Each and every year EA releases a new instalment in their FIFA franchise which always manages to give us pangs of déjà vu as we are reminded of the previous year’s game. This is just an inevitable part of a franchise which releases annually – it’s simply a case of evolution over revolution. The question is whether the changes are enough to justify parting with our annual ‘subscription fee’ or if it’s the same game in a different year with slightly crisper looking grass.
At EA’s E3 press conference a few days ago we were given a trailer which offered a first glimpse of FIFA 15 and its new features. Once you get past the hyperbole and overly-sentimentalised narration the trailer opens with, there seems to be a lot to be excited about going into FIFA 15. The ‘Living Pitch’, overhauled crowd visuals, and the intriguing player emotional intelligence upgrades all look particularly promising. However, realism doesn’t always translate to a more enjoyable playing experience and many of the so-called gameplay additions divulged by EA at E3 seem to be obvious rebrands of features implemented in past instalments.
The ‘Agility & Control’ just seems like an extension of FIFA 13’s complete dribbling, ‘Man-to-Man Battles’ are like the player impact engine and the ‘Team Tactics’ feature just sounds like going ultra-defensive or attacking. Many believe that by giving old features new titles they are trying to deceive fans into thinking they’ve reinvented the wheel, when the reality is they’ve just repainted it.
There is a plethora of features, tweaks and alterations that the fans have been demanding which seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Though EA have hinted that they still have some exciting announcements to come, these pleas have – as yet – gone unanswered. Here are the 10 fan demands still totally ignored by EA:
10. Dynamic Weather
Many of the updates announced by EA at E3 and demonstrated in their trailer have quite rightly caused a great deal of excitement in FIFA’s sizeable playing community. Finally giving the somewhat robotic, lifeless players some emotional depth and allowing for the field to degrade are both extremely exciting features which will certainly heighten the realism and immersion of FIFA 15. However, one feature which fans had been expecting EA to implement now that the franchise has made the leap to next-gen is dynamic weather.
In the E3 trailer we only really see heavy rainfall or dryness, which has led many to believe that FIFA 15 will have much the same presentation of weather as in last year’s title. In other words, the weather will either be a torrential downpour for the full 90 minutes or completely dry. With so much emphasis being place on realism in the new game, it is surprising that a broader range of weather hasn’t been introduced, with the potential for the meteorological scenario to vary mid-game and force you to consider a change in tactics. FIFA fans demand to see the ability for rain to range from an unobtrusive drizzle to a full-on monsoon and as yet EA haven’t confirmed if weather will be updated.
9. Goalkeeper AI
EA have given goalkeepers an incredibly bad name to those fans who play their game more than they watch real football. Indeed if you based your opinion of goalies on FIFA, you would think they were an incredibly stupid bunch who often seem to inexplicably want their team to lose. On more than one occasion every FIFA fanatic has been left scratching their head as to why the AI-controlled goal keeper has done something detrimental to the team.
One of the more irksome examples of a goalkeeper being brain-dead is when they are running for an inbound ball on the edge of their box. Rather than showing an ounce of intelligence and picking the ball up they will often boot the ball down the field. As they are running and off-balance, this powerful kick can result in a slice which sends the ball far into the air but not tremendously far downfield, meaning that an opponent’s striker has been gifted with the chance to punish you for your goalie’s stupidity. Sadly, this is certainly not the only example frequently seen of the last bastion of defence acting like a court jester. EA need to stop frustrating their fans by giving such poor AI to such a pivotal player – they may have promised emotional intelligence but now we need to see some actual intelligence.
8. Defence Speed
One of the major criticisms of FIFA 13 was that the more rapid players in the game – particularly forwards – were disproportionately overpowered, allowing them to blitz past an opposition’s defence and score a goal demanding fairly little of the player in control. This imbalance was shrewdly dealt with by EA as they slowed down the game for a more realistic experience in FIFA 14, though this has led to a whole new issue.
On so many occasions we see players with a supposedly decent amount of pace get beaten to the ball by a slower defender in a straight foot race. Though this is obviously a disadvantage which afflicts both competing players, you are forced to suspend your disbelief somewhat when you see the likes of Di Maria being beaten by Puyol in a foot race. It was nice to know that EA had been listening to the demands of their fans with FIFA 14 but they need to achieve a balance – nobody wants speedsters running the show but we still want them to be able to outstrip plodding players in chases to the ball.
7. Ultimate Team Friendlies
Since its induction, FIFA Ultimate Team has been the most widely played of the game’s many varied, addictive modes. While asking for a completely new game mode in FIFA 15 to rival Ultimate Team is probably demanding too much, there are several tweaks that could make the addictive feature even better.
Aside from the technical changes which need to be made to Ultimate Team to stop crippling network faults such as the game suddenly disconnecting as you’re about to receive 3 points for a win, many fans have been asking for the addition of a friendlies option. This would allow you to have matches against your friends with a system keeping track of who has amassed the most wins. Aside from resolving all manner of arguments about whose vision of the greatest team on the planet is more effective, it would a whole new layer of competition to an already hotly contested mode.
Without an established friendlies option, you are only as good as your last game so it is long overdue that EA should add this feature.
6. Champions League
The fierce war waged between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer has eased up somewhat in recent years. No longer is Konami’s football offering regarded as a legitimate alternative to FIFA – now it is a subcultural choice for those who have had enough of EA’s monopolising soccer game. With its bogus team names, inferior graphics and weird player ratings, it’s not hard to see why FIFA pulled away in the race to become the dominant title in the football-sim genre.
It comes as a great surprise that the globe’s second favourite football game should have exclusive rights to the biggest competition in club football, the Champions League. Knowing Pro Evo’s precarious position compared to FIFA, many people had expected EA to flex their muscles and liberate the Champions League from Pro Evo for their own use and reveal the news in a dramatic E3 announcement: no such thing occurred.
5. Offensive Aerial Might
When FIFA 14 first hit store shelves last year, by far the biggest gameplay criticism was the easy manner in which any player of any level was able to score a headed goal. Of course, it is impossible to deny that heading is a vital part of the modern game. Indeed, players like Radamel Falcao and Fernando Llorente have established their reputation on their ability to consistently score using their heads.
However, with FIFA 14, EA gave far too much power to strikers using their head. It wasn’t even the Falcaos and Llorentes of the world who were scoring headed goals left right and centre: it was possible to use 5’3” Sebastian Giovinco to miraculously leap over the back of a defender to bag an improbable goal.
Though they would downgrade the power of offensive heading in the World Cup edition of the game, heading still felt overpowered. With FIFA 15 fans have demanded that the mechanics of heading be overhauled to provide a more realistic, more balanced experience, though EA made no mention of this at their E3 conference.
4. The Top Dog
Though fans are mainly split into two separate camps over this issue, there are a growing number of impartial FIFA players going into FIFA 15 who are clamouring for a changing of the guard regarding who the best player on the game is statistically. For every FIFA instalment in recent memory, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has deservedly been rated as being the best footballer on the planet. However, this year the little Argentine has been uncharacteristically quiet. He has still done more than enough to make a case that he should still be considered the greatest but there many fans who believe that based on their respective 2013/14 performances, Cristiano Ronaldo should be on top. Not only did Real Madrid’s superstar score more goals but he also received the much-coveted Ballon d’Or over the likes of Messi and Ribery. We understand that Messi is in cahoots with EA to help them market their FIFA franchise so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are inclined to favour Barcelona’s player.
Though it is as yet unconfirmed what the player ratings will be for FIFA 15, the trailer released at E3 makes it abundantly clear that it will again be Lionel. The Argentine is shown in the demo’s final segment of action scoring a thunderous goal over the head of Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois while Ronaldo doesn’t even feature in the trailer. Moreover, the fact that customers who pre-order FIFA 15 will have access to a Messi on loan for the first part of their Ultimate Team campaign corroborates the theory that Messi will once again be top dog, despite many fans believing that Ronaldo has done enough to at least be ranked as his rival’s equal.
A gameplay element which certainly needed revision before EA ever started worrying about the need to feature Gerrard giving Sturridge a stern telling-off with every missed shot is the unreliable advantage system.
Oftentimes your defender will intercept a through ball to an opposition’s striker who was offside and you’re ready to try and push the advantage at the other end. However, for seemingly no reason at all, you will not be given the opportunity to play advantage and the referee will force you to take a free kick for the offside, giving your opponent time to reset his formation. Not only does this interrupt the flow of gameplay but it can be horrendously frustrating if you’re denied the opportunity to launch a potent counter-attack.
Even more frustratingly, on more than one occasion we have been fouled, played the advantage and scored a goal only for the moronic referee to use his infinite wisdom to decide that it was in your team’s interest to take the free-kick after all. To have a goal denied in this way – particularly in online play – is one of the most frustrating things in the whole game and desperately needed fixing.
Fans have called for these sketchy advantage decisions to be fixed for multiple installments and thus far there seems to be no change.
2. Wager Facility
Ever since mankind first became obsessed with sport, gambling has been an inseparable part of our favourite pastime. This is true of football as well, so it is only fitting that a wager function be added to the planet’s most popular football game to acknowledge that gambling is a big part of the sport.
On the most popular game mode on FIFA – Ultimate Team – players clamouring for the introduction of Wagers have taken matters into their own hands, heading to twitter to arrange high-stakes games for a mutually agreeable bounty of coins and/or players. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has interacted with the game’s online community to learn that players often don’t honour the bets they’ve made, conning their opponents out of the prize they fairly won. The introduction of a wager facility will mean that EA are free to govern these bets and ensure that they can eliminate the reprehensible work of the scammers. The thought of playing in a match with the promise of potentially winning a world-class player is an extremely exciting one; better yet, imagine scoring an 88th minute winner to bag the prize.
Fans have made their desire for a wager function extremely apparent so it is disappointing that EA made no mention of it at E3. It would make an already superb mode in Ultimate Team even better.
1. Passing Issues
One of the more frustrating gameplay shortcomings of FIFA 14 is the temperamental nature of the passing. At times you and your team can be capable of exquisite passing that would have the likes of Xavi and Iniesta gawping in disbelief. You could zip the ball across the field with every pass perfectly weighted, directed and the feeling that you have complete control over the action on the field. However, on other occasions it can be quite the opposite – the fact that the passing system isn’t always broken makes matters worse as you know how good it can be.
Often, you can feel like you have absolutely no control of a player’s passing as the ball ends up being passed in a completely different direction to the one you had intended it to go (this has been a complaint levelled against every FIFA title in recent memory). Obviously this is infuriating as it can undo your offensive efforts in an instant and even lead to your opponent having the ball in an undesirable position. As well as this passing inaccuracy, sometimes your players embarrass themselves by lazily waiting for the pass to come to them rather than rushing forward to guarantee that they get the ball. Even players renowned for their work rate can often have the ball pinched from them as they were too lazy to run forward.
Passing is obviously one of the fundamentals of the game so it is essential that they improve on the mechanics seen in FIFA 14. The recent announcements about the ‘Emotion Intelligence’ upgrades are certainly promising, but it is hard to get too excited when such a pivotal part of the game is still so inconsistent. After avoiding the issue at E3, we hope EA ensure that FIFA 15’s passing makes some drastic improvements over the previous year’s installment.