It is that time of the season again. New signings have started to settle into their respective teams, we begin to see who could be fighting for the title and who could be trying to stave off relegation. It is also the time of the season when we are served EA Sports’ latest offering in the FIFA series.
It is an exciting time of the year for FIFA fans. After playing the previous title for the past 12 months, FIFA fans are typically desperate to get their hands on the newest entry. Does FIFA 15 warrant that excitement and anticipation? Quite frankly, no. It doesn’t.
Last year, I reviewed the PS3 version of FIFA 14 and I noted that the graphics were stale and showed hardly any signs of improvement. Sadly, even for the PS4 version, I have to repeat myself and point out that the FIFA graphics need an overhaul. Although some lighting effects and new face scans of players somewhat improve the graphics, it is still the same old look and feel for the past 3-4 years. The new player face scans look good, however they just magnify the generic and even older player faces that have been stagnating within the FIFA series since the PS3/360 days.
Ever since FIFA made the transition over to the PS4 and Xbox One, the brief glimpse of the stadiums before kick-off do look really impressive. It really adds to the overall presentation that you would usually see broadcast around the world.
The rainy weather effects have improved, however it is somewhat spoiled by the over-exaggerated splashing every time a player takes a step. The football pitches now have more added detail that changes throughout the match. After a long sliding tackle, a big tear in the turf is left behind. The pitches are fresh and spotless at the beginning of matches and gradually you see the wear and tear. Although this is not much to shout about, it is a nice added touch to the overall detail of the game.
EA Sports has also cranked up the brightness and contrast and the only way to change it is to adjust your TV instead of having changeable picture settings within the game. This needs to be addressed.
In FIFA 14, the biggest noticeable difference in the game play was the speed of the game. It had slowed down quite a bit. FIFA 15 has went the complete opposite direction. It is now insanely fast and very arcadey, even for FIFA standards! Speed, speed, speed – that’s all you need. Football matches now feel like basketball matches.
Now that most players fly around at lightening pace, defending can be an absolute nightmare. First off, you need to catch your opponent first before you can even attempt to tackle the opposition. Even then, chances are that the ball will ping around between dangling legs and you’re left in the dust anyway! A new added feature which brings in a new element of defending is shirt pulling. This makes up for the physical battles in FIFA 15 becoming less effective, especially against the CPU.
Basic short passes do feel a lot more satisfying. If you have players available, you can start to get really slick passing moves going which are horrible to try and cope with if you are on the defence. Shooting has sadly went downhill. Shots are incredibly over-powered and ball feels weightless. Even a slight tap of the button sends the ball into row Z.
FIFA 14 had a huge problem with throw-ins. They took forever to get through and a lot of the time, throws went over the intended target’s head. In FIFA 15, we see a huge improvement in this regard. Throws are quicker to get through, the AI is more aware of where the ball is when they go to pick it up. There is also a new added element of using the right stick to control any intended targets. This changes the whole dynamic of throw-ins. You can now control several players to manipulate any possible space, especially in the opponents half which therefore can create goal scoring opportunities.
The AI has declined dramatically. Defenders will just randomly run off the pitch with the ball, whilst under zero pressure. After playing my first 4 matches, the AI committed this crime in every match. The CPU also makes very questionable decisions, passing to an obscure team mate instead of shooting or vice-versa.
The biggest issue is the goalkeepers. One of the new tag-lines that EA Sports attached to FIFA 15 in order to sell the game was “next-gen goalkeepers”. Judging by this term, it seems like the more RAM and processing power your console has, the dumber the goalkeepers become. The goalies have always been an issue throughout the FIFA series but FIFA 15’s keepers are on another level. They are saving the impossible shots and making the biggest fumbles we’ve seen yet.
Goalkeepers aren’t the only guilty party. Referees are making terrible, terrible offside decisions. They aren’t your typical questionable decisions that you would see during a normal football match. These are decisions that would get them sacked from their respective FA! For some strange reason, replays of offside decisions now no longer have the lines to show us how offside the player actually was, if at all! It is such a blatant miss that I am convinced that it was left out on purpose, and if so, why?!
The game modes for FIFA 15 have not changed much from FIFA 14. There is still the lack of a lounge mode and basic one-off unranked/ranked online matches that require no long term commitment such as Seasons.
The skill games are back and are just as addictive as the past few years. They’ve added a whole new batch of creative challenges that are really fun to try and beat.
In order to make use of microphones/Kinect, EA Sports has added a voice command system to FIFA 15. If you want to make a substitution, you follow the voice command prompts that are built into the game. This also applies to mentality, tactics and even camera angle. The Be-A-Pro mode tries to take this feature to the next level by incorporating it into the game play. You can now shout for a pass, call for a cross into the back post or tell team mates to have a shot. This sounds brilliant in theory but when you put this theory into practice it turns out to be rather lacklustre. Your voice commands have to match the terms and commands that are built into the game. It is essentially like trying to remember move combos for a beat ‘em up game but only with your voice, and then hoping that you have enunciated enough for the CPU to recognise your command.
EA have improved the sound in FIFA 15. The crowd sound more realistic and not as “canned” as they did in FIFA 14. Crowds react to shots and saves with the obligatory “Oooh!” and “Awww!” Crowd chants are more substantial and prolonged and the overall atmosphere within grounds are improved. The commentary has improved too with Martin Tyler/Alan Smith and Clive Tyldesley/Andy Townsend teams both returning. However, be prepared to listen to Martin Tyler’s obsession with the 2014 World Cup. It seems like every player that was at the tournament has a sound-byte/story from Martin, discussing what happened with them.
We are now allowed to turn off Mike West, which is a tremendous improvement to the FIFA series!
This ties in with the overall match presentation, which apart from the speed of the game, is the most noticeable difference made in FIFA 15. From the post-match montage to the cut-scene camera angles and team line-up announcements, EA has went balls to the wall with the wannabe TV approach. The commentators now review the starting line-ups before the match. With the ramped up presentation comes more cut-scenes for players to skip through during the match. Every free-kick or corner now has an extra stage or two of rather unnecessary cut-scenes.
There are a few miscellaneous matters which need to be mentioned. Firstly, every team in the Barclays Premier League now have their stadiums included in the game. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. Maybe in FIFA 16, every team in the Bundesliga will have their stadiums featured and then EA can build a plethora of stadiums as each year goes by.
Secondly, the Turkish Super Lig is now included! This has been an issue for years and EA finally got the rights to the league again. Sadly, there is a catch: there is no Brazilian Serie A! This is a huge miss, especially when you consider the eyes of the footballing world were just on Brazil 3 months ago for the world’s biggest tournament. We also lose out on all the young Brazilian prospects to grow in Career Mode.
The last note that should be made is the “Team Sheets” feature. This is a new added detail in team management where you can set several starting line-ups, including formation, roles and instructions and so on. This is really handy for having a very quick ‘Plan B’ or C at the ready. It is also useful for Career Mode where you can essentially set up a 2nd starting eleven for lower-grade cup ties. This saves time trawling through menus every time you have tired players before a cup tie.
Sadly, FIFA 15 is a poor football game. Although there are some minor positives throughout the game, they are weighed down heavily with all of its problems. From the arcadey, over-paced gameplay, to the stale graphics, new strange glitches, league omissions and lack of new game modes, FIFA 15 is simply not worth its price tag. The only saving grace for the games value is the nature of the title. Sporting titles tend to be easy to pick up and play and can have really good replay value. What we have been offered in FIFA 15 does not constitute spending another £60.
FIFA 15 is a bit of a strange conundrum of a game. It can feel so slick and smooth one minute and then the next – feels so sloppy and glitchy. For all of FIFA 14’s faults, it is still superior to FIFA 15.
EA Sports need to spend less time trying to add bells and whistles by copying Sky Sports’ presentation and turn their attentions onto working on fixing bugs and improving the game play.
This review is based on a physical copy of the game for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts