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The changes in FIFA 15 to the gameplay are both a blessing and a curse

March 17, 2015 |

FIFA 15 brings soccer to life in stunning detail so fans can experience the emotion of the sport like never before.
Ultimate Team has become the most popular game mode (we were told by Electronic Arts, the game’s producers) and it’s similar to what has gone in the past. You must collect a team of players and a manager in trading card fashion, which you can either pay for through earned-in-game cash, or spend real moolah to speed up the process. However, in FIFA 15 ( year you can play in friendly seasons against pals, more for bragging rights, and you can loan players to try them out before parting with significant coin (virtual or real).

The biggest and most immediately noticeable shift is the art of defending – referred to in the game as ‘Tactical Defending’. In previous titles, manoeuvring your player into the right positions against an opponent with the ball would see you nick it away. In the same way, running side by side with an opponent would invariably see the defender come away with the ball. Not so any more. Tackling has become much more demanding. The precise timing and positioning of your player must be exactly right if an opponent is to be dispossessed. Also, whereas in the previous title opponents could be tugged back if they were threatening to break through behind the defence or down the wing, the latest title makes that ability almost non-existent.

Changes to how the game actually plays are more nuanced.
 Less skilled players like myself will lament that chipped through balls are
 no longer continually delivered with Pirlo-like accuracy, with defenders
 far more equipped to deal with them, while improved goalkeeper AI and the
ability to shirt pull when defending add welcome, if subtle improvements.

A crop of changes pack the pitch densely with surprises. FIFA 15 has implemented a “Living Pitch” into the game, creating a more realistic field than past iterations. As the match goes on and players slide and quickly change direction, the marks left on the grass don’t fade away as they do in games past. If you lay down a mark, it stays for the full 90 minutes. On a rainy day, if a chunk of grass flies up from a slide tackle, the debris remains. The groundbreaking flourish adds an element of realism that truly couldn’t have been done on past generations.
This year’s FIFA adds what the developers are calling the living pitch, a first for the franchise and a subtle element that goes a long way towards reinforcing the realism of play. As the name suggests, the living pitch reacts to the incidental wear and tear that comes from a 90-minute match. Slide across the pitch at a sprinting defender, for example, and a long crease will appear in the player’s wake. And by the end of play, the field will actually look like a real game has been played on it. It’s such a tiny detail, but one that will make gamers stop and marvel at just how good this game looks.

But it’s the on-the pitch action that matters, and the changes to the gameplay are both a blessing and a curse. First of all, attacking play in FIFA 15 is some of the most satisfying I’ve ever experienced – when it works. There does seem to be a propensity for shots that go in (or wide) off-the-bar, almost as though EA Canada are trying to give you wow-moments, as the audio of the bar being hit is like a dynamite explosion. However, this could also be because wing-play is a lot harder, and swinging a ball in seems to have had its effectiveness reduced. Expect to run down the left with a nippy winger and hit a cross that either doesn’t reach the target, or is ably defended against. Headers are not easy to score on anything above semi-pro difficulty any more, though when you do, they’re often screamers.
All these changes might be good news to some players, but not all of them. EA Canada can’t win in that respect, because whichever angle they cater toward, they’ll always be upsetting someone else.

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