit too much like unhurt ones.
Furthermore, improvements regarding goalkeepers and goalkeeping mechanics are another aspect of the game that has been given quite some attention from EA when showcasing the game at expos. And while it's safe to say that goalkeepers have also been given quite a bigger array of flexible movements that make them more agile obstacles for attackers, aside from that, there don't seem to be any additional significant differences from last year's entry. Once more, the more realistic tweaks are enjoyable but don't result in any substantial change.
Off the field, the biggest change in this year's title is the introduction of the Team Sheet system, which probably appeals easpecially to newcomers of the franchise. EA drastically reworked the game's interface of selecting specific lineups and formations for teams to make maneuvers and general strategic play in FIFA 15 more accessible and less convoluted. While it mostly works just like the team formation system in previous games, creating and editing custom formations is much simpler this time around.
|The Team Sheet system has been overhauled for good.|
Modes - "Focussing on the Essentials"
Regarding other game modes, FIFA 15 again shows that it's improvements lie more in the presentation of the game rather than mechanical innovations. With a selection of modes that is largely the same as the one featured in FIFA 14, standard modes as well as fan favorite game modes are all there, yet a bit more variety from this first next-gen FIFA would've been better. Nevertheless, fans will feel quite at home with this.
Other minor changes though are present in the Career Mode, in which you take on the role of a player or manager over the course of multiple seasons.
This time around though, the global transfer network, which previously in FIFA 14 included some questionable player-scouting mechanics, now received minor yet important improvements. These come in the form that the transfer network now allows for scouting specific players in addition to those identified by your scouts. Manual as well as automatic scouting are therefore blent together more efficiently and resultingly more appealing and player-friendly. Last but not least, you now also get more data on a fully scouted player, including their overall rating.
|All your favorite modes are there...but what's new?|
Continuing FIFA 15's very standard and familiar roster of modes is its online multiplayer suite, which includes standard player vs player matchmaking, matchmaking with teams/clubs that you can create together with friends as well as EA's new Ultimate Team mode that has been implemented into every other of their sports games this year.
Ultimate Team therefore exactly functions like its other sports-genre contemporaries. In that sense, you can build your own team to play on- or offline by buying random booster packs of player cards for ingame currency as well as real money.
What's very noticable however, is the increased attention the game gives to socializing with others. Therefore, the game's menu always aims to show and inform you about your own process in the game as well as the one of your friends.
|Money fixes everything.|
As already said, most changes around FIFA 15 revolve around the game's presentation. Instead of major gameplay changes, EA focussed its attention on tweaking details like the aforementioned more fluid and realistic looking animation of player movements, more life-like crowds that dynamically react to shifts in a match's pace and the generally refined presentation of the matches in the form of simulated TV broadcasts. EA certainly did a good job with the visuals. Players furthermore actually look like their real-life counterparts, player models are quite detailed (considering that team-sports games usually tend to be weaker on the actual model's details) and customizing your own player offers a lot of options while not being overly complex.
As in any sports-game, soundwise there's not much to talk about. Just like in other EA sports titles this year, commentators do a good job in accompanying the match. Even though compared to other EA sports titles this year, dynamic reactions of the commentators fall a bit flat and underwhelming in comparison to for example Madden 15.
|Despite the welcome tweaks it's hard to call FIFA 15 a complete success.|
Summed up, FIFA 15 decidedly avoids to introduce big game changes to the series' mechanics in favor of focussing almost entirely on reworking the game's visuals due to the new Ignite Engine. And in that aspect, it certainly pays off. The array of player movements has been increased and made more flexible and realistic. Polishing the details to make FIFA matches feel more organic certainly shows, yet everything else this year's iteration has to offer plays it quite a bit too safe for many gamers' tastes.
With that said, that doesn't mean that FIFA 15 is a bad game. Since it builds on the great foundation of its predecessors and offers pretty much the same roster of modes from last year's FIFA 14, fans will find all of their favorite modes again, while some of them have even been refined a bit for good in addition to EA's Ultimate Team Mode.
Question is, is FIFA 15 a crucial step forward regarding the overall evolution of the series? Aside from some minor teammate A.I. issues, FIFA 15 is just as good of a football experience as its predecessor, which in addition of its improved visuals makes it in some aspects even better. Yet these aspects come off as not really essentially necessary, making FIFA 15 often feel a bit like a FIFA 14 2.0. FIFA 15 is a step forward but surely not a big or very crucial one.
Therefore, despite its great accessibility for newcomers and tweaks here and there, FIFA 15 is best recommended for die-hard fans of the series who put great value on the game's visuals. The tweaks the game offers here and there are probably too few to recommend and instant buy right now, since FIFA 14 just happens to be just so similar to FIFA 15 in terms of content and overall value. It's this similarity however that makes FIFA 15 a good game and still kind of a underwhelming actual "next step" for the series at the same time. Here's just hoping that EA amps up their creativity for FIFA 16, seeing that the rivaling Pro Evolution Soccer franchise is out for FIFA's crown as the king of football games.
Final Verdict: 7 out of 10
Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.
Status: Good / Only for Fans
Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.