[drop_cap type=”1/2/3″]T[/drop_cap]he FIFA franchise from EA’s stables has really come a long way. Last year’s installment featured some important tweaks, but this year’s version adds onto that blueprint and tries to excel in some areas, frustrate in some others.
All the characteristic annual update features are there to see in FIFA 15, when it comes to graphical improvement, player models (up to some extent), new tricks and animations, and a new soundtrack. Something about that last bit, though. When it comes to in-menu sound, which tends to be a big part of the experience around FIFA titles, this one isn’t so great on the ear. It may be personal preference, but there aren’t that many exciting songs in there, I’m afraid.
In fact, if you’ve played the last installment of the game, you’d be hard pressed to find any major revelations when it comes to player likenesses — they largely appear to be the same. Not a big improvement on that front, if that’s what you were looking for.
However, EA’s quest has been matching the realism of football, as is projected in its televised avatar, and it’s been largely successful in getting one step closer to that vision. The build-up to games, and the in-game promos, roster announcements, the cheering crowd and player handshakes, all these extravagances are EA’s mainstay and it simply feels brilliant in FIFA 15 — even though it doesn’t differ too much from the previous installment of the game. FIFA 15 does a really great job of setting up the stage, giving the player a sense of occasion and destiny with every match, making him or her feel that they’re actually pulling the strings of a weekend Premier League game. It’s great, that feeling of grandeur and instant immersion, and FIFA 15 captures it better than anyone else. Without a shadow of doubt.
When it comes to playing the game itself, it seems this incarnation of FIFA is more favourable towards attack-minded players than those who hunker down, break up play and defend in numbers. As soon as you start a FIFA 15 game, you’ll instantly notice (if you played FIFA 14, that is) that the pace of the game has picked up a few notches. Where it was a nightmare trying to get Gareth Bale (the fastest runner in the game) out of the blocks on overlapping runs in the previous installment, the same Gareth Bale seems like Usain Bolt on a vengeance streak in this edition of FIFA 15. Dribbling past defense is quite easy too and it makes you wonder whether EA dropped the difficulty level down a bit intentionally to let next-gen console users (who’re getting introduced to the game for the very first time) get used to the game. Because the difference between a veteran FIFA player and a novice certainly isn’t as pronounced as it used to be till last year.
To balance out the emphasis on attack, there are visible improvements in the goalkeeping department of the game. Goalies actually matter in FIFA 15, and beating the last defender to score a goal (as it used to be till FIFA 14) is no longer a certainty. Goalies are more adept at coming out and narrowing angles when strikers are on a run, and equally aware to go back if they’ve miscalculated. Diving is more intelligent as well, and the goalie feels a lot more realistic than it has ever. The next thing EA should attack with gusto? Giving some much needed intelligence to their in-game commentary pack. It’s very good, but seems too boring and repetitive for anyone who’s been a fan of the franchise for a few years now. It’s just a bit too dated.
The career and FIFA Ultimate Team modes are as great as ever and it’s nice to see Tournament mode in there, too. The online gameplay is much the same, and it won’t matter if you’re someone who doesn’t have a steady, reliable, fast Internet connection, anyway.
We reviewed the game on a PS3, but have seen the improved visuals of the game on a PS4 — it really does look better on the current generation of consoles, obviously, and a visual treat. Most of the other technical aspects of the game remain the same, however. Older generation gamers, you’re only really missing out on the cosmetics.
With all due respect to PES fans, this is still the best football simulator to play. By a long shot (Oh yeah!) EA’s not trying to reinvent the wheel here, just trying different things to emphasize in the hope that it’s all one big spectacle that fans will love. Well, veteran fans of the franchise may have a hit-or-miss experience, but for new-age gamers and first-time players of the series, this is probably the best FIFA game they’ll ever get their hands on. Is it the greatest FIFA title ever? Most definitely not. EA still hasn’t cracked it. Not by a long shot (See what we did there?).
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