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There must come a point where the creative minds behind FIFA 15 at EA Canada draw a blank on how to improve their yearly football based game series. I personally could only think of possible tweaks and bug fixes for this year’s release. And despite it seeming there wasn’t much new in FIFA 15, well, if you thought that (like I did) then you’re in for a bit of a shock.

It doesn’t matter to some degree about the game modes included, not if the game doesn’t play well enough to start with. So my initial focus is on the mechanics of FIFA 15 and in short they’ve made it rather realistic in the way it plays the beautiful game. That’s not to say it’s perfect but the advancements make it even closer to reality than I could have imagined.

Mentally it’s tough, just like if you’re on the pitch in a Premier League match in real life. If you switch off for even a second, especially against a human player online then it’s likely you’re going to pay for it. Organisation across the whole pitch is huge now and pulling players out of positions to close people down will leave gaps to be exploited. Having the new Park the Bus setting on the D-pad can help create those solid banks of defensive protection that will help hold out a lead or can be totally frustrating if you’re on the attack against it.

You, the player, have been given a whole new level of player responsiveness to play with and take even more control of the eleven men out of the hands of the A.I. which is always a good thing. Dribbling has a key role and fortunately is quite an accurate attribute, for example try a run with Messi, making sharp turns to evade defenders and you’ll probably have to be scythed down to be stopped once you get into full flow. Have a go with Carlton Cole though, I don’t need to explain as I’m sure you can guess the outcome but it’s not as responsive at all.

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Where do we get more control though? Set pieces for starters, you can forget about the kick or throw-in taker and instead opt for a different player to manoeuvre into space to call for the ball. During general play when a cross comes in or a through-ball splits a defence you can battle with pure physicality to get on the end of it and this is noticeable compared to last year.

Balance can affect almost everything you want to do; whether that’s taking a shot, making a pass or swinging in a cross. This is music to my ears because there was nothing worse than seeing a guy outside the box, facing away from goal, shooting and scoring. Now, in situations like this they’ll either fall on their bum, kicking the air or it’ll be inaccurate and significantly weaker.

The players were meant to be more emotional than ever before, as far as I’ve seen though they don’t cry their eyes out like John Terry, but they are rather angry individuals when decisions go against them. For something so positively marketed as one of the games main selling points I don’t think it’s half as important or game changing as other areas that the player is more in control of.

Another of the talking points was the “Next-Gen Goalkeepers”, arguably with new-found instinct and behaviour to make them a cut above what we’ve seen before. You can certainly tell they’ve been motion-captured by real goalies due to the way they collect balls and make reaction saves that are out of this world. Sadly they aren’t the brightest bunch and can sometimes be culpable for the most stupid errors you’ll ever see.Seeing them beaten from 50 yards whilst not far from their goal-line is ridiculous and if you add in many moments of confusion at where the ball is then it’s clear to me they need a patch to curb the stupidity happening too regularly.

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There are absolutely zero brand new modes to report except the return of being able to create offline Tournaments, which are handy for customising the set-up for having a knockout tourney with a couple of mates. You can also start a new tournament based on real ones such as the FA Cup in England or the Coupe de Ligue in France.

Most of the long standing modes are unchanged apart from a couple of additional features, the majority of which are in the FIFA money maker, Ultimate Team. With the introduction of Loan Players (using EA Coins in the catalogue) I think they’ve attempted to narrow the gap between people who spend cash to buy packs and those who don’t. I felt this just forces people’s hands to go for a crazily good team immediately which reduces longevity. When you’ve been up against or have had in your team the likes of Bale, Rodriguez and even Messi it can only make anything less feel inadequate.

Other tweaks come in the form of the matchmaking; there can be stricter settings online in the normal Seasons mode to avoid being matched with teams that are of a much greater quality than the one you choose. This was an issue I’ve had before so I’m glad they’ve finally got round to sorting it. As a side note, in most online matches you can go straight into the next matchmaking search, thus reducing any time wasted for us hardcore footballers.

Match Presentation is essentially up there with the standards on television for pre-match build-up, handshakes and on-screen infographics (without all the betting adverts), especially for the Premier League matches in Career mode. Due to a licensing agreement, all 20 clubs have their stadia included along with team specific advertising boards and some chants to hear your fans sing. With the addition of real life referees, I can only imagine it’s a matter of time before this deal spreads to the other big European leagues.

For those gamers with José Mourinho’s eye for tactics you’ll have a field day with the options at hand to help ensure a win. There are simple plans like Counter Attack and High Pressure but players in individual positions can be given more technical instructions such as cutting out attacks or not even bothering to venture forwards when the team has possession of the ball. I can’t tell if it’s just the layout, however I believe this is the best tactical offering they’ve had.

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As I have alluded to, there’s no brand new modes which is disappointing but even so I’m not sure EA have reached maximum potential across all those included. Career mode I can tell no difference, Pro Clubs just has dressing room changes for latecomers to ready themselves for the next game and Ultimate Team just has Loans and Concept Squads (the ability to add players you don’t own to the team sheet to check out how they fit). Seasons for both Normal and UT have 10 Divisions a piece, following the same ascension through to Division 1. Skill Games have a couple of different fun games but generally it’s more of the same.

What’s wrong with FIFA 15? The answer is, not a lot really. There’s just enough frustrating moments from goalkeepers riddled with mistakes though. Although I do love the new feel of how the game plays, I can’t believe there isn’t more fresh content on the things to do side of FIFA 15. Even simple stuff like creating your own badges and kits for Pro Clubs would be a start whilst the more complicated addition of an online Career mode would have been lovely.

It’s beginning to feel closer to what I’d imagine the next generation of football games to be. Iron out the irritating parts, ensure the UT servers aren’t as unreliable and with a new mode brought in for the next FIFA it could deliver a hammer blow to the re-emerging Pro Evo. As long as you’re up for the task of learning how to play all over again then it’s still a must have sports title.

txh rating 4

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