Review: FIFA 15 – Ball Kicking Fun

on October 2, 2014 11:00 AM

After the disappointing season that was FIFA 14 I was worried that FIFA 15 would be more of the same from a usually reliable franchise. Thankfully, EA Sports bounced back from their difficulty transitioning their flagship sports franchise to the new console generation.

The most notable change for FIFA comes down the goalkeepers. No longer are they the brainless mannequins who casually glance at every ball that whizzes by their bodies. The goalies have a ton of new animations and generally play the ball at better angles. One-on-one encounters with the keeper are completely exhilarating since they actually seem like they want to stop you from scoring. If you’re worried that the extra attention given to the goalies will somehow turn FIFA 15 into a defensive affair, sit relieved knowing that isn’t the case. In fact the new goalie behavior just makes every goal look a lot more impressive.

The ball physics and movement also saw very big changes. Shots and crosses look a lot more natural for instance. What this does is every shot and cross looks different every time instead of using the same animations. When on defense you’ll see that sometimes just standing in the right spot will disrupt an offensive.

Counter-attacks are more prevalent in this year’s version and offer really butt-clenching moments, particularly after committing a bone-head play like a bad pass into three defenders.

Joystickin' With Jorge FIFA 15 Screen Shot 2014-10-01 07-02-55

Managing your team during a game has become a lot easier by adjusting your team’s strategy with just a button (or shouting into your Kinect). You can call for a variety of different play schemes (long ball, possession, etc.) right on the fly without working through any excess menus.

Career mode is still my favorite FIFA time-waster. My preferred way of playing FIFA 15 (and most sports games) has been by playing as myself in career mode. If you’re unfamiliar with how Career Mode works, you pretty much play through the career of a budding footballer until his retirement.

If you’re more a manager than a player then running a team in Career Mode may be more your style. Your job here is to build a team a team of champions. Being a player, the focus is purely on driving up your market value. Both are pretty fun to play and both offer enough interesting challenges for two very different styles of play.

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FIFA Ultimate Team is back and now you can get star players on loan if you don’t like shelling out real cash or working super hard earning Football Club Credits (FCC). This is great since most of your players on your initial team are mostly awful and at least you’ll have a fighting chance of staying competitive in your early matches.

I think the most important thing that FIFA 15 does right is it allows anyone regardless of skill level to perform superstar status plays. It’s easy to get into a match and know exactly what to do. You can still enjoy yourself and stay competitive without going to too deep into the advance gameplay techniques. (Pro-tip: Learning how to master the lob that floats over an aggressive goalkeeper’s head will score some easy goals online.)

Speaking of which, an online game still remains a trial of offense. Personally I prefer a high scoring match of soccer over a defensive one and judging by the aggressiveness of the folks online, I think they agree as well. Aside from one or two dropped games, the EA servers held up surprisingly well as I was being trounced by players who clearly knew what they were doing.

Joystickin' With Jorge FIFA 15 Screen Shot 2014-10-01 07-04-01

FIFA’s presentation is is on-par with any sports broadcast. I found myself captivated with the half-time and post-game highlight reel. The fans have been completely re-worked to become more lively with something EA Sports is calling “emotional intelligence.” What these means is the crowd will react to the events going on field. If you miss a shot that would have been an equalizer late in the second half, the crowd will make their frustration heard.

These emotional outbursts aren’t reserved only for fans. The players themselves will react to taking a dirty tackled  or scoring a goal. There was one instance where I made a not so clean attempt on Lionel Messi and our teammates had to separate us after some words were exchange after the play.  Consider this icing on an already yummy soccer cake. (P.S.: English Premier League fans will love the fact that all 20 teams finally have their stadiums represented in this version.)

Now while FIFA 15 manages to capture the excitement of watching a real-life football match, it does a poor job of sounding exciting at all. The commentary falls a bit on the dry side. The plays are competently called but there just isn’t much gravitas in the delivery of those lines. Despite this drawback, seeing the grass on the field getting the messed up as the game continues and seeing players tug on each others shirts all add up to really sell the immersion.

Joystickin' With Jorge FIFA 15 Screen Shot 2014-10-01 07-06-02

As someone with a very fleeting interest in soccer, I found that FIFA 15 did a great job of getting me excited about soccer, whether it was figuring my team chemistry in the Ultimate Team or trying to line a penalty shot late in the game. The interface is clear and effortless to navigate, which has always been the bane of many sports games franchises. Doing some fancy dribbling past two defenders while shooting a goal from 20 yards away made me jump in celebration.

Even though I really welcomed the changes that came to this iteration, I did wonder what it would be like if the game shifted focus to a defense-minded approach. The updates to the goalkeepers is a great start, as it feels more in service of making your goals look great in replays.

FIFA 15 managed to bounce back from last year’s lackluster performance with subtle changes in the right places. Playing the game brought back the exciting, tense and rewarding experience of scoring a goal again. We’re are looking at a step in the right direction towards the next-gen soccer game fans deserve.

You can also check out my Joystickin’ With Jorge video here, where I spend some time in the career mode of FIFA 15 as I play as odd-looking rookie sensation Jorge Jimenez of the Colorado Rapids, as he embarrasses the D.C. United in a greatly one-sided match with a lot of scoring.

 /  Staff Writer
Raised under the tutelage of Sonic the Hedgehog and the Gunstars. Jorge came from an age where protagonists never spoke and instruction manuals were over 50 pages long. When Jorge isn't writing about some obscure indie game, he spends his day talking about videogames regardless if anyone is listening or not. Jorge one day dreams of voicing a random npc your main character bumps into and punches in the face.