Below is a review of the video game, FIFA 15 I submitted for a freelance opportunity at a video game website. The opportunity fell through and the review never saw the light of day. You can read the full review below.
When FIFA 14 released last year for the XboxOne and Playstation 4, it was widely considered to be the best sports game to launch with the new generation. This was due in large part to its updated visuals and crowds that responded with every fast break, key pass and acrobatic save. Released less than a year after its predecessor, FIFA 15 aims to top its previous outing and while it’s hard to believe, the game succeeds in nearly every way.
The most notable upgrade is in the on-field atmosphere. While the series continues to aim to replicate a television broadcast – new halftime and post-game cinematic highlights are a welcome addition – the game places you closer to the action. The default broadcast-style camera angle is lower and at a slightly more perpendicular angle to the pitch. Along with being closer to the 22 on the field, the player also gets a better view of the crowd. The benefit to this is the crowd is even more lively than last year. EA made an effort to secure the license for every stadium in the Barclays Premier League, working with the clubs to the point where even the sideline advertisements are accurate – with exception to a few for the Ultimate Team mode. Fans also have the real-life chants for their teams in specific situations though sadly, West Ham fans don’t yet blow bubbles onto the pitch. Maybe next year. The only downside to this authentic atmosphere is that it only pertains to Premier League clubs. La Liga, Bundesliga and other top tier leagues have less flair while the MLS looks like a highly attended college match. It’s clear the focus was put onto the English game.
As far as technique is concerned, FIFA 15 tends to favor a more methodical game than last year. A successful string of ground passes through the middle of the pitch will result in a more favorable outcome than reckless through-balls and lob passes. The team at EA has also muted the success rate of crosses, a real goal-maker last year. This makes for a greater fight to get an open shot. The only issue I’ve encountered so far is that finesse shots (holding down the left trigger/L2 while hitting the shoot button) equal goals nearly 100% of the time when on a breakaway. Thankfully the new goalkeeper engine and animations allows for a greater battle with the netminder for the rest of the attack.
With passing switched to the manual setting, the ball is entirely independent of the players when loose and responds to contact rather than only the player’s position. The weather also makes significant strides on the pitch. Rainfall can range from a light drizzle to a full on downpour and the game adjusts accordingly, slowing down with greater precipitation. This makes for some truly epic moments. In my first season with Everton, I was down 2-0 to Chelsea in the snow. I scored two late goals to draw and get the all-important point in the standings. All of this combines to make the most evolved soccer game to date.
Game modes remain mostly the same as last year. Players can take control of a player or coach on their favorite squad, or create their own in the microtransaction-driven FIFA Ultimate Team. While this is an impressive suite that’s sure to keep any soccer fan busy until next year, online leagues are notably absent. At the very least, I would love to see the return of The Lounge in online form so my friends and I could have our standings tracked like we did offline, in college.
The FIFA series has slowly made soccer one of the best sports to play on console and it continues that tradition with its newest entry. While there are still modes that could make the game perfect, it’s a marked improvement over last year and is the definitive next-gen footballer.