FIFA 15

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Complete Review & Description

The World Cup seems like a distant memory, despite it only being four months ago – unless you’re Brazilian. Meanwhile the Premiere League is proving to be an interesting one with Manchester United failing to fire and Southampton surprising many. On local turf, the Wellington Phoenix look set to have one of the strongest line-ups yet, with McGlinchey finally being cleared to play this side of the ditch.

Last week EA released their annual update to their FIFA series, but this time around it carries large expectation. While it’s the second FIFA title on the new PS4 and XBox One consoles, it’s the first title that has had a full development cycle with the new hardware, potentially showcasing what this generation of football simulator can deliver.

Over the past four or five years, EA have moved their FIFA franchise from strength to strength. It is easily the most comprehensive football gaming experience money can buy. It’s accessible and well balanced, combines fun and authenticity, and above all – looks and feels like the beautiful game. With each passing year, players are left wondering how they can improve the formula?

FIFA ‘15 is probably one the least noticeably different updates to the series for anyone who played last year’s effort. But it’s the subtle things that really lift the game.

Graphically it isn’t dramatically improved, but facial detail is more defined and you’ll notice players facial expressions now. EA claims there are 600 emotional reactions that can be potentially seen during the game, and while this seems a tad exaggerated, you will see defenders screw up their face in anger when penalised for a tackle, or see strikers fume when called offside.

Players also get involved physically with one another now, shoving each other after an aggressive challenge or patting each other on the back for a job well done. Sadly I didn’t play enough to see if Suarez eats anyone or not.

Famous faces are also all strikingly recognisable, from Cristiano Ronaldo’s chiseled jaw through to David Luiz’s luscious ‘fro. Wayne Rooney still looks like a potato.

The models and animations seem to have been upgraded too, and often you’ll see players passing with the outside of the foot or rolling realistically after an aggressive tackle. Again it’s the subtle touches in FIFA ‘15 that make the difference. Occasionally an extra ball may make it’s way onto the pitch, and a nearby player will run over to it and scoop it back out of play. Or the way they lift dead balls with the side of their foot when taking throw-ins or free-kicks. It’s little touches of seamless play like this that help make your matches all the more realistic and immersive.

This cinematic approach carries through to replays as well, and half-time or full-time replay coverage now introduces a whole lot more camera angles to relive the action. Now it’s not just the same three goals replayed over and over, instead you might revisit tricks, tackles or even top-down angle passes from your match.

Controls wise, FIFA fans will feel right at home and after a couple of matches, will soon get the hang of the slight adjustments that have been made to the shooting mechanics. But ball control in FIFA ‘15 seems so much more responsive, allowing players to properly dribble at players and change direction more fluidly than ever before. In fact with the ball at your feet, especially with a talented player like Messi, it feels like anything is possible.

The interface in FIFA ‘15 hasn’t changed too dramatically, although with every iteration there is a new look to the menus and backgrounds. This time there is a cleaner, more intuitive menu system featuring flat, minimal icons along the bottom of the screen help users hone in on the more common sections. For instance starting, or creating Tournaments, is now quicker and easier and the overall effect makes the last FIFA’s user interface seem clunky.

Another area that has been noticeably updated is in the team roster sections and FIFA ‘15 also makes choosing substitutions easier with suggested switches and simplified screens that filter suitable replacements for their position.

The commentary remains the usual high quality in FIFA ‘15, but it’s the soundtrack in these games that I always feel deserves a mention. The eclectic and Internationally diverse range of tracks that grace your ears during menus has always been inspired. This time around it includes Avicii, Madden Brothers, Magic Man, Saint Motel, right through to our own local artist Broods – who released their brilliant debut album in August this year.

AI has improved, although there are still some exploits when playing against a computer opponent. For example long balls over the top of the back line expose the defence for a one-on-one goal scoring opportunity more often than not. Plays down the wing and cutting inside the box are fairly lopsided too, but the strength of the goalkeeping AI this time around does help to balance out goal scoring opportunities.

Your computer controlled opponents also change their tactics depending on the flow of the match. If they are two goals behind in the second half, they will often go into all-out attack mode to equalise. Vice versa, if they are holding onto a single goal lead, you might witness a striker hogging the ball by the corner flag in a frustrating, but albeit legit time-wasting tactic.

The only real shortcomings with the AI emerge when playing the Be a Pro mode, where you can opt to control a single player and build up a career. Obviously you are very reliant on the intelligence of your teammates, and while you can dictate play by calling for the ball, tracking opponents and finding space – it can still be a frustrating experience in FIFA ‘15. Often teammates will lob an easily intercepted ball to you, when a ground pass would be far more ideal. If you’re a midfield or attacking player, you’ll also face-palm when watching your back four run around like headless chickens when a basic cross is lifted into the box.

However, this aspect aside, it’s all the other aforementioned little tweaks and additions that help make FIFA ‘15 more realistic and immersive. The core gameplay mechanics have all being finely tuned, almost unnoticably from a distance, so that the game creeps closer and closer to the real-life thing.

Which makes this iteration difficult to out-rightly recommend. For real FIFA fans, you’ll want this latest update not just for all of the new content, but also for the finer adjustments and improved goalkeeper AI. For more casual fans however, there might not be enough glaringly obvious updates from last year’s edition to do a Mexican wave for.

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