The day has finally arrived. FIFA 15 is now available in stores throughout North America. Over the last five years, the FIFA series has established itself as one of the most consistent and highly regarded sports video-game franchises in existence.
Last year, FIFA 14 received a Metacritic score of 87. With that recent history, expectations are again high for the newest version of the game.
With the Xbox One version in hand for over a week, it's time to share thoughts, impressions and to score the latest game in the FIFA dynasty.
Graphics and Animations
The FIFA series took the next step in player rendering this year. Games like NBA 2K14, EA Sports UFC and NHL 15 implemented the use of sophisticated camera rigs to scan the heads of 200 players in the game.
FIFA 15 followed suit with this year's game.
The FIFA universe is a large one, so you obviously won't see every player's authentic head. However, you should have realistic versions of most of your favorites.
The facial renders are good, but for some reason, they seem just a bit beneath the level of accuracy and sharpness presented in the aforementioned games. Don't get me wrong—the players look really good, but the bar has been raised significantly in this area as of late.
From the neck down, players look about the same as they always have. That isn't an insult, as body types weren't a negative for the game.
That said, it's easy to see how improving the player frames might wind up being the next aspect of the models to get a boost moving forward. As for the surroundings of the players, the various stadiums and venues are rendered quite nicely and especially in the Premier League, where every stadium has been accurately captured.
The excellent lighting really does a great job bringing shadows into play and causing each field to look differently.
While the new renders and other goodies are nice, the best part about FIFA 15's visual appeal is its animations. There's seemingly an endless amount of physical reactions to the most subtle and skeletal-shaking collisions.
Players colliding has never looked so good. The physics goodness is not limited to player-on-player sequences. The roll of the ball on the grass and the sight of blades of grass rising and falling appropriately during close-ups is pretty.
While there's room for sharpening up the visuals in a few instances, the vast majority of the graphical package is above average.
Gameplay and Realism
Easily, the biggest improvement made in FIFA 15 is in the collision detection. Every touch, brush, shirt pull, carom and slide matters.
One of the most gratifying things that can happen in a sports video game is when a play finishes and you look at the replay and can clearly see that everything that transpired in a makes sense.
Thanks to a new wrinkle added to the physics engine, FIFA 15 is filled with these instances. It's called Correct Contacts, and it should be the model for all sports video games moving forward. I've never played a more physically realistic sports game; the slides, the tackles, missed and made saves and seemingly inconsequential collisions are all lifelike. Just when you think there's going to be a body pass-through, the physics engine recognizes the contact and the player reacts accordingly.
Take a look at this goal and follow along with all of the physical man-to-man contact, and you'll see.
With the goalkeeper physics and A.I also redone, it's awesome to watch how Correct Contacts and the new keeper system work together.
That's the technical stuff. More simplistically, the gameplay is just fun. That's especially the case when you're controlling one of the elite players in the game. Lionel Messi is a wizard—as he should be—in the game.
He's rated a 93 overall, which is tops in FIFA 15. When controlling him, you can feel the difference. He's able to beat his markers, and you don't need to be quite as skilled to see him work his magic. At a 92 overall rating, Cristiano Ronaldo isn't much different.
If you want to get a feel for what its like to have control of a star, play a match with either of those guys. You can see all 50 of the top-rated players in the game here.
No roster updates are available at this time, but when they are available, the information will be available via the official FIFA Twitter account.
Mastering the various skill moves is important if you really want to become deadly with the ball in scoring range. It takes some practice, but once you pull off your first tricky ball maneuver, you'll be hooked.
*Tip—Don't dismiss the skills games. They can really help you get a handle on all the passing and shooting weapons at your disposal.
The game does have a few weird points when it comes to its artificial intelligence. For example, during throw-ins, the CPU opponent seems to at times disregard the defenders in the area and sets itself up for turnovers a bit too often.
There is, however, a better sense of spacing when a player is making a run. Smarter cuts are made to help to create more realistic and practical scoring opportunities. Collectively, FIFA 15 shines in the realism and fun departments. What more can you ask for in this vein?
Sound and Presentation
Martin Tyler and Allan Smith do an excellent job with the commentary, and this is especially the case during matchday presentation.
The current events comments make the experience seem fresh and new. They also do a great job incorporating conversational banter during dead spots in the action. The pacing of soccer helps to provide more opportunity for this type of stitching, and the devs for the game take full advantage.
Storytelling is almost seamlessly interrupted by reactions to major happenings on the pitch.
The crowds sound great. Region-specific chants that are designated by club and league immerse you in the game. It would be nice if Smith and Tyler had a bit larger name database programmed in. In games without as many well-known stars, there are times when the announce team is a bit quiet for stretches.
This does not seem to be the case when playing a Premier League match or a La Liga clash. However, if you're looking to play some MLS action, you might notice a vastly different audio experience.
One thing that might go unnoticed by some is the halftime and post-match highlight reel. It's awesome in the way that it implements the real in-game call from your match on goals. It sounds so authentic and like a real TV-style highlight package.
I found myself watching it multiple times as there is a new camera angle presented each time.
The soundtrack is a lively collection of diverse tracks. Gamers who actually pay attention to this aspect of a game probably won't get bored with the selection.
Game Modes and Options
You won't find many complaining about the amount of modes, options and clubs in FIFA 15. The franchise did lose its license with Brazilian clubs, but there is still a plethora of club and league choices.
There's still leagues from 26 different countries and international squads.
You can start a career as a manager or player in any of those leagues. It would be nice to offer a bit of a tutorial to the career mode as a manager or player. If you're not a hardcore world football fan, you could be a bit overwhelmed by all of the options in the career modes.
Aside from exhibition—which is called kick-off—and career modes, there's also the return of FIFA Ultimate Team, tournaments, skill games, seasons, Pro Clubs, Co-Op Seasons, online friendlies, matchday live and the ability to create a player.
The Ultimate Team experience offers exactly what the career mode is missing. From the moment you start, you are taken on a FUT journey that has you get a feel for every aspect of the mode.
Pack openings have seen a presentational upgrade. It's hard to explain why the reveal of new cards earned in this mode is so exciting, but it is. That's precisely why the FUT team was wise to change up the presentation as to add more intrigue and excitement.
* Tip—Try everything at least once. Don't simply fall into one mode exclusively. FIFA 15 offers a wide variety of options. You may wind up sticking with your bread and butter, but exploring other modes will help you maximize your enjoyment of the game. Also, see how many of the achievements you can unlock. See the full list at XboxAchievements.com. The list is the same for PS4.
Needless to say, there's enough there to keep just about anyone busy. Updating some of the create-a-player options would be great. The details have been the same for a number of years.
Perhaps employing some type of face-scanning technology would be a logical next step. As it is, the game offers a full complement of features, which is undeniably a major plus.
There isn't much to dislike about FIFA 15. It's the kind of game that hardcore fans of the sport will like, but it also has some qualities that even gamers who aren't fans of world football can appreciate.
With a few small tweaks here and there, this game could be as close to perfect as a video game can get. Here's the final scores for each category and overall.
- Graphics and Animations - 8.75
- Gameplay and Realism - 9.5
- Sound and Presentation - 9
- Modes and Options - 9
- Overall - 9.1
Follow Brian Mazique, aka FranchisePlay, the Sports Video Game Journalist