An Upgrade, But Not a New Game
In the world of sports games, you set yourself apart from your forerunners by including brand new modes or features. When FIFA 15 came out, I was excited to see what the game had to offer. I’m not the biggest soccer fan out there. I’m mostly just a casual watcher, content to scream alongside my friends during the World Cup , but FIFA has always been an intriguing game, fun enough to play, but also creating a significant cultural impact. Just look at John Green and the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers , and the eventual Nerdfighteria sponsoring of AFC Wimbledon. If you haven’t read up on this story, you should. It’s a fantastic example of the power the internet has to make change in the world… but I digress. The point is, I’ve kept track of FIFA’s releases even though I can’t remember team names, star players, or stats for the life of me.
And as a casual player, I have to say that FIFA 15 was a little disappointing. As I said before, FIFA games, and all sports games, set themselves apart from their predecessors by including new modes and features. However, if you sat down to a game of FIFA 15 without being told what it was, I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking it for FIFA 14 . Very little has changed this time around. Sure, stats have been altered, teams have been changed, and rosters have been shaken up, but otherwise you are looking at the same game you played before, and you have to dig rather deep to start seeing the differences.
The graphics are obviously tweaked and tuned up, but that’s pretty par for the course. Faces probably received the biggest upgrade. Last year, it was noticeable that models were, essentially, upgraded from last gen consoles. This year, with some next-gen experience under the development team’s belt, the models look a lot better. Of course, that means we are once again diving head first into the uncanny valley, but we aren’t there yet. The numerous camera cuts and close-ups show how much smoother textures have become, and how players faces move naturally, instead of simply staring off into the distance like some sort of life sized soccer doll with cold dead eyes.
Body models have received less of an upgrade, but the way they collide with each other has. Of course, you won’t be seeing this as often in normal play, but you get a lot less of that “force field effect” where players come close to each other and just bounce off like two magnets repelling. Clipping errors are virtually non-existent. There is a real weight and force to every collision, every kick, even the simple taps of the ball in ball handling. I do praise the game for this leap forward in graphical fidelity, but at the same time I’m not sure this makes up for the full price of the game.
When you go through all the skill games and tutorials, you do eventually realize that there are a bunch of new skill moves in FIFA 15 . However, my opinion on these moves is the same as my opinion was last year. There are too many to really be used effectively. The button combinations are hard to remember and feel kind of arbitrary… and I play fighting games on a professional level so I don’t say this lightly! Not to mention each skill is ranked 1-5 and certain players can only do moves of certain rank and it’s kind of hard to tell which player you are currently controlling. Overall, I just gave up on using these moves most of the time. In fact, the one thing that I wanted to remain constant from FIFA 14 , the skill move command list, changed up in FIFA 15 , meaning you’ll have to learn them again if you were already playing at a pro level.
Goalies feel like they have received quite the upgrade this time around. They move into action earlier, perform a variety of different moves to help block goals, and most importantly, show tells when you come toward them. By this I mean you will routinely see goalies try to make a decision such as running toward one side of the goal, coming out toward you to attack, standing in the middle with their arms spread, and so on, when you approach them with the ball. A big part of playing the game is reading these tells in order to score on the goalie, and that gives the game a certain degree of realism.
However, I would also say that the A.I. is a bit more exploitable this time around. There are a couple magic angles that you can approach goalies with to completely confuse them. Long runs down the outside seem to get around many defenders without the need for passing.
I’d be annoyed at this but it actually kind of makes the game more fun. You see, with the knowledge that you can exploit one or two hitches in the A.I. if you fall behind, you feel free to fool around on the field a bit more. This leads to outrageous situations like scoring goals from center field or running straight down the idle with 4 opposing teammates following you like a pack of angry wolves. These moments are by far the most fun the game has to offer, the almost NBA Jam style ludicrous moments where you do something that would make absolutely no sense in a real world context and somehow succeed. In fact, I’d suggest that you keep to playing lower difficulties for just this reason. At higher difficulties you will get away with far less goofy stuff, and in my opinion that just makes the game less fun.
You’ll notice that I’ve mostly talked about the core gameplay in this review. That’s because, as I said before, there aren’t a whole lot of new shiny modes to enjoy. A few updates have been made to the “ultimate team” mode. You can now sign players to your team on loan instead of buying them outright, which is kind of cool. You can challenge your friends to friendly seasons in order to kind of set up your own rivalries and tournaments. There’s a new stat that tracks physical ability but in practice I couldn’t actually tell what it did. You can also track all of this in a separate app on your smartphone or even on your computer. It’s cool, but it’s not all that different, and it’s still a money sink.
The basic modes are back as well. You can play in leagues, act as a team manager, set up tournaments, play in clubs and for cups, play co-op, play online, and so on. There are a LOT of options here, but there just aren’t a whole lot of new options. I wish I could comment more on online play, but at time of writing I was still having problems finding matches, though this is probably just because of how young the game is.
Overall, FIFA 15 is an ok game. It’s an upgrade over FIFA 14 . The problem is that’s all it feels like…an upgrade. It doesn’t feel like you are actually playing a new game in the franchise, rather it feels very much like you are playing an updated and expanded version of last year’s game. This is probably enough for some FIFA fans out there. However, for a casual soccer player like me, I was less impressed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.9 Graphics
The graphics are great and the only reason they don’t get a 5.0 is because I know they will get greater in the future. 4.0 Control
The basic controls are OK, but the skill moves are just way too much to memorize. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The commentary is pretty good, just like it was in past FIFA titles. 2.5 Play Value
It really doesn’t feel like much has changed since FIFA 14. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|