Balls.ie were lucky enough to be invited out to EA Guildford last month to hear all the details of the latest in EA Sports’ most successful franchise, FIFA 15, and had a chance to play a version of the game that was about 80-85% complete.
We had the chance to interview Sebastian Enrique, FIFA 15 gameplay producer, after being shown a presentation detailing how they plan to make FIFA 15 the best FIFA yet.
So how does the game weigh-up? Read on to find out.
“Feel The Game” is the tagline that accompanies EA Sports FIFA 15, and this is due to the heavy emphasis the development team have put on the match-day atmosphere to make it feel more like a true representation of top-level football, and we have to say, it certainly does feel more emotionally driven than any football game we have played.
There are a number of key points which are the main changes for this year’s release, and all of them help to give FIFA 15 its own unique identity.
The players in FIFA 15 are now always tuned in to what is happening in the match. Real emotions that players go through such as frustration, encouragement, and anger, are now clearly visible in the way the players conduct themselves around the events that unfold.
If Danny Welbeck gets into a great position in the first ten minutes but brains his shot wide, his team-mates will be encouraging him to keep at it with thumps-up and applause, however, should he continue to miss chances, you’ll see the likes of Wayne Rooney throwing a strop because he isn’t passing the ball.
While these subtle changes are not ground-breaking, they help the immersion of the player in the game and greatly improve the playing experience. One feature we really loved in this area was the manner in which goals are celebrated. If you tap home the 5th goal in a 5-0 win, expect a humble pat on the back from your pals, but if you head home the winner in the 89th min, expect the entire team to pile-on and go bonkers. It’s great to see.
The crowd too are tuned in to what is happening, and are capable of going bananas for important goals. If you are winning with Liverpool at Anfield, expect a sea of scarfs and the Scousers serenading you with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, score a goal at the Etihad and see City’s fans doing the Poznan. These little changes make the game look and feel more authentic than ever.
While it may sound superficial or unimportant, the pitch looks bloody fantastic in FIFA 15. The first comment we had as we entered our first match was “Jesus the grass looks amazing.” And it really does, not only at kick off, but as the game grows older, you begin to see the wear and tear on the pitch from studs, slide tackles, and even celebrations. It’s another cosmetic change, but it’s really easy on the eye.
This is a very cool new addition. EA Sports told us of how they have agreed a deal with the Premier League to provide a ridiculous amount of detail for the Barclays Premier League, including EVERY stadium, and facial scans of every Premier League player in the game. If that wasn’t enough, the graphical overlay from the official Premier League broadcasts provides a truly realistic TV experience.
Goal-line technology is implemented in all leagues that it features in real life, and will show you a replay to show how close you were to scoring any time the ball goes near the goal-line. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith are still the commentary duo, but there has been a noticeable improvement in the quality of what they say, in particular during the pre-match line-ups, where Tyler will now analyse the team by saying things like
Jordan Henderson will partner Steven Gerrard in midfield, and Philippe Coutinho will operate behind Daniel Sturridge as the lone front-man.
These lines are not pre-recorded, but instead use a new “tethering” system to make countless different combinations possible and seamless. The authenticity for every team, player, and stadium is just for the Premier League at the moment, but we were told that EA Sports are looking to secure similar deals for other leagues in the future.
One of the biggest things the FIFA community scream for year after year is “FIX THE GOALKEEPERS!” well now EA Sports are trying to finally respond to those cries as they have completely re-written how goalkeepers behave and operate in FIFA 15.
Previously when a goalkeeper made a decision (eg. To dive to one side or charge the ball) he was stuck in that animation until it ended, resulting in some comically bad goalkeeping moments, but now the keepers no longer make snap movements and seem to have a real though process behind their decisions.
The goalkeeper AI is said to “read and react” to every situation, and as a result your man between the sticks can make reaction saves and recover from things like deflections and dipping shots. When these animations work they are a beauty to behold, but on the unfinished version we played they were not quite there on a consistent basis, but the potential is certainly there.
Many more animations to the keepers make for much more realism, and now there are more ways to score as vulnerabilities in position can be exploited, for example poking the ball through the keepers’ legs. See this video released by EA Sports today that shows the changes:
Agility and “Correct Contacts”:
Another change that affects how the game plays is the improved animations in terms of player agility, which makes things like sprinting, dribbling, and jumping look and feel much better. “Correct contacts” is a system implemented by EA Sports that sees the boot-to-ball contact take a significant jump in importance.
Previously things like shooting and passing involved the boot hitting the ball and reaching its destination based on things like power and player ratings, but now, which part of the foot hits which part of the ball will play a bigger role, and as a result there is much more variation in the flight of the ball.
Initially we feared that this might bring a random element to the basics of the game, but instead, all it does it take the automatic success out of things like lofted through balls, crossing, and long range shooting, all of which were too easy in previous FIFA games.
Dribbling looks fantastic with this new system, in particular for one-footed players. Arjen Robben, Gareth Bale, and Leo Messi in particular look incredible as they dribble with one foot constantly tapping the ball with the outside of their boot, and in the right hands good dribblers can be devastating.
FIFA 15 will introduce far superior tactical options both pre-game and on the fly. In the team management menu (which has been given a total face lift and looks bloody brilliant) you can individually assign a tactic to each player.
So for example, if you are playing as Chelsea, and like to play a direct game, you can assign Diego Costa to “target man” and see him post up for headers and look to sniff out chances from crosses, or, you can assign him to “run in behind” and see him play on the shoulder of the defender. For your wide men you can assign things like “hug the touchline” or “free role” to tailor your players to how you want to play, and makes it possible to fit each team to your style.
The on the fly tactics have also been revamped, with new tactics like “In The Mixer” which will see your team push forward for long balls if you are chasing a game, or “Park The Bus” which will see a Mourinho-style dedication to defending and putting 10 men behind the ball. It feels great to use these new tactics and they will no doubt become a big part of in-game strategy.
Those who love nothing more than getting stuck in to a deep career mode will be happy to see the changes that have been implemented this year for FIFA 15, as a number of annoying issues that previously took away from the immersion have been altered.
A small thing that was a big problem in the past was the need to manually change the team management and tactics before every game, even if you wanted to simulate it, but this has been combated by the inclusion of “Team Sheets” which means that multiple pre-set formations and line-ups can be saved and quickly selected to save time. For example, it is now possible to have a “League Cup squad” saved and ready to go rather than manually rotate your squad.
Team Management in general has been given a major face-lift too, and it must be said that it looks fantastic.
The squad selection screen is much more visual, as opposed to the very text-heavy information in recent iterations, and makes for quicker player comparisons. This coupled with the ability to quickly and easily edit a players position in a formation make for a much easier experience. Another major gripe that players had with FIFA 14 was the new scouting system, which has thankfully been altered this year, with scouts auto-deploying and bringing you potential transfers from around the world tailored to your needs.
As always, EA Sports care greatly about their presentation and have added numerous new story-lines to improve the experience for the user.
FIFA Ultimate Team is EA Sports cash cow that year after year turns incredible profit as players worldwide can’t resist the lure of buying one more pack in the hope of finding Ronaldo or Neymar, only to find a duplicate of Matthew Etherington.
This massive game more has seen more improvements this year, with the main one being the ability to make concept squads to see how a potential Premier League/Turkish League hybrid squad would look before you make the investment, which will no doubt be a big draw for the massive community of squad makers that exist out there in the FIFA world.
For those who don’t like tinkering with squads to get the best chemistry, there is now the option to “Copy Opponent Squad” after the game, so if you just got battered 6-0 by a bunch of Olympic sprinters with immaculate control and lethal finishing, you can copy the concept squad to see just why you were so badly ripped apart and how much it will cost you to be a blatant copycat.
Legend cards will make a return (although only on Xbox), with 15 shiny new legends to play with, if you are part of the minority of players than can afford them. We asked if Roy Keane was going to be one, and it turns out he is, so you can thank Balls.ie for that. We also asked for Gary Breen, so lets hope next year is his year.
Another very popular online mode has seen some simple common sense changes that improve the user experience. A new lobby system has been introduced for parties of players who wish to continuously play without having to leave and re-start the match finding process by going back to the menus.
Also, new players who wish to join can do so during a match in progress, although they will have to wait for the next game to play, which beats having to sit alone in the menu until the game ends. Teams can now scout players they may wish to have join their club, and there is far more customisation over a user’s Pro, with things like free-kick stance now changeable so everyone can look like Ronaldo and Bale when they take free-kicks.
Keep in mind that the version we played was only 80-85% complete, but we really enjoyed our brief time with FIFA 15. The “Gen 4” version (as in Xbox One and PS4) of FIFA 14 was very good, so this game isn’t a revolutionary point in the series, instead it is a much more polished version of a very good game.
The main gripes with FIFA 14 were the ease of lofted through balls and crosses to create scoring opportunities, and from the games we played, it seemed that these were noticeably more difficult.Passing, dribbling, and shooting are all different and need time to adjust, but the game plays better in almost every aspect.
The atmosphere of the game is where FIFA 15 really stands out. It feels closer to the real thing than ever before, and with the incredible detail given to the Premier League and improvements in Career Mode, it is a game that is going to be really enjoyable to play for fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Balls Q & A with FIFA 15 gameplay producer Sebastian Enrique:
The new Premier League authenticity is excellent, but only for the Premier League at this moment. What can we expect for other leagues in the future?
We are really happy with how the Premier League looks now in FIFA 15, and we are working directly with the league for this, it's not coming from someone like Sky. Obviously you want the leagues you don't have to be like this, I am a gamer, I want them too, but for the moment it is just the Premier League and we are very happy with it.
The dribbling in particular has changed this year along with passing and shooting, what are the main reasosn for the change?
The dribbling a really specific change to do with having a better understanding of the footedness of a player. Now if a player doesn't use his weak foot, he will use his strong foot to make lots of little touches, like Robben, Messi, or Bale, we wanted to mimic how they manipulate the ball, and this effects the dribbling a lot. Passing and dribbling are also different mainly due to the new correct ball contact system.
The shirt pulling animation is new, were you tempted to include any other forms of "gamesmanship" such as diving, or perhaps biting other players in the vein of Luis Suarez?
It's always tricky. We are in line with the fair play message of FIFA as an organisation, but at the same time we want to implement real things that exist in the game. Shirt pulling is in the game as part of the 'push and pull' defending mechanic, so it's not something we just made to put in. Like the Zidane head-butt in 2006, Suarez bite wasn't something we intended to include.
Now the important question, every FIFA fan who has ever lived wants to see the return of an indoor football mode, can you offer us any suggestion that this might be a possibility in the future?
We know that the community wants that, along with many other things. At the end of the day it comes to resources, and what can we do to build the right package for our early game. It is something we consider, but it is not really feasble. If we had all the resources in the World, we could maybe dedicate a team to it, but this year it didn't make the cut.
FIFA 15 is set for a September 26th release date, and be sure to check back on Balls.ie for more regular FIFA content.