FIFA 15 Review
Plays a solid game of football, but new features fall short of the goal
Having written a number of times about EA’s massively popular FIFA franchise, one can start to run out of things to talk about during the opening paragraph. But as sure as the leaves are turning orange, EA Sports has released its annual footy offering in FIFA 15. Packing numerous improvements in team management options, FUT, and gameplay itself, this is a great sports package for any fan. Although considering the resounding success of the previous iterations, a few faults keep this year’s entry from reaching excellence.
Before even letting players see the nicely organized main menu, we are thrown right into a matchday. It’s a clash between Liverpool and Manchester City, as the teams are battling for the BPL title on the final day of last season. The emphasis here is, clearly, to showcase the new presentation elements in FIFA 15. EA Sports has signed an agreement this year to bring more authenticity than ever before to the Premiership, including more scanned player faces, authentic fan chants, and even stadiums for all teams. There’s no arguing that the game succeeds in reproducing the beautiful game with more accuracy and attention to detail than ever before, particularly for the Premiere League. If this is a new presentation direction for the franchise, this treatment will be very welcomed by the other leagues in the game.
Diving into the main experience, FIFA 15 doesn’t offer any wholly new modes, but instead tweaks have been made to mechanics that affect multiple areas of the game. Let’s start with FIFA Ultimate Team, which has grown exponentially in popularity over the past few years. Players once again create their starting squad from a random pack of player cards, and from then on it is a long and often challenging climb to create the best team you can afford. There’s lots of online and offline games to play, from tournaments to Seasons, and cards to buy and sell on the marketplace. FIFA 15 is decently generous with its card packs, and returning fans will get some nice bonus packs, so getting a competitive team together takes no time at all. Creating your dream squad, however, will likely take lots of luck, pack and player purchasing, and real cash if you’re impatient.
A couple of new mechanics make the overall FUT experience a bit more user friendly. First off, whenever you’re adjusting your lineup, the player swap menu now allows you to see exactly what effect on the team chemistry and rating your substitute will have. So instead of jumping through menus multiple times and seeing the result afterward, you can instantly preview what effect any given personnel change will have. Secondly, a new option for Concept Squads allows players to pull any footballers they want and build the design of their future team. For the dedicated fans, this is a great planning tool to see exactly what a squad will look like (instead of having to go on specific websites), and you could even use Concept players and throw them into your existing lineup, so there’s no guesswork on how a new player that you plan to purchase will synergize in the squad.
Finally, there are loan players – footballers that you can use for a limited number of matches, and then they are gone forever. These players range from average to superstars, and that obviously reflects in how long they can be used. The first loan player is free, and the rest can be unlocked via EA Sports Football Club Catalogue. The superstars will cost you quite a few coins and are locked away behind higher EAS FC levels, of course.
EA Sports Football Club itself is now an integrated menu that can be accessed from pretty much any other part of the game, instead of having to back out. You can purchase various items with the earned coins, from new footballs to new kits, celebrations, and even FUT temporary match income boosts. Other noteworthy additions include more skill games (that remain fun and challenging), and the ability to add custom comments to your EAS FC activities, as well as comment and like the activity logs of others.
Further to online play, all of the usual versus modes return alongside Seasons, unchanged. In Pro Clubs, where players create their virtual avatars, join other player clubs and participate in global competition, there are few worthy additions. When creating your virtual pro, new style customization allows players to select new animations for free kicks and penalties to help you stand out during key match events. When playing club games, after the conclusion the system brings players directly into another lobby with a match countdown, to keep the players involved and ready for another opponent. Those who don’t make the opening kickoff can follow their club match live via updates in the game.
Player and Manager careers, the two main offline gameplay modes, remain fairly unchanged. Player career in particular has little new of note, as you once again create a player or use an existing one and then hope to take your club and maybe even national team to glory. Playing as a manager, the glory ambition is much the same, but of course you are fully in control of the club and all players. A new system of Team Sheets (which also lends itself to other modes) lets players customize their lineup more than ever before. You can set individual player roles, positioning, and even their behaviors – by selecting from a list of available options, such as telling the midfielders to play wide and join the attack or stay put. These management options are nothing new for fans of simulation games such as FIFA Manager, but for FIFA this is a good step forward to providing more power over your players. All of the customizations are then saved into a Team Sheet, and thus you can easily swap between wholly different lineups and individual player orders by selecting a different sheet. As you grow the club, young talent now improves faster and older players don’t retire too quickly.
There are a few lingering concerns with the Manager mode however. The global transfer network, while still challenging, needs better filtering and sorting options for your scouting results. During transfer season, multiple absolutely insane deals still happen between AI controlled clubs, thus reducing any sense of realism. Also, there’s seemingly an issue where the game believes you are doing poorly and will send you emails about it, as well as add concerned commentary during matches, when your squad is in fact unbeaten for the season. And finally, the new management menus feel more than ever that half of the available screen space is simply wasted. It’s where your opponent’s team is seen during multiplayer, but career mode should have used a full screen view of tactics and other management menus.