It may come as a shock, but EA Sports' FIFA franchise is the best selling sports game under the EA umbrella. And yes, that includes Madden. Even though most Americans' interest in soccer spikes only once every four years, the rest of the planet is emotionally invested in the game year round.
Developed by EA Canada, FIFA 15 promises to up the ante yet again, in an attempt to deliver a soccer simulation unlike anything else out there. And for the most part, the franchise has been able to do just that.Where other EA Sports franchises have begun to teeter, FIFA has remained a strong, reliable powerhouse.
So as the never-ending quest to craft the ultimate soccer experience moves forward, is this latest iteration worth its asking price?
At the launch party for FIFA 15 in New York, we overheard someone asking one of the guys who was running one of demo rigs what was really new about the game.
He kind of rolled his eyes and, apologizing for his lack of enthusiasm, said, "Well, the grass looks more realistic."
Needless to say, he didn't appear to be an employee of EA Sports, but his comment does have a glimmer of truth behind it. Because FIFA 15's improvements feel largely presentation-focused, the game doesn't look starkly different from last year's, which was quite impressive in its own right. Cosmetically, the visual refinements fall into the minority of noticeable differences.
That said, there are gameplay improvements, many of them subtle, which makes FIFA 15 a better game than its predecessor. Some of these you'll notice immediately, such as the way the players handle the ball -- it's more natural, with skilled players having better control while making tighter turns (EA says its "Player Control" dynamic heightens the responsiveness of player movement, giving athletes more control and personality on the ball). The players' appearance also is slightly more true-to-life.
But other enhancements only become noticeable after you play for a while. So-called "emotional intelligence" has been added to the game, so players now recognize situations that trigger reactions you'd expect. It's a fine tuning of sorts, likely only to be recognized by soccer diehards. In other words, a player is going to appear upset when he gets repeatedly fouled (and maybe even confronts an opponent) or shanks an easy goal opportunity. EA says there are over 600 potential reactions that could be triggered within the game. However, the players don't utter profanities in English or any language.
The defense and team tactics have been refined and when playing against the computer artificial intelligence (AI), you'll see more fouls and yellow cards (previously, the computer opposition rarely seemed to get yellow card for a slide tackle, and fouls were few and far between). It certainly makes for a much more realistic match.