allowing you to bring in one or more great players for a string of matches early in the campaign. This lessens the time you spend mustering a bunch of lesser players, and in our case led to a storming eight-nil victory against Bolton Wanderers that pulled us in without delay. With FIFA 15, Ultimate Team isn’t just for the more hardcore players; it’s welcoming more casual players in.
Online, there’s very little difference between FIFA 15 and FIFA 15. You can play competitively or cooperatively in seasons, join Ultimate Team tournaments or join a club and meet up for 11 vs 11 events. The action seems, on first impressions, to be smooth, with good matchmaking and plenty of scope to play how you want to play.
If there’s a sense of ‘if it ain’t broke’ about the structure and game modes, then it’s more than made up for by the presentation. On one level, FIFA 15 coins pushes the Sky Sports-inspired look and feel about as far as it can go, with superb cutaways and replays, titles, close-ups and the rest that leave it closely resembling real TV coverage. The commentary from Martin Tyler and Adam Smith is astonishingly good, particularly in the premiership, though you wonder how well the references to Manchester United’s troubles or world cup performances will date over the coming months.
On another level, the visuals are consistently impressive. Anyone who describes the players as absolutely lifelike should probably steer clear of Madame Tussauds, lest they think they’re getting blanked by the real Tom Cruise, but they’re certainly closer than they’ve ever been before. Hair now looks more realistic, the kit seems to hang from the body rather than form an integral part, and the various stadiums are magnificently detailed – at least in the Premier League.
The real killer, though, is all the details. The animation is so absurdly lifelike most of the time that the odd weird or unrealistic motion sticks out like a particularly sore thumb. Rain now seems to water-log the pitch, sending up spray as the players sprint around, and covering them in more layers of grime as the game goes on. You can, however, take talk of believable emotions with a pinch of salt – the players react well to goals, missed opportunities and referee decisions, but otherwise it comes down to some players looking mildly despondent when their team is 4-0 down. FIFA 15 unquestionably looks awesome, but not everything about it is a game changer.
The gameplay, however, is. Where FIFA 13 and 15 came touting all-new defensive and offensive systems or ball dynamics, FIFA 15 arrives saying little. Play it for a few hours, however, and you’ll soon note how more fluid and dynamic the action feels. Attackers get more chances and defending is more difficult, so there’s more end-to-end activity than you might have seen for quite a while. Players seem to turn and react faster without losing the ball, and it’s easier than ever to get through to the box without relying on special tricks, though this remains a game that favours fast, accurate passing over ridiculous solo runs.
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When your strikers get near the box, their biggest obstacle will be the revamped goalkeepers. Most of the time they’re fast and devilishly hard to beat, charging out to grab the ball when necessary, while not abandoning the goal when not. They can be beaten, but they put up a lot more opposition than the frequently worthless defence.