Yearly sports games are often criticized for either over-compensating changes or not changing enough (besides rosters). FIFA 15 is guilty of neither. Major problems that have plagued the franchise for years finally see their end as the game makes a major move toward realism.
Animations have been a growing part of the FIFA series. They are the source of great looks and awful frustrations. FIFA 14 had the most animations of all the games when it came out. When you would press a command button, it resulted in an animation that led to an action. The animations, in that game, were annoying. If just looking at the visual, they were cool. They added a personal feel to the key players in the game. Every one had their own way of doing things. It was awful because there was such a delay between pressing the button and the action occurring. If you were sitting next to your FIFA foe and he/she heard you pressing the button, they knew exactly when to swoop in and take the ball. Over online play and ultimate team, it was easy to tell just because of the start of the animation.
When I press a button, I want the action to happen now. I want the action and the animation to be the same thing happening at the same time. FIFA 15 fixed this. Upon the press of a button, your player snaps into action. When you want something to happen, it happens. The best part is, it doesn’t take anything away from the excellent and personal animations of the players.
Another interesting part of FIFA 15 is the reactions from the players. If my center back has been stuffing your striker all game long, they are bound to get into each others faces. The players have Oscar-winning flops resulting in pleas to the referee upon getting up. Even the line judges give a sassy lip curl after calling an offsides a little bit too late. I don’t think it adds a lot to the game play, but it emulates the drama of soccer pretty well.
The goalkeepers in FIFA 15 change drastically which leads to some good and bad consequences. Ultimately, EA makes them more realistic in the game. EA highlights points of struggle in real life goalkeeping on a player-to-player basis.
The goalkeepers are excellent where they need to be. Players who found the back of the net often in FIFA 14 by cranking a power shot from the edge of the penalty box might feel like EA made the new game impossible to score. While every FIFA game has a change in where it is effective to make shots, FIFA 15 might have found a place to settle. The goalkeepers put themselves into good positions to cut off the shots that famously worked in previous games. If you have seen your fair share of soccer, you will find yourself saying, “Finally, something that make sense!”
So for those who think it is impossible to score – you are just shooting from the wrong spots. FIFA 15 takes the strengths of players for shots on a locational basis. While goalkeepers are strong when they have enough time to react to a hard angle, they are weak when it comes to having a short time to react (which is a great thing for realism). Short shots set up by dribbling or great passing in the box leave the goalkeepers guessing – and usually guessing wrong.
Unfortunately, with games that do everything so right like FIFA 15, you often only notice when something goes wrong. There have been more than a few times where a random player with practically nothing to be said about their skill makes a shot from 50 yards out. If the shot ripped through the atmosphere only to dip last second into the top corner, I wouldn’t have much about which to complain. However, that is not the case. Usually it is a slow, slightly-dipping line drive that nicely floats into the net while my goalkeeper sips some tea, does his taxes and watches it float by in slow motion. If Thibaut Courtois would just take one step to the left and put a hand in the air (and he had almost 3 seconds to do so), this could easily be prevented.
If you were a “defensive” player in previous FIFA games, you might want to learn how to score some goals. Smaller hitboxes around defenders make defending much less automatic.
These decreased bubbles around defenders result in FIFA 15 being more realistic. Balls will roll right by defenders if they are not in the right position. Dribblers can have their way against more cautious defenders, while aggressive defenders have to be precise to get results. Before, if a ball rolling on the ground entered a defender’s hitbox, regardless of body position, the defender would inevitably redirect the ball in some way.
Now, the reality sets in. You can’t rely on ridiculous defenders with eyes in the back of their heads. FIFA 15 defense is all about body positioning, momentum and appropriate aggression. When sprinting against a winger down the line, you will need to box them out and then gain separation with the ball. You can no longer take the ball and make an inhuman cut displaying Messi-level control with a random full back. If you stop or try a cut, the winger will pick off right where he left off. In battles of wit near and in the box, you will need to be facing the right direction and make a stab at the ball as soon as it is presented, but be careful – good dribblers are experts at flopping and drawing penalties in the box. Intercepting passes in no longer a matter of switching to a defender and running up field (seriously, the former games were that ridiculous). Now, out-of-position defenders will not be able to intercept that pin-point pass from Pirlo. Frankly, relying on the AI is no longer an option – you have to be better.
The new offense on FIFA 15 is absolutely amazing. EA really put effort into emphasizing specific skill sets in specific players. Passing versatility is vastly improved toward realism. These offensive improvements don’t necessarily make the game easier, they just make it so much better.
I can’t say enough about the improvements to the passing in FIFA 15. In last year’s game ground through balls were nerfed badly. While the passes made the targets run, they almost never led them enough to eliminate the threat of a defensive interception. Now, depending on the players, ground through balls will go right past defenders. To help with passing, forwards and wingers have an offensive mindset that really helps with well-timed runs and through balls.
In FIFA 14, passing in the box was hideous. Using the normal pass button resulted in passing it well behind players whether they were making a run or not. The through ball button wasn’t much better as the speed of the pass was often a huge problem in connecting a pass to an effective shot. It was as if when you crossed the line of the penalty box, you lost all skill – the same went for shooting. Now, passing in the box is more accurate and much more effective. You can straddle the endline with Hazard up to the goalkeeper and send a last second pass to Costa at the top of the goal box for an easy goal. Good strategy and good passing are rewarded in FIFA 15.
For players who depend a lot on crossing for header goals, FIFA 15 will be frustrating. Crossing for headers was a good bailout in past games. If you did it enough, it would usually yield results. Not to say it was nerfed, but I haven’t scored a header from a wide cross in a long while. Luckily for me, it’s not a big part of my game, but I have noticed that it is much harder to get the striker into a good position for a hear, accurately cross to them and then actually win the header. The first two were pretty automatic in previous games, but now you have to really work hard to get an accurate cross to a running forward. This isn’t a complaint – it was a very equalizing part of the game that helped anybody to stay in a game regardless of skill.
Finally! Players are skilled in the game in the same areas that they are skilled in real life. Strengths in shot location in real life transfer perfectly to the players in the game. When Diego Costa is sprinting full speed down the middle while splitting the center backs, he will punch the ball deep in the box through a tough angle near post as he does so often for Chelsea. Hazard will challenge defenders right at the edge of the box. He makes everyone sweat with his overwhelming cuts, dribbling and skill moves. He navigates through the box of nervous defenders with last-second cuts that will either result in a shot, a pass or a penalty – he is dangerous.
FIFA 15 is leaps and bounds ahead of FIFA 14. The emphasis on realism completely transformed the game. There are very few frustrations with the new game, and I only notice them because the rest of the game is done so right. Goalkeepers and defenders reacting badly do not take away from the most realistic game of the series yet. When I am moving the ball down the field, I feel like I have the control. When I don’t have the ball, I feel like it is vital to get it back. No game makes you jump out of your seat and yell at the top of your lungs like FIFA 15, and this year’s game makes the experience even better.