Fifa International Soccer released little over 21 years ago was a big game and the start of something massive, The franchise is a sure bet for an annual release, and year after year Electronic Arts pump another into the system.
While some years, it’s little more than a visual overhaul, others see top quality additions such as full licensing, major gameplay changes, and more recently Ultimate Team.
The ultimate team game mode has turned Fifa into one of the highest grossing games year after year, so it’s little surprise this is one of the areas that have received plenty of attention for Fifa 15.
But firstly, let’s not forget that this is the first true next-gen football game on Xbox One and PS4, sure we had Fifa 14, but with the new systems arriving late in the development cycle, it received little more than gloss on top of the current gen 360/PS3 titles and for that there’s a clear graphical step that not only makes things look a step beyond anything you’ve seen prior, but also an added level of realism.
On top of this is Fifa’s main push of “Feel the game”, and we don’t mean a gentle stroke, we mean grabbing the strikers shirt and pulling him back, or the crunching slide-tackles that leave you calling for a red card.
These are obviously areas that have been around for years, but the step up in hardware means it’s much more than an overhaul,
the realistic cloth physics mean players will literally grab a handful of the shirt, and the dynamic dirt/marking will mean a few slide tackles with leave your layer with streaks of mud across their kit.
This all ads a layer of detail which while not important certainly makes it a lot more believable after 90 minutes in the rain.
Then there’s the dynamic player emotions, (Yes, so far Fifa 15 is sounding very dynamic)
But these mean that two players will react differently depending on what’s happened so far in the game, foul a man twice, and he may simply walk away, bring him down again and you may see him reacting to even clean tackles, keep roughing him, and his team mates will be rushing to hold him back.
When I originally heard about this, I thought it was merely gloss, and would be more of an annoyance with constant cut scenes, but after over a week of play, I’ve not found an instance where it has felt forced, and the numerous added animations and reactions make the few cut-scenes, and in-game reactions all the more enjoyable and if the game modes had received as much attention as the graphics, physics and general content, then we could have had one of the most complete Fifa releases for a long time.
So let’s have a look at the specific modes, true enough most games, take many years to develop so to an extent its expected that every annual release of Fifa wont feel like a completely new game, but Fifa 15 sits with those that claim to make many changes, but don’t quite live up to the name.
Let’s leave the graphics and gameplay to one side for a moment, because we know they’ve changed plenty and mostly for the better.
But when you take a closer look at modes, there’s little to be desired,
Firstly standard Exhibition matches don’t feel any different, and the entire Career mode feels like it’s simply been copied and pasted along with Online Seasons and the like from last years release, though the addition of real life events (such as Suarez’s ban) and of course all the updated player stats and teams give it the fresh gloss that brings us out year after year.
But I still feel there could and should have been more for these modes.
Pro Clubs has received a few small changes, and while EA claim that it’s down to feedback, it looks like they’ve asked for half a dozen things we want, and chosen the easiest few to implement.
When you enter the lobby and your club is already in a match, There’s the option to reserve an open slot for the next match, and in the meantime you get 5 minute updates and details of goals, yellow cards and major events.
However I would have liked to see far more, How about a mini-map and full stats showing shots, possession, etc.
Or in the fantastic age of new technology, how hard would it have been saving the match winning goal for games when you obtain promotion or a title.
Another thing regularly called for is the option to make your Pro Club, your club.
Choosing (ultimate team style) the separate Badge, and Kits, or maybe even decoration for the stadia and fans.
Another leaf out of the book that EA should think about copying form Ultimate team is the AI players, building your team (Ultimate team style) s you know everyone you’re playing with, and the ability to transfer in a better player after X amount of games, rewarding the teams that put in the time regardless of how good they are without putting the better teams even further from the reach of the masses.
Sadly though there’s no other major changes here either, and the majority of the emphasis seems to have gone to the game mode that’s most popular and also brings in the most money.
Ultimate Team, but again, the additions aren’t as plentiful as I’d hoped for,
Firstly there’s loan players, a selection of loan players (and quite a small selection) that you can spend your Fifa experience coins on, and use in your team for a set number of matches, these are usually between 3-12 games so there’s little planning into using them, but it does allow you to strengthen a position while your accumulating funds to buy somebody, or for (like me) people who want to strengthen their bench for the one-off performance.
The other main addition is Concept teams, anyone who’s played Ultimate Team in the past will know they’ve often had a team with a clear idea of who they want in each position, Concept squads allow you to do that, showing exactly how your team will look, and allowing you to easily view the related quality and chemistry of your dream team.
However that’s about all there is to it, and overall Ultimate team joins all the other modes in the “could do better” line-up.
Without being too negative though, game modes aren’t the be all and end all, because most of them are modes we already know and love (21 years is a long time to work out a collection of modes people like (though equally one year isn’t too little to at least update these)
With the battle of the new hardware, and major steps in realism and reality, It can almost be forgiven that there’s so few game mode changes,
Once again teams are full of all the right players, and faces, and if like me you’re a fan of the English Premier League, there’s the massive boost of having every Premier League stadium in the game. There’s even more player faces than ever with over 200 new faces added just for the English top flight,
And the changes to players reactions and realism are about 95% positive, they’re clearly more intelligent, especially goalkeepers that have had a major overhaul and when you’re up against a goalkeeper like Courtois you know about it, and before long will be changing your game to try and create better opportunities, rather than knocking the shots in from all over the place,
this major step up in intelligence works incredibly well, however the more realistic reactions also make the fact that footballers are human more realistic, and so too the fact that they make mistakes.
Because when the AI does slip up, whether it’s a defender looking for an offside and not tracking the striker, or a goalkeeper out of position, while they’re much less frequent than years prior, they still happen, and are that little bit more disappointing when they do.
Another Beautiful Game
Overall, Fifa looks and feels fantastic, it's another giant step towards what must be the perfect football game, but yet again it feels like some changes where held back for a future release, EA has knocked another quality football game in the back of the net, but it's hardly a volley from outside the area into the top corner.
The question is, when will we see the 30 yards screamer, because these tap-ins are becoming less impressive