Another year, another edition of FIFA…

Every year, EA Sports produce FIFA, the biggest football game on the planet, and while the new Pro Evolution may look to put up a bit of a fight this year by actually releasing a title for next-gen platforms, it seems that FIFA are doing enough to keep the market cornered.

This year’s edition follows the highly successful formula of previous years: evolution not revolution. There was very little wrong with FIFA 14 in all honesty, but the challenge is always to innovate and introduce something to the game that wasn’t in the previous edition.

This year, the usual tweaking of the movement is there, and while it isn’t as revolutionary as last year’s Ignite engine and the leap to next-gen was, but there are enough differences to make it a new challenge. Controlling the ball becomes a bit more troublesome (in particular with the weaker players, like when you start a career) but with the better players you also see a more realistic set of movements and skills.

Apart from that, the game has changed visually, by adding in plenty of extra cut scenes that are aimed at recreating the experience of watching the game on TV, which tells you something about the way football is going. At half time there’s a cinematic slow-mo of the highlights, every now and then when the ball goes out they’ll announce that one or other of the teams has a tough game coming up against a rival (don’t miss the exclusive coverage, of course) and several other small touches that make it feel a bit more like live television.

For some those cut scenes will be little more than irritating fluff, however, and as for changes on the pitch, again it’s more presentation than handling. Players now have a wider range of animations programmed in for their reactions, be it for a goal or a misplaced pass. EA are referring to that as the ‘emotional intelligence’ of the players, which may well affect their performance in the game too, if they become increasingly frustrated etc. That said, you’d have to be looking closely for that to be evident. They’ve also included every Premier League ground, which is another nice layer of gloss on the already shiny packaging. 

The one change that will take some getting used to but appears to be the menus, which are now easier to navigate and a bit quicker. Sadly, that hasn’t followed through to the Career Mode, which has always been a bit slow and sluggish for our liking. It tries to imitate Championship Manager, but only in a half-hearted way, and we’d prefer to just get on with it rather than waiting on the calendar and getting emails from the board. Pro Evo 5 & 6 had the perfect career mode with fairly basic menus that allowed you to just get on with playing the game, and that’s something that seems to be on the way out.

One thing that was very disappointing was the game face, which made a bit of a mess of our head (unless we've got a weird we?) and also locks your character's skin colour in career mode, which left us a nice shade of sunburned red, without being able to edit it. 

Overall, this is another solid instalment, but you get the impression that they’re still scratching the surface of what they can make the new consoles do. That said, where else is there to go from here? Every year there needs to be a new FIFA, and it has to be more than just roster changes and new kits. Realistically, what is best for both Pro Evo and FIFA is that they come to a near level par again, and push each other to produce their best. We’ll have to wait until November to see if they can reignite the old rivalry. 

Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Developers: Electronic Arts Sports