You’re unlikely to sell many videogames by emblazoning ‘it’s different, but the same!’ on the front of the box, so EA coming up with other slogans such as ‘Feel The Game’ for FIFA 15 is probably a good thing. But make no mistake: this is very much last year’s effort with some necessary tweaking and tuning.
Heading and through balls needed a bit of balancing after FIFA 14, and neither are as all-powerful as they are in that game. Both mechanics still require work--I missed a string of easy aerial chances during my day-long hands-on--but a change had to be made. Unquestionably improved are ball control, which now offers an even higher degree of intricacy, and player intelligence.
The latter goes for your lads as individuals--making sensible runs into space, or shepherding rather than diving in when the last man--and as a team. Earn a late lead and the computer now smashes desperation balls into your area; trail with seconds left and its forwards look to retain possession near the corner flag.
It’s still not quite on a par with playing against a real human, but it’s closer than we’ve seen before from FIFA, PES or any of yesteryear’s footballing line-up.
That ‘Feel The Game’ mechanic wasn’t me taking the mick, either. It pertains to emotion, with everything that happens on the pitch affecting your players’ off-the-ball animations. Depending on the current context of the game they encourage team-mates or lambast them after bad misses, and might shake off an early foul before losing the plot completely on the back of a late one.
For now this is strictly an aesthetic deal. EA is keen to avoid calls of ‘scripting’ so you’ll never see your midfield headcase losing it to the point of getting red carded, but it certainly adds to the story of each match. Visually, anyway.
Those expecting EA Canada to rip things up and start again will be disappointed in FIFA 15, on this evidence. But it doesn’t need massive change at this stage. After a year of improvements across the board, subtle changes are the key to another big season for those creative Canucks. It’s an approach that looks likely to pay dividends. The question now is, will the same ring true for Liverpool?