KICKIN’ IT 2015 STYLE
I have always felt like soccer is one of the best international sports out there. I love the World Cup, both men’s and women’s; Olympic soccer is my favorite part of the summer games and I love the mystique that international superstars have. That being said, any non-World Cup year is difficult for me. FIFA 15 is still a solid soccer sim, and there have been a few improvements this last year that help make up for the lack of international action.
The first thing I noticed in FIFA 15 was that the graphics had actually improved. The crowds look more like crowds, players react realistically and emotionally and the sunlight looked like sunlight. Typically it takes several iterations before the visual improvements in sports games become obvious, but FIFA 15 has managed to accomplish this. It might be because the FIFA franchise serves as a test bed for EA Sports as a whole, or it could just be that the development team focused extra hard on the graphics this year. Either way it paid off and I was impressed.
I jumped in to several games to see how the new version handled and tested out a few different control set ups. Traditionally I use the two-button controls as I am not the most gifted FIFA player, but the regular controls felt a bit smoother this year too. I also noticed that the AI, especially that of the goalkeepers, has improved significantly. No more 7-0 victories for me. Even using simple controls the matches felt more like real matches and it was appropriately difficult to score.
In line with the other AI improvements, players now behave realistically during games. It is charming at first, but this quickly wears thin when the yellow cards start flying. I almost wish there was a setting that could turn the player’s emotions off, or a least back it down some.
The FIFA menus, unfortunately, are still a hot mess. I never know exactly what is going to happen until the game actually starts. It looks like EA wanted to copy the Xbox interface but then took it a step too far and put boxes inside boxes, which lead to multi-page menus, which lead to sign in screens. It was next to impossible to navigate. I know they want to push things like Ultimate Team, the game mode that basically lets you play fantasy soccer, but I will find them when I want them. I don’t want everything shoved in my face all at once.
Speaking of Ultimate Team mode, it is pretty much impossible to go back and start over once you get the metaphorical ball rolling. I decided I wanted Secretary of Defense Tim Howard to be my captain but accidentally clicked on the guy next to him, whose name I don’t even know, and I couldn’t go back to fix it. The game just kept forcing me forward through more menu and tutorial nonsense.
The Verdict: 6.7 out of 10
FIFA 15 is the best and the worst of triple-A games. The menus, tutorials, connectivity and notifications were far too heavy-handed, but the game looked amazing and handled incredibly well. The problem with that, however, is that FIFA 14, does all the same things just about as well, has World Cup teams, and you can play it for five dollars on EA Access. I really expected EA to bring the thunder this year, especially with the strength of last year’s entry. Pro Evolution Soccer is gnashing hungrily at FIFA’s heels and they can’t really afford to rest on their laurels. If you love FIFA you already bought it and probably aren’t reading this review, if you want to check it out for the franchise for the first time, play last year’s entry.
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Mike Bertrand is writing articles on scary games all month, and nothing scares Americans more than soccer. Get some Tweets.