FIFA 15 on Xbox One first hands-on impressions
FIFA has lifted the trophy for an unprecedented five seasons in a row, and every year the champion seems to put a little more distance between itself and any potential challengers. That’s not reason to celebrate, it’s cause for concern. In this industry, the line between consistency and complacency can become blurred all to easily. EA Sports has already set its sights on next-generation domination, but with Pro Evolution Soccer undergoing a drastic restructure (both on and off the pitch), the studio should be wary of old rivalries reviving and dreams of a sixth trophy diminishing.
FIFA has been cautiously iterating, slowly building towards a digital recreation of the beautiful game in its purest form. In reality, that means we’ve seen EA become a slave to bringing the atmosphere, emotion and intensity of the real thing to our sweaty palms – all the while old systems and new features languished in the next-generation platform divide. FIFA 15 might be closer than ever to realising the emotion of the sport like never before, but we have to question whether it is doing enough with the Ignite Engine and Xbox One to truly feel like a genuine step forward for the franchise.
That’s not to say there aren’t points of interest here. FIFA 15 certainly feels more fluid than anything that’s come before it. The ball finally handles like it has a bit of weight behind it: momentum is no longer lost as soon as ball locks to boot, with spin actually affecting trajectory and speed when it comes to attacking movements. This should, in theory at least, eliminate outcries of “that was such a FIFA goal” from your trash talking vocabulary.
EA has also clearly taken feedback from FIFA 14 on board as it looks to build on the step-based locomotion system. While FIFA 15 certainly feels more responsive across the pitch as a result, it’s still not where it needs to be. Again, as new animations are introduced to highlight the agility and athleticism of world-class players, it can still feel laboured to respond to your input. This is especially prevalent when you’re off the ball; chasing for possession, lunging into challenges and shirt pulling to find victory. Over-animation is quickly becoming the curse of modern-FIFA.
So which is it, complacency or consistency this year? It’s too early to say for certain, but EA needs to get its priorities straight and focus on either trying to do the impossible – delivering the intensity and emotion of the real thing – or doing the possible – creating the tightest football game on the market.
Tensions running high
FIFA now tracks the emotional state of all 22 players on the pitch. This means that players will visibly respond to the rising tension of games: equalisers in the 90th minute will cause dissent, multiple clashes between two midfielders will begin to escalate and important games will put players on edge. Sadly, this doesn’t affect gameplay in any meaningful way. The ‘Intensity & Emotion’ of the real thing is only surface deep.
FIFA 15 is boasting AI that’s more reactive and humanistic than ever before. Players now have short, medium and long-term objectives – adjusting tactics and urgency on the fly. EA was eager to assure us that players are aware of whether they need to be more defensive in the closing moments, or more aggressive for attacking opportunities, though we didn’t see a great deal of evidence of this in our early build hands-on.
Who said it’s a beautiful game?
FIFA 15 is introducing mechanics that let you partake in some of the more unsporting aspects of the game. This year’s iteration will introduce a proper push-pull mechanic for shirt pulling and tense battles, though the risk of a card is worth it when you can push Luis Suarez over. The AI also drags the ball to the corner flag for time wasting purposes, which is just as frustrating virtually as it is in reality.