“Oh. My. God.”
“What kind of sh*t defending is this?”
“Which dumb ass made Aly Cissohko dribble like Maradona?
“That’s not the pass I wanted!”
There’s a good chance you’ve said or will say some variation of these quotes while playing FIFA 15 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One.) The first-world anger doesn’t only come from the game forcing you to drop the FIFA 14’s tricks. It’s just wild to see a product set as a sim focus so much on theatrics of football rather than what the game usually looks like on the weekend.
Dribbling in close spaces hasn’t been easier. Crosses and headers have dramatically scaled back in effectiveness, too. These are good things. Absent minded AI defenders and terrible goalies, however, are not.
Players can only rely on their back line to block lobbed through passes. The habit works as EA’s direct response to the LB+Y/L1+Triangle-cheese from last year’s game. Confusingly enough your teammates, no matter the difficulty, sit back and watch attackers cut them open unless you take control. They can even totally miss easy standing tackles when you properly close in: making any player with decent speed and dribbling look like Messi.
Near post finesse shots, curled finesse shots from outside the box and long shots from players with good range leave keepers frozen. The frequency of long shot goals become grating since they’re quite accurate and keepers always get caught off their line. Anyone from Courtois to a Serie B buster’s susceptible to shockers since weak parries leading to tap-ins are commonplace.
Support on offense remains hit or miss. Sometimes wingers and even slow strikers make shifty runs at goal which make your life in midfield so much easier. Other times they can’t decide whether to stay back, be a decoy or get behind. Mix this indecision with an errant pass or through ball and the lineman’s flag flies without fail. FIFA 15‘s new teammate orders help remedy their behavior to a degree but, at least for center forwards and strikers, the target man’s settings the only consistent one since your guy won’t budge.
Referees actually call fouls this year but, before you scream hallelujah, understand they’re pretty inconsistent. Perhaps this has been done to mimic how real refs miss calls but being on the bad end of a soft penalty, red card or both sucks. These egregious calls don’t always register when the Ignite engine producers some laughable but yellow card worthy fouls. So the officiating feels random rather than fair.
Players should forget about auto-containing on the ball this season; it’s mostly useless. Manual containing with LT/L2, while finicky at times, feels rewarding when learned. Nevertheless, attackers are usually much nimbler than whoever’s guarding them. So markers are at the opponent’s mercy against the AI on world class and up or a good dribbler online. There’s also the returning sticking point where tackling someone leads to the ball going right back to the dispossessed player or his teammate.
Teammate containing while cutting off passing lanes works in spots but it’s still not nuanced. Hold it for too long and too many people converge on the attacker: destroying your team’s shape. This behavior’s been commonplace since FIFA 12: likely for balancing issues. That said, most DMs and centerbacks have the lateral movement of an ox. So holding off a player who knows how to exploit space feels much harder than necessary.
FIFA Ultimate Team functions as FIFA 15‘s bread and butter. Spend 10 extra bucks for the UT edition and weekly gold packs travel to your club for 40 weeks. This promotion surely gives folks who purchase it an unfair advantage.
At the same time the offer quickly pays off since earning coins turns into a grind. The game’s already more than happy to turn your real-world money into FIFA bucks all to maintain your habit. So, if you’re primarily a Ultimate Team player, the UT edition’s your best bet.
Conversely, Ultimate Team’s end game still involves making the cheesiest team possible. The Victor Ibarbo’s, Emmanuel Emenike’s and Romelu Lukaku’s of UT’s world still run things since there’s a major emphasis on speed and strength. So, if you haven’t been a fan of UT’s faster, high scoring take on the sport, this year’s mode does little to change your mind.
Upgrades elsewhere don’t seem substantial. Career mode gains easier player searches, less volatile locker rooms and better scouts out the gate if you manage a big club. Online seasons haven’t changed. Match Day’s more in depth and add to the game’s improved presentation outside of the rehashed commentary from Martin Tyler and Alan Smith.
Also, the PC port’s on par with the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game with hardware at or above recommended specs. So the focus on parity here’s well appreciated.
It surely seems like FIFA 15‘s a horrible experience but it’s really not all bad. There’s a good football game underneath all of this as the game’s still shines with your pals. It’s exponentially better when you play like gentlemen and don’t abuse fast players, OP shots or the kickoff exploit: commonplace practices in online matches with randoms. There’s hope for eventual patches ironing out the problems on the pitch. Then again we’ve seen this same song and dance annually and there’s only so much sliders can do to make the game feel “right.”
FIFA 15 suffers from an identity crisis. Official licensing, flashy presentation and new player likenesses market the game as an authentic representation of football. Then things like 30+ yard screamers, bogus scorelines in Ultimate Team and the controversial struggle between attack and defense take away from it all. The game’s a lateral step from last year’s outing unless you’re upgrading on PC. Even then it’s unfortunate to realize FIFA 15 rewards players for taking advantage of its flaws rather than encourage play which emulates the real thing.