Review: EA Sports FIFA 15 – Ultimate Team Edition
The highly-anticipated EA Sports 15 is now in stores (buy your copy here). We’ve been delving into it the PC and Playstation versions of the world’s most popular soccer game since its release in late September. This is what we think about what may be the most appealing soccer simulation ever. Included are our world exclusive screenshots taken from our PC copy of FIFA 15 Ultimate Team Edition.
After perfecting the gameplay of the FIFA series over the past half a decade, the EA Sport development team has continued to delve into the real world intricacies of The Beautiful Game. This year’s version see FIFA get more player emotions and intensity, improved presentation, refined goalkeepers, more physical defending and move involved team management. We’ll delve into there a we discuss FIFA 15 so read on!
The look of EA Sports FIFA 15 is quite similar to that of FIFA 14 and this year’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil titles. The modern mosaic menu is back and easy to use. Actual player and team imagery abound in the menu for an element of realism that reminds you of material you’ll see during actual pre-match and post-match shows.
A much-loved value add of the EA Sports FIFA series is a large, customizable soundtrack of modern music. Available on Spotify, this year’s track listing includes jams from up and coming artists from around the world including some currently on the charts such as Milky Chance and The Kooks. What the soundtrack provides is an entertaining interlude four FIFA 15 gamers navigating its many options or managing their team.
EA Sports FIFA 15 looks brilliant. Player animations are fluid and likenesses for the well-known players of world football are spot on thanks to 3D headscans. In fact all of the players of the world’s most popular league, The Barclays Premier League, have had their noggins scanned by EA Sports. Add in the fact that every single Premier League stadium is now in FIFA along with team chants for their tenants and you’ve got a BPL fan’s delight. No longer does EA Sports FIFA favor the well-known clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal. Now even minnows such as Burnley and Leicester City are fully represented in the game!
EA Sports have added in a new camera option in FIFA 15. Called Dynamic Broadcast, it is essentially a combination of the longstanding Broadcast and Dynamic views. While we’ve mostly used the Dynamic camera in our many years of playing FIFA, we’ve switched over the Dynamic Broadcast because it has the intimate feel of the Dynamic camera but let’s you see the now very animated crowd, sidelines and stadium features. FIFA 15 is all about realism and we think that the Dynamic Broadcast camera lets you enjoy it more.
Crowds for leagues around the world are tuned to the soccer environments in different countries. For example, crowds in the Spanish La Liga are more restrained in their chanting while Brazilian fans are more animated.
Stadiums are also presented in the same way with American venues more modern-looking that those from European lower leagues and elsewhere. Our favorite stadium feature of FIFA 15 is what EA Sports calls Living Pitch. This is actual pitch damage such as slide tackle marks and mud and debris showing up on the field depending on the going ons in the match. In bad weather you’ll notice more wear on the pitch as the game progresses. You’ll also see pitch degradation as seasons go by for lower league clubs that don’t have the budget for maintenance.
Commentary is available in English, Spanish and French in the North American version of EA Sports FIFA 15 that we tested. Martin Tyler, Alan Smith, Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend are on the microphones providing fairly entertaining and pertinent commentary on the matches being played. We like that fact that EA Sports continues to throw in bits of footie trivia in the mix and comments related to recent developments in the world of soccer even though they can get a tad bit repetitive at times.
The one bug that we founds was the commentators over zealously saying a player was in a match based on his performance in the previous one when he was named to the bench. The case in point was during Career Mode as Arsenal FC. Theo Walcott had been given a starting spot in the previous match (a domestic cup outing). He scored two goals and was Man of the Match. However, he started on the bench for the subsequent BPL outing. Tyler and Smith yapped on about him being in the starting lineup.
FIFA 15 has full victory celebrations for the first in ages. No more just witnessing a group of players around the cup that you just won after you’ve worked so hard for glory. Now you experience a trophy presentation, victory lap and on the field joy. This is something that rival Pro Evolution Soccer has done better for the past few years. EA Sports has finally caught up to PES in this regard.
The usual suspects are back in EA Sports FIFA 15’s game modes – Career Mode, Tournament Mode (including a slew of domestic cup competitions), Highlights of the Week (including the big matchups for any given week), a ton of new Skills Games and FIFA Ultimate Team.
Career Mode sees the introduction of the handy Team Management feature that allows you to create and choose from up to six different team sheets based on the personnel and tactics you want to field based on opponent.
Ultimate Team’s biggest new addition is Loan Players. This feature lets up temporarily sign even big name players from the EA Sports Football Club catalogue. We were able to snag Arjen Robben to augment our modest squad for three matches en route to our first Ultimate Team tournament win. He fit in well with our team but if a signing throws off team chemistry then the commentary makes it known during matches.
What we call a game within the game, FIFA 15 Ultimate Team continues to be extremely absorbing and can keep you engaged for weeks on end. It is of little wonder that EA Sports charges extra for a version of FIFA 15 that includes it.
EA Sports continues to evolve the FIFA series via small, high value steps each year. After trying several iterations of the FIFA game engine in the 2000s, the developers got it right at the onset of the PS3 / Xbox 360 console generation. Thankfully, EA has stuck with the brilliant core gameplay that resulted since FIFA 2009 and has tweaked it for the better ever since. Here are the changes that we’ve noticed in FIFA 15.
More Difficult Levels
The ever popular Semi-Pro level was a good way to figure out any new version of FIFA over the past half a decade. It’s still that way with FIFA 15 but you will not be able to manhandle any team rated four star and above as before. Expect a dogfight in any match against decent opposition. A couple of examples from our experience were a hard fought 0-0 draw with Chelsea as Manchester United last week and a 2-2 draw with Manchester City whilst playing as Arsenal a couple of days ago. The increased difficulty also appears in all of the other play levels of FIFA 15.
Game Speed and Flow
The pace of matches in EA Sports FIFA 15 varies widely depending on weather and pitch conditions, country, and situation. This did exist in the past but in now more pronounced and seemingly tied into the new Emotional Intelligence feature that debuted in FIFA 15.
If you are playing in one of those cagey English Premier League top of the table affairs expect a slower match punctuated by caution until some scores a goal. Then you’ll notice an uptick in pace with things becoming frenetic at the end of the match if a team if trailing.
Matches are slower in wet and snowy conditions and also on battered lower division pitches. Fan of world football may also appreciate the slow buildups in leagues known for slower paces than the Premier League such as Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1.
Ball physics in FIFA 15 are once again refined and now the best ever in the series. The ball now seems to move with a series of infinite trajectories and does not have the predictability that gamers may have been able to take advantage of in the past. The improvements in ball physics results in movement that is eerily lifelike. This is as real as it gets in a soccer video game to date!
EA Sports have been tinkering with FIFA’s defensive attributes for the past three years. As with everything else in the game, this has been in a series of small and progressive steps. What we saw as the big change in FIFA 15 is better than ever at anticipation by defensive players. The defensive line and defensive midfielders now seem more intelligent in reading the game and are more apt to intercept errant or poorly weighted passes and hopeful balls launched without intent. Even attacking players are keener as to what the opposition is doing in FIFA 15 and are seemingly on the lookup for defensive miscues that can be exploited for goals.
Defense in FIFA 15 is also now even more physical and lifelike than before at the man on man level. We’ve seen body shielding, shoulder barging, shirt pulling and outstretched arms from defenders challenging for the ball. There are also instances where players are left wincing on the ground from hardmen defenders while the game went on.
FIFA 15’s offense is very similar to the last iteration of the game (EA Sports EA Sport 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil title from this spring). While attackers play as well as the last couple of versions of FIFA, we do see some improvement in forwards being supported by midfielders.
The biggest offensive upgrade that we noticed is a noticeable improvement in dribbling. EA have continued to add greater maneuverability to players via their full 360 degree range of motion. As a result it is now easier to pull off skill moves and directional changes at a variety of speeds. This does not mean that you can dribble past the defense as Lionel Messi though. As in real life, defenders will give you a bit of space but will eventually close down on you and dispossess you of the ball if you hold on to it for too long.
Next Gen Goalkeeping
Goalkeepers steal the show in EA Sports FIFA 15. This year’s edition of the game introduces a series of massive goalkeeping improvements with an infinite series of real life animations. Netminders are also more intelligent than in past and show similar defensive anticipation to the defenders of FIFA 15 (see above) in handling shots, crosses and passes. They will now come out towards attackers in one on one situations without you having to draw them out.
While football video game goalies have been erratic at times and engaged in saves that defied everyday logic, those in FIFA 15 have evolved for the better and make decisions based on situational awareness. We’ve also seen them pull off multiple saves in sequence via quick body adjustments via quick reactions. A world class goalie in FIFA 15 can earn even an average team a draw in FIFA 15.
The evolution of simulated soccer on consoles and computers continue with EA Sports FIFA 15. We’ve been playing the series for a long time and can say without reservation that this is the best FIFA to date. Immersive, engaging, intelligent and visually stunning – FIFA 15 captures the essence of The Beautiful Game in its full glory!