FIFA 15 Preview: Quality first touch
Capturing the emotion of a 90-minute soccer match is no easy task — ask live television. At any given moment, the momentum of a match can swing in either team’s favor. To truly experience it, you have to be there.
That isn’t stopping EA, however. Even with a short development cycle, the developer is aiming to make FIFA 15 the most realistic soccer experience next to being at the stadium. And from what I saw at E3, they’re getting there.
The best way I can describe my time with the game is with the phrase, “less look, more feel.” Perhaps it’s the silly “next-gen” expectations that leave me unimpressed visually, but FIFA 15 doesn’t appear to have made a significant leap from last year’s installment. The most noticeable upgrades are to the pitch surfaces. Now you’ll start to see wear and tear on the field as the match goes on. It’s a really neat, atmospheric feature, but I can’t help but feel that the feature was a bit exaggerated to make up for the lack of visual improvements elsewhere.
One specific visual disappointment was with the crowds. EA has said that it hopes to capture the ambiance of a number of historic clubs with crowd involvement, but if the models look the way they do at release from when I saw them, people will have trouble buying in. The new consoles can project more unique faces, but it’s irrelevant when they’re all captured doing the same jaggy movements throughout the match. This isn’t a terrible-looking game by any means, but it’s not helping squash the old rhetoric that says sports games are just yearly $60 roster upgrades.
FIFA 15 may not catch your eye, but it certainly will grab your attention when you pick up the controller and start playing it. There’s a new sort of freedom in dribbling in the game that makes it feel more realistic. For instance, if you execute a slide tackle, you can take your first touch on the ground as you’re getting up to get an advantage on your opponent. EA has also revamped the first-touch system. In last year’s game, you could stop almost any pass to you, high or low and fast or slow. Now the success of your first touch will depend on these factors including where you’re at and where your opponent is positioned. Some of these changes can be irritating at first because they’re different, but it ultimately creates a more authentic gameplay experience.
However, this year is about the emotional aspect of soccer, according to EA. We were shown a specific in-game example of how players react to the flow of the game, and it really does catch your eye. Players will do things like beg the assistant referees for an offside call on a goal or get in the face of one another to argue the intent of a challenge. If this is as prevalent as shown to us at E3, then I have no doubt that fans will appreciate it.
From what I saw, FIFA 15 isn’t just a $60 roster upgrade with a few small features tossed in. It’s not revolutionary for the average consumer, but longtime buyers should welcome in the changes that will help push the game closer to being a true simulator, at least in matching real-life atmosphere.