When you release the same, nearly perfect game every 12 months, the distinctions between old and new become slight, bordering on esoteric. But to those of you, like me, who’ve played FIFA ritualistically for the entire 21st century, the small differences can render huge improvements.
In terms of gameplay, FIFA 15 has some very noticeable changes from its predecessor. As far as offering an authentic soccer atmosphere every match, the game is unparalleled. Suarez even bites people.
Here’s some stuff we’ve noticed so far…
IMPACT WITH THE BALL
One of the very first things I’ve noticed in 15, is that touches on the ball — whether passes, dribbles, shots, or accidental deflections — feel incredibly crisp (and sound real, too). The ball appears to jump off of whatever it touches, which brings up the speed of play and allows offensive players more control when passing and shooting. That being said, I’ve found it pretty tough to score on one-on-ones with the goalkeeper in this one (perhaps I’m still adjusting to the new physics). This could be a result of improved keeper AI.
WAIT, ARE THOSE…FOOTPRINTS?
The Xbox One version of this game truly looks next-gen. Case in point: Dew on the pitch will leave it soft enough to be impacted by players’ cleats. Running hard and stopping, sharp cuts, and messy falls leave a visible imprint on the physical field, that last throughout the game like clues in a Scooby Doo mystery. Along with jerseys that move in the wind and more complex, expressive faces, the visual component of this game is strikingly beautiful and worth the $60 alone.
FIFA 14 promised to incorporate truer ball trajectory, one where shots would behave as they do here on Earth. In a year of playing that game, I can safely say EA Sports underestimated the degree to which soccer balls bend through the air, opting to error on the side of caution instead of turning airborn shots into the golden snitch from a quidditch match. Now, a ball struck with some oomph will deviate from its flight path without losing speed or too much accuracy. The accelerated bend on a driven ball — or volley as seen below — can turn a prayer into a fantastic highlight without infringing on the goalkeeper’s intelligence (sometimes great scores just end up being the result of a suspiciously late dive). Trying this feature out for the first time feels like test driving a Ferrari.
OFFICIATING IS SMARTER
In the short amount of time I’ve played the game, I’ve noticed you can’t really get away with some of the “cheeky” moves you could in the past. For example, if a player has a ball played to him while he’s offsides, and the pass is intercepted, the offsides player will be flagged when he tries to get the ball back. Also, bumping a player off the ball can result in a penalty (no more body checks on players making runs, you guys).
Then this happened, which has a distinctly 2014 World Cup feel to it. Apparently there is supposed to be a “goal-line tech” review in instances like this (though I’m not sure why it didn’t happen in the instance below). Either way, I’ve never seen a ball hit the crossbar and spin out so violently like that from a header. Very cool.
WHATEVER EXACTLY “PACE” IS, THIS GAME HAS IT
Speed, baby — FIFA 15’s got loads of it. The last incarnation of the series had a slightly lethargic feel to it, which seemed to be EA’s attempt at making the game more realistic and less like Mario Strikers (or a contrast to its only really competitor, Pro Evolution). And while they did achieve an authentic feel, the game’s pace somewhat turned it into a contest to see who could “build up” a better attack, with less emphasis on one-on-ones and distance shooting (aka the good stuff).
Without turning FIFA 15 into a cartoon of what soccer should look like, EA has successfully increased the “fun” qualities of the sport without devaluing the more cerebral strategic component. One of the ways they’ve done this is by making the lob through ball — everyone’s favorite mindless pass — less accurate. It’s as if EA is saying, “If you’re going to build an attack, it’s going to involve some thinking on your part.” They’ve also slipped in a few variables that allow more organic scoring so as to make the game less robotic than 14 was at times. Defenders are less likely to stop through passes just because they’re standing near them, shots sneak underneath goalkeepers, and deflection goals actually happen.
Buy it — this is the biggest upgrade we’ve seen since the games came to Xbox 360 and PS3.