FIFA 15 Review – Back on the Pitch (PS4)
As an American, getting into the world of soccer and the FIFA series wasn’t something I did until college. It took a collection of diverse roommates and a surplus of free time in the mid-2000s to convince me to give this franchise a shot.
When I did, I was hooked. This was back when FIFA was going toe-to-toe with Pro Evo, and soccer slowly became a sport I preferred to spectate. Granted, I haven’t played Pro Evo 2015 yet, so that entry may be absolutely stellar.
To be honest, FIFA quickly established itself as my second favorite yearly sporting effort. I dumped tons of time into the games, and found myself only preferring the NHL franchise to the on-pitch efforts done up in FIFA.
Now that NHL 15 has happened and skated in as the most disappointing sports game in years, I can honestly say that FIFA 15 has, at least for this year, become my favorite sporting affair. I’m addicted, and it’s only been a week.
We’ll start with the overwhelmingly good stuff. On the field and in the menus, this is the smoothest and most impressive FIFA to date. FIFA 15 makes great use of the new generation of gaming hardware, and that shows not only in player animation, but in pitch degradation, menu navigation and player reaction. Everything feels and looks better, and the game isn’t as jerky (both on the field and in the UI) as it has been in the past.
Let’s not mince words here; the smoothness of menu systems in deep sports games like FIFA really matters. When you’re in career mode as a manager or dealing with your Ultimate Team, having a nice, fluid and simple menu makes a world of difference when it comes to managing your team. The last generation of consoles was particularly bad about stuttering in menus, and FIFA 15 (on the PlayStation 4, at least) feels brilliant here. It sounds minor, but it’s not. UI fluidity is important.
Players seem contextually aware of others around them on the field, and they means putting their hands up in natural ways when competing for the ball and even flailing about properly after a quality tackle. Yes, there are still over-exaggerated jitters and freak outs when collisions happen, but my time with FIFA 15 hasn’t matched my time with last year’s version when it comes to watching player bodies go absolutely nuts. It happens less here, which is good.
I will say that, largely, player control feels like it did last year. I’ve found that I’m much more accurate with through passes and long balls than I have been in the past, but dealing with momentum and turning on the ball while trying to make a run at defenders feels like it usually does.
I have had some problems with first touch control in this game. It seems, at times, that the first touch is exaggerated far beyond what I’m telling my player to do. Rather than a gentle touch past an over committed defender, my first touch often sends the ball rocketing past both of us and into the other team’s possession. That came regardless of how gently I held the left stick in a given direction.
As long as you turn the difficulty up, I’ve found that the AI (both on your team and your opponent’s) is fairly strong. I no longer have much success with randomly blasting shots outside of the box on goal, as the keeper seems to have the ability to react appropriately to them. I also find that my players meet passing a little better than before, though they still stand a little to stationary on long balls as defenders aggressively take them away. That’s been driving me nuts since, what, FIFA 07? Meet the ball when it’s passed to you. This is pee-wee stuff.
I digress. FIFA 15 feels and looks fantastic, and aside from minor issues with AI and first touch, I’m pleased with how the game plays when I’m in matches and navigating through menus.
For this review, I spent most of my time in the Ultimate Team mode. Quickly, for those who don’t know, Ultimate Team is a game mode that’s shared across most EA Sports offerings. You collect players and cards from a bunch of leagues around the planet and use them to assemble your team. You’ll buy new cards with in-game currency (or real money, if that’s your thing) as you attempt to create a wonderful team with great chemistry.
FUT is still a game of luck and willingness to spend. If you’re lucky enough to open packs that contain truly useful cards and great players, you’re team will be fine. If you’re willing to spend all kinds of money collecting the players and upgrades you want, you’ll also be fine. If neither of those things happens for you, well, as usual, prepare for growing pains.
On the plus side, there’s now a loan program in FUT that lets you try high-end players. That leads to some advantages in the early stages of your Ultimate Team’s lifespan.
My problems with FUT this year came from the stability of the service. Maybe this is just a near-launch problem, but the card store regularly didn’t load for me, I lost single player tournament progress after playing a few matches several times. That’s right, I’d get halfway through an offline tournament and boot the game up again only to find the tournament incomplete and I’d need to restart.
Also, here’s a pro-tip, do not upload gameplay from FIFA 15 on your PlayStation 4 while in a game. I scored an incredible goal that I wanted to show a friend on Facebook. I pressed the share button, trimmed the clip and uploaded it to the internet while in my game. I return to FIFA 15 only to find that I’d been disconnected from the FUT servers and my progress removed from that game. Sharing is a pillar of the new generation of consoles. The PlayStation 4 especially has made sharing so crucial that it’s an actual button on the controller. EA Sports needs to recognize this and make it so that sharing clips from the game doesn’t force players to lose progress in specific modes. That just seems silly to me.
Regardless, FIFA 15 is an exceptional effort. It’s easily one of the best sports games of the year, and fans of the series should be happy with what EA has done with this entry. It doesn’t arrive without its problems, and there’s always the argument that these sports games don’t change enough each year to warrant spending $60.
If you’ve enjoyed FIFA before, 15 is a strong year, and you’ll likely get your money’s worth.
FIFA 15 for the PS4 was purchased for review. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.