FIFA has become so much of a heavyweight these day that its closest rival has all but given up the ghost by moving its release window back a full month after the current champion. Pro Evo has given up the chase for licenses, and aims to compete on gameplay alone, and while that strategy has some merit, it’s not going to win back any ground. Put simply, FIFA 15 is the best football game ever created, succeeding FIFA 14 and every FIFA before it for the past two console generations.
There’s plenty in the way of new additions, but instead of new modes, we have more subtle changes, like corner commands, contextual emotion from players, and a slight tinker to gameplay mechanics. This is all well and good, while the numerous new Ultimate Team features are great, and serve an increasingly large number of players.
FIFAs biggest issue, though, is that it all feels a little stale. Sure, it’s hard being the best football game every made, and that is a monumental achievement in and of itself. However, perhaps we’ve become so used to accepting and rejoicing in what the latest iteration offers, that we’ve stopped questions why it doesn’t offer more – how it could be better, or more importantly, demanding more for your money.
It’s here we’re ending the normal review, because we’ve told you pretty much everything you need to know – FIFA is a brilliant game – not without its faults, but in the interests of progress, let’s talk about what FIFA needs to go to the next level.
In FIFA 15, much is made of the variety of formations. Here’s a secret; there should be two base formations for each team. An attacking formation, and a defending formation. To simplify this for the layman, football games, and the perception of formations have been dumbed down into a single formation. And everyone forgets the goalkeeper. If you ask most people, they’ll prefer 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-. The truth of it, is that the majority of singular formations are based on 3-5-2 or 4-2-2. However, a 4-3-3 in real life translates to a 1-2-3-2-3 with the ball and a 1-4-1-4-1 without. Imagine being able to switch formation mid game, depending on the area of the pitch you’re in, and turnover of play (the transition). It’s pie in the sky, but if FIFA brought this to the table, online games would be epic, and strategy pre-game and in-game would take on a whole new level of importance.
Wait, what? Yes, this is almost the same thing, but not quite. You know how most top European team split their centre backs, push up the full backs, and have a deep lying defensive midfielder AND THAT IS JUST FIVE PLAYERS SO FAR AND WE HAVEN’T MENTIONED PLAYING THE KEEPER AS A SWEEPER? You can set up a team sheet to mimic real life, but the formation is rigid, because FIFA doesn’t really support realistic in-game formation play. Wouldn’t it be great to know that you’re exploiting real space, or that you can rely on your split defence pushing up? Yeah, I thought so too.
Skill games are brilliant, and the leaderboard element is exceptional, allowing you to track your progress against friends, offering a Trials like experience. Surely EA are missing a trick by not using this for manager mode, awarding training points based on how well you carry out each drill? Or how about training too often and getting injuries. The basis of the mode is already there, it just needs implementing.
We were supposed to be having some upgrades to manager mode. Telling me when someone else has made an offer for players on my shortlist isn’t really a quantum leap. For too long, manager mode has been the poor relation to Ultimate team, and it’s understandable when you consider the revenue streams generated by the best implementation of a free-to-play title in a full price game. However, Manager Mode hasn’t changed in years, is incredibly slow, and is rather predictable. Just keep an eye out for pacey wingers, a quick striker, and a 16 year old with 82 value and you’re set for years. Manager Mode is a stagnant feature that really needs an overhaul. Perhaps offer something like Football Manager’s scenarios, or allow a little more detail in terms of Finances – let players negotiate or chose sponsorships – surely there’s something to be learned from Ultimate team that can be borne out in the classic mode, still enjoyed by millions
Ultimately, FIFA 15 feels like it lacks a little heart, or at least new features that aren’t explained by “feel the emotion” in each interview. Sure, it’s a great message, but is paint that doesn’t quite cover the cracks of a game that is feels like is should be doing more. If you want the best football game ever made, this is it; a champion of our times. But, it has the potential to be so much more.