The 2014 World Cup sent me down the (dark) path of soccer. I thought it was going to be a temporary infatuation with international soccer but several pre-season cup and English Premier League matches later, I’m still watching and playing. A large part of the appreciation was spurred through the FIFA 14 demo on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Since the World Cup ended, I believe I put in over 20 hours into that demo.
I didn’t want to spend $60 on an obsolete game so I kept playing the FIFA 14 demo to familiarize myself with soccer, its rules, its techniques, the teams, the players and the nuances of FIFA. The learning curve was rather deep and the game did nothing to teach new comers like me. At a high level, FIFA is a simple game — run, pass, shoot — but it is quickly complicated when pass selection, shot variety, physics and player animations were factored in.
I had a very tough time coming to terms with the animation priority in FIFA 14’s demo. I had to compensate for players winding up for shots and passes on offense and their legs whiffing on failed tackle attempts. I eventually came to grips with it and was willing to commit to FIFA 15 even if it didn’t change in the department but thankfully it did.
The responsiveness of FIFA 15 was a revelation. I felt like I could do just about anything with the players in the mid-field or the penalty area. I felt hamstrung when it came to finer movements in the FIFA 14 demo and thus relied on long range shots, crosses and headers. But as much as I appreciate FIFA 15’s improvements in responsiveness, there’s still lots of room for improvement; it’s still several steps behind PES 2015.
Soccer fans are lucky to have two competitive products vying for their dollars. As much as I enjoyed playing PES 15, there are a number of key items that FIFA excels at.
I’m not a fan of soccer per se. I’m a fan of the European, International soccer and their respective big names. For example, I haven’t gone out of my way to watch an MLS game. I want to see Bundesliga, La Liga and the English Premier League recognized and acknowledged in commentary. FIFA 15 has nearly every league on the planet including many of the second tier ones. It’s petty but that’s why many purchase simulation games. Without those teams and names, it’s like playing a simulation racer without my favorite brands represented.
I love FIFA’s commentary including its foibles because even those stitching issues made me laugh. There’s a surprising amount of variety and it impresses me on the sheer number of teams and players that they cover. Martin Tyler gets excited or disappointed as the situation dictates. They praise and ridicule players based on their performance. Improvements like better stitching are to be expected for future releases, but I’d like for them to expand the commentary on rivalries, historic feats and their progress on each team. Right now, it’s just a brief nod and acknowledgement of their most recent achievements. I’d like to know how many Golden Boots and Ballon D’or awards a player may have won in his real life and simulated careers.
What I’m asking for is for the commentary to be timeless and relevant to my own careers and tournaments but I understand they’ll never go into that direction. It’s neat to hear about the recent accomplishments of each player’s performance but why would anyone continue to talk about the 2014 World Cup in 2015 or 2016? I guess that’s a reason to pick up the annual releases.
I’ve only played up to the “Professional” difficulty but I will say that the A.I as a whole is competent. Early on, I felt it cheated when the A.I amped up their aggression but I’ve come to expect that behavior and learned to combat it. It didn’t mean I won every game but I’m no longer lackadaisical during the final moments of a half or a game. I kept calm and tried not to over commit to defensive tackles.
Despite my better judgement, I actually tried to play against strangers and brave the world of cheesing and exploits. In my one ranked match, I encountered network lag and an opponent that was obsessed with trying to chip through balls for quick goals. It worked once. The lag filled match ended with a 4 – 2 victory for me. I’ll probably try a few more online matches in the future but for now I’m enjoying FIFA 15’s Season mode and online friendlies with my brother.
FIFA 15’s presentation on a whole is a step up from FIFA 14 and PES 2015 but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Close ups of player models and for several key players are of a high quality and improved over last year’s but others remained unchanged. And even FIFA 15’s best don’t look as good as PES 2015’s. Players are still clipping and animating a bit awkwardly in replays and the new jersey grabbing did not need up-close shots.
Presentation and player input response complaints aside, the one area that I would like to see FIFA improve on are their tutorials. They don’t have any and even though it’s an issue that plagues the entire genre, it’s still an area that they could address with very minor investments. The included skill games only helps familiarize new players with the feel of the game but it doesn’t teach how through balls work, when to use them or how to effectively use them. I had to resort to YouTube videos. (Hey yo! What’s up my friends?) I would have been content if Electronic Arts simply included YouTube embeds of those exact videos from Patrick; it would be better than nothing.
FIFA 15 was my first sports title since Tecmo’s Super NBA Basketball. That’s nearly two decades between sports titles. I don’t intend to purchase FIFA 16 next year but I am considering PES 2016 and alternate like that. But who knows? My soccer fandom may fall through and it could be another decade or so before I pick up another sports title.
That’s the crux of it all though. If you’re a fan of soccer, this game is the perfect place to start. It’s not the most responsive game but it’s packed with features, modes (I didn’t even touch Ultimate Team yet), presentation and — most importantly — the licenses and the names you care about. Just be sure to find a FIFA mentor or some YouTube videos to introduce you to the basics.
For Fans Only
For more information on FIFA 15, visit the official website.