While The Instep typically houses reviews for soccer equipment (mostly boots), we do occasionally get to dip our fingers into other soccer-related products. The day that a box arrived with a copy of EA Sports FIFA15 may have been one of the best days of my reviewing life, so it was an easy task setting about creating a review for the current incarnation of FIFA. With this FIFA being the first edition to truly claim to harness the power of the newest gaming systems (the PS4 and the XBox ONE), would EA Sports take another step forward with FIFA or would FIFA15 become the “Jabulani” of the gaming world?
The first thing that anyone will notice is how astonishing this game looks. Every season, EA makes sure to add more realistic player faces, realistic stadiums, and realistic gear. With FIFA15, the bar has certainly been raised to an amazing height. All of the top teams have players that legitimately look like the players instead of the same model getting slapped with just a few different hair styles and shapes. With EA adding in the entirety of the Premier League’s home venues, any gamer spending their “career” or “be a pro” experience with the UK will be treated to painstakingly rendered stadiums that look and feel like their real-life counterparts.
For visuals, FIFA 15 gets a strong 5/5.
Then, the true gaming experience begins. For that, we will break things directly into online play/offline play.
When you head offline, two true modes stand out. You can either start your career in “Be A Player” or “Be A Manager.” For me, I tend to delve way too deeply into “Be A Manager,” which was the first thing I did with FIFA15. The biggest changes are going to be in switching up your line-ups before a game. FIFA15 allows you to alter everything quicker, easier, and with even more customization (if you choose to dive in that little bit deeper). Players can be told whether they can interchange with other positions, where to occupy during their defensive duties, and can allow you to either just choose your simple 4-4-2 and your players -OR- have eery bit of your team customized to your liking. For anyone really hoping that (one day) FIFA will meld with Football Manager, the manager career seems to moving slowly that way.
The transfer market is very similar to FIFA14, which will take some getting used to if you have not played the game since we shifted from past years (when you only had to bid on the players you wanted) to the current system where you need scouts in order to discover everything you may need to know about a player. The only biggest change might be more club AI as the other clubs will try to extort you for millions above the real value if they are holding a valuable piece or if a player is very desirable. Also, be prepared for clubs to FINALLY be willing to take your youth players on loan. Considering how badly I always want to create a team from youth prospects that are grown within the club, this new aspect is HUGE…
The commentary has also been upgraded and helps create more of a growing atmosphere as the season goes on instead of finding yourself hearing the same stories about a club’s history/same statements after only your third game.
The “Be A Player” mode has experienced a few small shifts, with your main focus still being accomplishments that have to be achieved by meeting certain goals. Warning to all of you that tend to not make it through more than one full season: you will probably be loaned out to a smaller club as your player will not be deemed good enough to being at one of the huge clubs. This mode could benefit from more interaction options as a player (asking to be the free-kick taker, asking to be the penalty taker, asking for more play-time), but it still gives you the feeling of growing from a youth team player to a world-class star.
Offline mode gets a strong 4.5/5 (although, I would give it a 5/5 if they would just let me edit player ages…Stevie G and Pirlo can’t retire!!!)
Stepping online, the main focus will be on your online club. Sadly, this particular reviewer finds no joy in FUT, so you’ll have to find a review about that feature somewhere else. Play with your club has now become an easier process than ever. Not to mention that it seems the number of matches that you just get accidentally “kicked” from has been significantly reduced. EA has also made it where you have no clue what the skill level/player number of the opposition is, which makes teams leaving the action the second they see you have one more player than them non-existent. We could spend an entire post talking about the computer’s defending skills and the keeper’s actions online, but it does continue to improve and the boneheaded decisions have definitely been reduced. Better teams will still lose after controlling a game and dominating possession, but being able to do more than randomly rotate the trick stick and try constantly taking finesse shots from range continues to slowly be rewarded more and more.
As far as playing without a club, gone are the days where the first person in got to choose which clubs were in the match-up. Now, EA just has two different vague “EA” based clubs going against each other in each match, so you won’t have to choose against your favorite club when you enter into a match. Players in this mode tend to make ridiculous decisions and play selfishly instead of as a team, so you should hunt for a club as soon as you can. The biggest negative here is that whoever is the captain of your team can switch positions around…meaning that if you make the mistake of joining a team that has a few buddies on it, expect to be moved from an attacking position back to defense.
Online mode continues to improve, but it still has plenty of room to grow – 3.9/5 (I would give it a 4, but I just can’t bring myself to…)
It goes without saying that FIFA15 continues in the grand tradition of having an astounding soundtrack. Inevitably, any of the bands that you are hearing for the first time on FIFA will soon become household names and favorites of yours (FIFA was the first place I heard bands life LCD Soundsystem, Walk the Moon, Jamiroqai, and a host of others). My current fave jams are “Busy Earnin'” by Jungle and “My Type” by Saint Motel…great stuff..
Every track is fantastic – 5/5
For gameplay, FIFA continues to try and slow down towards the true pace of the game. Just trying to play balls over the top will not longer be the best strategy possible, but players that learn how to let go of everything except the control analog will soon find themselves dancing through hordes of defenders. Just holding down the boost will see you flying past attackers as they stop and change direction, but a big tip for any new FIFA15 player would be employing a CDM and having them sit right in front of the defense as teams will attempt to spread your defense out and play a simple pass into the middle. Defenders are now much more likely to attempt slide tackles, and learning how to employ them into your own game will be pivotal if you play at any level higher than semi-pro. Also, do not be surprised when you score a nutmeg goal on a keeper, but also be prepared for them to make some impressive saves/stops/and double/triple saves.
Crowds are much more interactive, stadiums get loud, away fans get loud when they are winning, teams will really push during late game situations in a knockout style tournament, and refs are not afraid to shell out the cards. Another huge step forward in the game, but there is one thing that I would be absolutely idiotic in not mentioning as a negative: every stoppage in play seems to be accompanied by an animation (some that cannot be skipped)…while it makes the game impressive visually, it gets a bit annoying after the first few matches. You will find yourself getting in position for a set-piece only for the screen to shift because it was only a set-up animation (notably on corners and goal-kicks). Considering how massive a game this is, having this one of the only big negatives shows that the first FIFA fore the newest systems has come to play…
Gameplay gets a 4.5/5 as perfection is certainly within reach.
FIFA15 definitely shows what EA Sports can do with the power of the Xbox One and PS4 as the main system. By fine-tuning things that work, improving things that fans embrace (like FUT, online club, etc.), and avoiding massive changes to a product that has worked well for years, EA makes sure that FIFA15 is a fantastic product. If you are looking for a way to play some soccer long after everyone has gone to sleep, on a stormy day, or any other time when real-life soccer isn’t available, FIFA15 is a perfect option. Why are you still reading this? Go get your copy now!
Final Rating: 9/10 (simply because of small improvements that could still be added)