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FIFA 15 review - Hands On

Seth Barton
11 Jun 2014
FIFA 15 review

We get to play an early build of EA's new FIFA 15

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We don't usually pay too much attention to EA's incremental updates to its now venerable, but undeniably dominant, football game. After all, we provide consumer advice and with FIFA there's been little advice to give of late, except to say 'buy it if you want to play football on your console or TV'.

However, immediately upon seeing FIFA 15 we knew this was a big deal. It's the first FIFA designed entirely for next-gen platforms, plus there's a PC version too, and though older consoles will get a version, it won't be quite like what we played today at E3.

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to film or photograph the game running, so we only have images released by EA

BALL GAMES

The first thing that strikes you, as sweetly as a Ronaldo free kick, is the way the ball moves. It slips sweetly from player to player, with every single touch affecting its spin and momentum as it would in real life.

This is because of the new 'physically correct contact system' which calculates the effect of every contact between foot and ball (or head and ball for that matter). It's hard to put into words, but the effect is hypnotic and you can constantly see and understand where the ball is, where it's going, and why.

FIFA 15 review

Based on the handful of games we played, it's far too early to say how the new FIFA will play compared to the last, we found it easier to run with the ball, but also found it easier to tackle, which resulted in a very hectic midfield tussle. There's a lot of fine tuning betweee now and launch though.

A PHYSICAL PRESENCE

The players feel more responsive too, they turn quicker and feel far more agile than before. They also stutter there runs to control the ball with their preferred foot, running with the ball looks more natural than ever, and picking the right moment to release it is far easier as a result.

The players are also more physically present. You can now make shoulder tackles, easing a smaller player off the line of the ball and taking possession instantly. It's also possible to make 'possession tackles' both standing and sliding, where you win the ball cleanly rather than it pinging away from you when you stick your leg in. Your player quickly regains his footing and starts dribbling before even fully standing.

FIFA 15 review

The players are also modelled in a more lean and athletic manner, slimmer and more agile looking to match their new skills.

EMOTIONAL OUTBURST

They may be physically improved in numerous ways, but their temperaments may have a taken a turn for the worse. EA is now modelling the emotional outlook of every single player throughout the match, with events from missed shots, to offside decisions and cards affecting how they react. The individual relationships between every player is tracked, so make a couple of rough tackles and that specific player will bear a grudge.

Now this doesn't affect actual gameplay, your players aren't going to lose it and get sent off in a Zidane moment of madness. However, it does draw you into the game very well; in addition important games will generate more extreme reactions, in terms of animations, than typical ones. So the celebrations upon scoring the winning goal in a cup final will look different to those in a mid-table league game or friendly.

The AI has been entirely overhauled too, though we didn't get a chance to play against it. The new design means the AI has short-term, medium-term and long-term goals, rather than simply thinking in the present constantly, which in the past led to make very safe decisions, even when they were wrong.

The new AI will understand that it's a goal down with 90 minutes played and therefore go for a more direct route and take more chances in attack; while if in the lead it will even 'Park the Bus' and less forward forays. In less extreme situations it will better understand the risk/reward of different actions, and be more willing to take on defenders in your half of the pitch rather than simply passing back or laterally.

FEVER PITCH

The visuals have also been given a massive update. The pitch now scuffs up as you play, with every footstep, tackle and fall tracked and the resulting damage represented on the turf. Dirst builds up realistically on players kits too based on their actions. There's also animated hair, we're looking at you David Luiz, and the digital signboards are functional.

FIFA 15 review

All in all, even in its current unfinished state, it looks and plays superbly. It's a big step forward for the franchise and anyone who has tired of the game in recent years should have serious think about giving this a chance. Coming fairly soon after a World Cup, in September, it should do very well indeed.

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