The common complaint aimed at FIFA is that its annual release cycle prevents significant progress being made with each new edition. Having already built FIFA 14 for next-gen hardware, however, developer EA Canada has the required experience to push the boundaries with FIFA 15.
From presentation and animation enhancements to increased AI realism, FIFA 15 is setting out to provide a wide variety of game-changing elements and upgrades. Based on a few hours spent playing a build of the game said to be ’50 percent complete’, here are ten of the most interesting alterations…
Feeling the emotion
FIFA 15’s main objective is to present the game in a way that feels as close as possible to what you can expect when watching football on TV. To recreate that sensation, each player now has his own system of emotions – influencing their on-pitch reactions, expressions and relationships.
For example, a feisty midfield battle between two opponents will cause them to become visibly aggravated; they’ll point the finger, angrily converse and push and shove each other whenever in close quarters.
Teammates react in a similar way. After an early goalkeeping error a defender may well offer condolences and encouragement to his number one, but further mishaps from the same player will lead to criticism from his own team. Supposedly, there are 600 different reactions that can potentially play out over the course of a single game.
These emotions are purely visual, they do not affect the gameplay at all. A criticised player will perform no differently than a praised one. Despite that, seeing Steven Gerrard give Daniel Sturridge a telling off for missing too many shots does add a genuine touch of personality to the action.
Context-sensitive team AI
CPU-controlled opponents now take the context of the match into account when defining their tactical approach. For example, if there are only a few minutes remaining in a cup final, and your opponent is a goal up, then you can expect them to sit back and defend with 11 men behind the ball. Switch the situation around, with you winning, and they will throw everything at you.
This same idea applies from the opening kickoff of certain matches, too. You might be involved in a two-legged match, with the first leg ending 3-0 to the CPU. In this situation you can be fairly safe in predicting that they’re going to ‘park the bus’ and defend their lead. It’s up to you to work out how to beat such tactics.
Tackle success rate is being raised, bringing it more in line with the real-life game. According to EA Canada, FIFA 14’s tackle success rate averaged out at roughly 50 percent, whereas in FIFA 15 it’s currently sitting at between 70 and 80 percent – although that balance may be tweaked before release day.
Clearly, the goal here is to no longer favour attacking players in one-on-one encounters – the world’s best defenders now finally able to hold their ground against elite dribblers such as Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi. It should also give players that prefer defensive tactics more freedom to lock the down pitch in an effort to keep clean sheets.
Don’t think that improvements to tackling results in fewer scoring chances. In the line with the changes to a team’s overall AI approach, individual players are being tweaked to allow them to more intelligently find space and time their runs to match the flow of play.
Therefore, while it’s more difficult to take on an entire team’s defence by yourself, passing your way through the lines is more a valid option than ever. Such improvements apply to each of the game’s players, not just the attackers; helping you pass the ball out of defence during potentially dangerous moments, or allowing you to opt for a calmer, slower possession-based game.
If you enjoy men with muscles…
…then you’ll be happy that player models are noticeably improved over last year’s effort. Gone are the shapeless, bulky bodies of FIFA 14, replaced by leaner, meaner variations that actually make the digital footballers look like the professional sportsmen they are.
Particular attention has been paid to the chest and shoulders, with heavily-toned players such as Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasting all the relevant lines and bulges under their shirt. It all adds to FIFA 15’s determination to vastly improve its visual realism and mimic what we expect to see from a TV broadcast.
On to crowds, animation, physics and the pitch itself…