At a certain stage, it because difficult to say new things about FIFA. EA Sports have almost reached the point where there are very few technical improvements that can be made to the game, as it has become almost as close to reality as can be achieved on current technology. The jump to next-gen and the associated graphical improvement may have been the only possible technical improvement remaining for EA Sports, and FIFA 14 consumed most of that benefit.

It is tricky to pin down exactly what has changed in FIFA 15 (other than the team line-ups & kits). After playing the game for many hours, I have come to the conclusion that the pacing has been noticeably changed. The matches seem to play out quicker, with attacks coming together quicker and passes feeling more fluid. This certainly is something which I feel is a positive change, as it creates more tense matches with bigger pay-offs for innovative play on the pitch.

Players who have a lot of pace really shine in this version of FIFA, being able to quickly tackle the ball from the opposing team and fly up the pitch in the blink of an eye. It also means your defenders will need to work double time to chase down an oncoming midfielder with more tactical gameplay. This tweak creates more enjoyable, impressive play overall and in my opinion, is a great change. It was a smart move to make by EA Sports; by implementing such a minor tweak, the gameplay feels completely different. This tweak may be the only thing making FIFA 15 feel like a new entry to the series, rather than a patch.

Other than the pacing, nothing major has changed. The animations may be slightly more slick and the player models may have received some minor tweaks; although the difference is so minute I may be imagining it. However, the big question I have to ask is: do we need any more improvements to the gameplay in FIFA? Of course, there will always be minor tweaks to be made the gameplay based on feedback, however, are we at the stage where the game has reached its maximum potential in terms of accurate physics and gameplay?

I believe the answer to this question may be yes. After all, are new improvements all that important for those dedicated to playing FIFA? If you think of the gameplay time that fans of FIFA usually get out of the game across the year, the asking price for the title is not excessive. I realise that you may be paying for more or less the same game each year, however, with the value extracted from the game, fans may feel it worthwhile to pay the annual asking price just to receive updated team line-ups, kits and some minor tweaks.

That is not to say that EA Sports should sit back and release the same game every year; there are many avenues they could choose to go down. One of the aspects which I feel FIFA is lacking in is creation of new game modes. For FIFA 16, I think EA Canada should be thinking creatively about the new experiences they may be able to provide through the introduction of new game modes.

To get back on track, another minor change that FIFA 15 has introduced is some more accurate goalkeeping. The goalkeepers in FIFA 15 are better at predicting where shots will come from and thus position themselves in more advantageous positions. This is not always a positive improvement, however, as some of the top class goalkeepers can be close to impossible to penetrate when playing on difficulties of Semi-Pro and above. This can be frustrating at times.

Player AI has also seen some tweaks, with computer-controlled players now performing better in creating formidable attacks. Attacking midfielders and strikers will dash forward and signal to you for a pass when you are in need of a goal, while defenders will join you to try to take on opposing players as a duo, rather than singly. These small tweaks contribute to the increase in gameplay pace to create an experience which is certainly more enjoyable in the greater picture. However, it also means that FIFA has reached a point where it is so close to matching soccer in reality, that it will be very difficult to improve any further.

Outside of gameplay, the game does present many UI improvements and some tweaks to Ultimate Team. The biggest improvement to the interface is a fantastic overhaul of the TEAM MANAGEMENT screen. This is now presented in a dynamic formation diagram where you can easily swap players in your subs and reserves using a grid system. Adjusting the individual positions of each player has also been made incredibly easy and this change is a very welcome one.

Ultimate Team now features players which you can sign on loan for a certain number of games. While this is not an incredibly competitively useful feature, it allows fans who have never had world-class players in their squad to try out players like Neymar, Robben and Ribéry. A new base attribute, PHYSICAL (PHY), has also been added to the attributes of all players on their Ultimate Team cards. EA Sports describe the new attribute as being:

“A measure of key physical traits such as Strength, Stamina, and Jumping. PHY is important to FIFA 15 and FUT because it will help you determine a player’s ability to win physical battles across the pitch and keep their fitness throughout.”

Finally, a new Friendly Seasons mode has been added to Ultimate Team, allowing you to challenge your friend to a friendly 1v1 competition, based on the normal FIFA Seasons gamemode. Overall, it is clear that Ultimate Team has received a number of substantial improvements and this is certainly something that will benefit FIFA’s dominant gamemode.

Unfortunately, one negative is continuing to leave a large black mark on FIFA’s reputation; the performance of servers. This continues to be a regular issue in FIFA 15, with random disconnects from online gamemodes, lag in online matches and occasional glitching. With the number of annual unit sales of the game combined with a massive amount of money spent by hardcore fans of the game on FIFA Points, EA should certainly be investing more money on dedicated servers for the game to eliminate these issues. This is an area which is holding the game back greatly and something which needs to be improved upon.

To conclude, FIFA 15 is certainly an entry to the series worth purchasing. The small improvements made to various elements of the game do create what is a noticeable change to the experience and the game is more fun to play than FIFA 14. If you are a soccer fan, there is no doubt you will enjoy FIFA 15 as it delivers everything we have come to expect from the series and still remains the best soccer game on the market!

NOTE: While much of this review may apply to the Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3 versions of FIFA 15, we cannot verify the performance of the game on those plaforms as we have not experienced the game running on them. Thus, please take care to check if certain features are available on your platform when reading certain aspects of this review. Thank you for reading InsideTheBox!