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FIFA 15: early thoughts of a part time player

FIFA15

Ok, I’ll set my stall out early. When it comes to FIFA, I’m an ‘average joe’ kind of player – I just don’t get the time to play it as often as I would like, but I do enjoy the odd weekend and post work game with friends, online or against the CPU. I’m also a Crystal Palace fan which means, like in FIFA, I’m more used to losing than winning. This doesn’t stop me from enjoying the game however, and so when FIFA 15 landed on my doorstep last Friday it went straight into my ps4 to see if EA Sports have given us the much promised ‘next gen’ experience or a re-tweaked version of Fifa 14 – the answer, it would seem, is both….

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The first thing you notice is just how real to life the game looks and feels. From the opening entrance sequences introduced by Jeff Steling to the living, breathing stadiums (all 20 EPL stadiums are featured for the first time) complete with team specific chants and celebrations such as Man City’s Poznan. We are also treated to a Skyesqe presentation style which replays beautifully each goal, save and crunching tackle during the game all expertly commented on, if somewhat repetitively, by Martin Tyler and the nasal tones of Alan Smith. This all adds up to an amazing ‘big game’ experience which is unrivalled in any other football game. However, the problem is that many of these glorious new features will simply be skipped at a press of a button in the rush to get back to playing the actual game.

GAMEPLAY

A football game should live and die by how it plays, not how it looks. It’s what kept Pro Evolution Soccer ahead of the pack for many a year before it lost its way. In many respects FIFA 14 moved closer to PES last year with a slightly slower game which relied more on passing and movement than pace and skill moves; but at times it felt too heavy, and ultimately it succumbed to the dreaded lobbed through ball as a way to break defences and to score a hatful of goals (against me anyway).

This year, pace and dribbling are back, though I’m pleased to say that there is still a place for a slower, methodical pass and move style of playing (I’m a purist at heart!). And this is what pleases me most. Off line at least it feels that for the very first time in a FIFA game each team will play slightly differently based on the players in the team, the tactics employed (which can now be player specific), and the formation selected. Whilst playing as Palace I found myself defending in numbers, breaking down play with my defensive midfields and then countering with quick balls out to my wingers or to the front man to hold up play before support arrives. The joy of scoring a goal following such a breakaway was almost as good as watching Dwight Gayle score the equalising goal versus Liverpool at Selhurst Park last season (ok not quite that good).

This individual feel extends to players as well. Yala Toure for example is a beast. The first time I tried to tackle him with one of my wingers they simply bounced off him. Liverpool’s Sterling is lightning quick, and Crouch – during a recent online game – simply got his head to everything (for a big man he was also quite useful with the ball at his feet as well)

CAUSES FOR CONCERN?

Controversially (a quick twitter search will elicit the full spectrum of FIFA fan fury), defending is harder, much harder. It’s caused by a double whammy of changes to standing and sliding tackles with enhancements to dribbling at pace which, when combined, gives a much greater advantage to the attacker. It seems that the key to defending this year will be the art of doing nothing by jockeying for position, closing out passing lanes and making a tackle as the last resort. It’s a change that I like IF defending can be mastered; however, EA will need to improve the defending AI as more often than not your computer controlled players will go for a wander leaving huge gaps out wide and between defence and midfield which, at the moment, are being horrifically exploited by my online opponents.

Goalkeepers, much vaunted by EA this year, are also worrying. The new save animations and movement of the keepers are great when saving 30 yard thunderbolts, however anything near the front post seem to cause major issues and rebound goals seem to occur too frequently for my liking.

A TALE OF TWO GAMES?

I must admit, most of my game time thus far has been offline. However – and this (for me at least) has been a problem with FIFA for a number of years – my online games thus far on FIFA15 don’t seem to play like the tactical ‘real football’ games that I play offline. I like to play with a combination of manual, semi, and assisted controls as I feel it enhances the range and level of control that I can have in the game. However, online you mostly meet ‘fully automatic’ players who play a particular variety of ping pong passing football combined with lobbed through balls (they still work though are less effective this year) which ultimately lead to some heavy drubbings on my part. In addition that sense of individuality in players and teams that I mentioned earlier seem to get lost online which is a shame. That said, I might just be rubbish!

SUMMARY

Frustrations aside, and let’s be honest we are a demanding bunch these days, FIFA 15 is THE definitive football game. The level of detail, range of game modes, enhancements to gameplay, and plethora of tactics, formations, and playing styles means that it will be difficult for what looks like a resurgent PES 2015 to win back its title, at least this year. I’m hoping that over the coming month or so we will get a patch for keepers, and perhaps a slight tweak to defensive AI – if that happens then we have a truly great game on our hands.
Now if you excuse me I must return to my must win Crystal Palace v West Brom game….it’s shaping up to be a dull 0-0 (see, I told you it was real).

Star rating 4.5/5

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