VIDEO GAME REVIEW: FIFA 15

Rating:

FIFA 15, the 22nd installment of the FIFA franchise (and the best soccer video game since Virtua Striker) has just been released. It was developed by EA Canada using their super-powered next-gen gaming engine, Ignite, which is also the same engine used by EA Tiburon to make Madden 15.

Cover athlete Lionel Messi passing the ball. (Photo credit: easports.com)

Cover athlete Lionel Messi passing the ball. (Photo credit: easports.com)

This year, the game cover features two athletes. The first is none other than Barcelona and Argentina’s captain, Lionel “La Pulga” Messi. The second player varies depending on where you purchased your game. For Canada and the United States, that player is Seattle Sounders FC and Team USA’s captain, Clint Dempsey.

As always, your classic game modes are still here for you to enjoy, like FIFA Ultimate Team, Career Mode and Skill Games, but with added updates.

FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is a fantasy style game where you mix and match players to form your own club. In this mode, you start off with some pretty basic players and have to play matches to create a better team.

A view of player chemistry in FIFA Ultimate Team (Photo credit: easports.com)

A view of player chemistry in FIFA Ultimate Team. (Photo credit: easports.com)

You earn credits after each match that in turn allow you to purchase card packs. Those packs randomly give you players, uniforms, stadiums and other extras. The more you play, the more you can earn, and the more you earn, the more you can spend and upgrade!

Then you experiment with your team and make them better by factoring in things like player chemistry. By matching players who might either have a similar nationality, professional club or position, your passes will be more on point and your goals will be grander. EA calls this the Concept Squad and it really does make a difference.

After playing the game for a few days, I find myself playing this mode way more than the other two. This game mode gives you the feeling of really being a manager/owner where you can make so many more changes to your club than in Career Mode. Here you can change the kits, stadium, players, managers, club crest and even the team name!

Career Mode is your standard franchise or story mode, where you pick a club, player or manager and play out the game in that respect. I usually like to create a player after myself, except I make him way more athletic and give him God-like abilities on the pitch.

Cover athlete Clint Dempsey going for a strike. (Photo credit: easports.com)

Cover athlete Clint Dempsey going for a strike. (Photo credit: easports.com)

The final gaming mode of FIFA 15 is the Skill Games section. If you play FIFA, then you need to play this! Here you can either learn the fundamentals of how to play FIFA 15 or improve on your skills. Just about every area of the game is covered here and available to practice, such as penalty kicks (shooting and defending), dribbling or passing.

You can access this mode either on the play menu or before any match while the game is being loaded. For instance, if you were going to play a match against the computer–either via exhibition, career mode or FUT–then a random skill game will appear while your match is being loaded.

Some of the other new or updated features that EA has added this year include emotional intelligence, dynamic match presentation, next gen goalkeeper and living pitch.

Emotional intelligence is the newest add-on to FIFA 15. This update makes the players on the pitch react differently to custom scenarios. For instance, players can collide in different ways or you can see specific player disappointment on wasted scoring opportunities. EA boasts that they added 600 new emotions for the players to go through. One of my favorite actions occurs while playing on defense and making a player dribble out of bounds; you can actually see the player throw his hands up in disgust.

Another corresponding upgrade is the dynamic match presentation. This is geared more toward the crowd and gives them custom behaviors as well. In my opinion, it’s the biggest improvement that I see in the game. It makes the fans in the crowd look and sound like the real thing, down to their movements and chants. You also get a feeling that you’re almost watching a match rather than playing in one.

Everton & Team USA's goalkeeper TIm Howard. (Photo credit: easports.com)

Everton & Team USA’s goalkeeper TIm Howard. (Photo credit: easports.com)

Next-gen goalkeeper is an update to their defensive game. With more realistic keeper reactions, goalies now appear to be more fluid and look natural rather than mechanical. Also, the keeper AI (artificial intelligence) was update to make more realistic plays, like reaching out for the ball to save a goal while lying on the ground.

Also updated this year is what EA calls the Living Pitch. The pitch is now more alive than ever. If it rains, you can see puddles of water on the field. When a shot hits the goalpost, you can see the post shake and vibrate. One of the things I like the most is that you can see cleat marks now in the turf. You can actually see the wear and tear of a match on the pitch.

I rank games based on a 25-point scale, which focuses on the following five areas: graphics, plot, music, game play and replayability.

The graphics are amazing and realistic. EA improved the game’s visuals. Now you’re able to see the player kit or uniform get dirty as the game wears on, either by mud or grass stains. Also, you can see the kit move and sway as they run and jump. You’ll even be able to see the hair move on players with long hair. FIFA 15 easily earns a five!

Upgraded graphic detail down to the grass stains on a player's kit. (Photo credit: easports.com)

Upgraded graphic detail down to the grass stains on a player’s kit. (Photo credit: easports.com)

The second area I rank video games would be the plot (or fun factor). For video games like this, there isn’t much plot to it, but boy is it fun to play! The number of ways that you can play FUT makes it so you’ll never play it the same way twice! This is easily my favorite game of 2014. Because of this, I definitely give it another five points.

EA always creates an eclectic playlist for their games. I love the sound/music of FIFA 15, from the chants in each of the stadiums responding to goals and penalties (like in real life) to the EA Trax playlist. The current playlist features artists like Foster the People, Avicii, Dirty South and Emicida, as well as other artist from all over the world. Definitely a full 5 points here!

If this game has any drawbacks it would be the game play or controls. The controls are not confusing or difficult to learn but do require practice and timing. This is not a game where button smashing can help you win. The game play itself feels great, very fluid and smooth. Even though it’s not the easiest controls to learn I still give it five points based on the gameplay alone.

The final area I rank games on is replayability. I honestly couldn’t tell you how you couldn’t replay this game. You have options to create multiple franchises at the same time, you can play online versus complete strangers or your friends, and if you don’t have the time to spare for a full match you can play the Skill Games, which usually take no more than a minute. I believe five points are easily earned here.

With a five points given in each area, this game, to me, is a perfect game with 25 points. So get ready, footie fans, FIFA 15 is here and showing what a next-gen game should be! If you pick up the game for Xbox One and wanna try a match against me you can find me on Xbox Live @thebiglibrarian.

(Slider image credit: easports.com)

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Creator and host of the podcast Beer, Bros & BS, teller of stories, drinker of beers, reader of (comic) books, watcher of sports, devourer of food, mostly entertaining. From Miami. Follow me on Twitter & Instagram @thebiglibrarian.

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