No captains needed.
Before folks go and hang up that soccer jersey that only gets worn ever four years, let’s talk about a series that grabs the attention of the World Cup and daily watchers/enthusiasts by the millions. FIFA 15 couldn’t have come at a better time. After witnessing another tournament of the world’s best fútbol stars battle it out against each other, I’m sure plenty of people are eager to relive some of the events they've seen over those exciting few weeks. For those who had to watch their favorite team take an eliminating loss (everyone but Deutschland), fear not, for justice can be served… at least as far as digital vengeance is concerned.
This year brings in a ton of “all new” features catered specifically to please the hardcore fans to the sport. From the sights, sounds, experience, presentation, player celebrations… wait a minute, what about gameplay? Well, as advertised for some time, players in-game are said to be smarter than ever before with the newly added “emotional intelligence” system. Players will now react to certain situations that call for some sort of an emotional response. No longer will you see uninvolved teammates stand around as your top striker takes punishing tackles from an overeager defender, nor will they just watch as you squander away countless attacking opportunities.
The system has been put in place to give an authentic feel to the game flow and illustrate how certain actions can come with consequences. This doesn’t mean that if Messi misses his last four shots, his midfielder Hernadez will stop passing him the ball, but it means Hernadez, as well as other teammates, will physically show their frustrations and team chemistry may drop.
Also adding to the experience, everything surrounding the action is all about mimicking what you see in real life. Player benches are livelier, commentators Martin Tyler and Alan Smith will continue to bring key highlights to the specifics of your game. From region to region, crowds celebrate and shout out their custom chants and songs. The show is bright, loud, and distracting. At times it feels over the top, sometimes to the point that I can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing a highlight of an old goal or watching the camera pan to that very same crowd holding up fan signs. The experience is nice but can take away from the gameplay at times.
Everything isn’t just about the experience off of the field; though it might seem that way, the dash of newness added to the pitch does include more than just emotional intelligence and rolls over to intelligence in general. Players can react to circumstances differently. When up 3-2 late in a game, there may be no need to continue to attack; smart tactics will call for killing the clock and ending the game as soon as possible (i.e. parking the bus). Conversely, when down late, defenders will overload and attempt to help forwards make a final push. Each game’s situations will call for dynamic thinking and active execution.
Benefiting the most from the intelligence upgrade, goalkeepers now perform to a higher degree with this boost in smarts. The way they move, block, and parry shots has a new mechanic. As many have seen, Tim Howard made a strong case that he is one of the best defenders after the performance he put on against Belgium. FIFA wanted to simulate his skills, as well as others, by allowing goal-stoppers to read and react to the trajectory of every ball. Sometimes the flight of the ball may change course at the last minute due to how it is kicked, wind factors, or deflections. Keepers can now bend and contort themselves at the very last second in a ditch effort to salvage the save for his team.
The improvement is well-documented but in many ways AI goalkeepers are slightly too good. It’s fair to say scoring goals has become much tougher, so run-touch dribbling, correct contact, and ball movement comes in handy. Still utilizing a number of skills FIFA Street employs, moves like the nutmeg can be used in your arsenal of tricks. Fútbol is a team sport, so strategy is extremely important. With customization at an all-time high, tweaking characteristics to one’s team is almost a must. Also available are pre-formed team sheets. Different opponents call for different game planning, and here it is possible to customize up to six team sheets that can be selected at any time for the better management of your club.
All of these features can be put to use in the number of available game modes. Ultimate Team makes a return with a mild spit-shine and is still centered on earning coins to add players to your personal squad. Taking it a step further, you can pick up loans and arrange your squad as best as you can for optimal chemistry. Match Day Live is another major mode that keeps everyone up to date with the latest news and highlights of clubs around the world. Have a fantasy league going? Check out its progress with just a click of the button. It’s a central hub that’s quick and useful.
FIFA 15 in solid as a whole. But—and there is a but—it’s the same solid game we’ve seen for some time now. On field, very little has been altered. Player engines are modified each year to change pace and give what was lacking some refreshment, but when one characteristic is bettered, another can become worse. This is the core reason we see that the franchise has become bigger and flashier. Not to say it isn’t welcome, especially when they even make the grass smarter. Divots and grooves now remain throughout the match as the pitch is worn down from constant tear.
From year to year, baby steps are taken. Truly there’s no need for EA to overwork themselves, for there is no real competition in the world of soccer simulations. PES has been making progress but without the heavy licensing rights, very little fight can be made. Simply because the World Cup is mentioned in this year’s installment, I’d say add this to your collection, but if you’re neck deep in collected items from last year’s title, sticking with the old might not be a bad idea.