With every yearly update EA has inched closer to what appears to be its goal – a game that expertly apes the Sky-style TV presentation of the nation’s favourite sport.
So here, in the first truly next-gen iteration, Fifa 15’s graphical heft certainly helps spruce up the shiny pre-match rituals. Sadly, the virtual pros are still not a close facsimile of their real-life counterparts – Mesut Özil looks particularly odd, even for him. More impressive are the improvements to the grounds and crowds, with the pitch cutting up and fans reacting to events with club-specific chants. There’s also a greater sense of solidity to the players; tangles of feet result in frustratingly authentic fouls; goalies keep the ball out with a desperate scramble of arms and legs; and easing defenders off the ball as you run in on goal feels just right.
The “emotional intelligence” that EA has bestowed upon the squad creates an interesting element of randomness – don’t expect to see any biting, but players railing at referees mid-game, sometimes to the detriment of your play, certainly adds to the experience – as does their unilateral decision to “park the bus” when leading in an important game. And the previously frustrating menus are now slick, making a run through the near-unchanged career mode less of a chore.
Fifa isn’t perfect – that pre-game hype and the endless replays, while accurate, serve only to delay the action, but luckily, when you do get down to it, virtual football has never looked or felt better.
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