It’s been an exhilarating few years for EA’s FIFA series, with advancements in realism, gameplay and user experience propelling the series from perpetual also-ran beside Konami’s Pro Evolution to an undisputed position as sovereign of digital soccer games. But while this year’s release is no different, with new features ranging from increased emotional intelligence all the way to improved ball physics, there are nevertheless a few niggling issues which prevent FIFA 15 from earning the mantle as the perfect soccer gaming that fans crave and deserve.
Though there’s no doubt that FIFA 15 is the premier soccer game on the market, there are a number of problem areas where EA falls short.
EA has always taken great pride in the level of detail of leagues included in the game, with logos, rosters and team ratings all typically spot-on. But this year’s version struggles to offer an accurate replication of certain leagues, with Major League Soccer, the English Premier League, and Italian Serie A notably wayward.
During ‘career-mode’ with an MLS side, for example, the game functions surprisingly smoothly. Seasons pass with players developing at an expected path, more prominent teams winning trophies, and roster rules a known quantity. This, in and of itself, is the issue. FIFA’s version of MLS includes no dynamic rule changes, no favoritism from league officials, and no results manipulated by an irrational player allocation process. This means that for another season, the video game that most accurately simulates Major League Soccer is the post-apocalyptic world of Metro 2033.
The same can be said of the game’s version of the English Premier League. Though the on-field experience is fairly accurate, the off-field drama is notably absent. During three seasons managing Liverpool, player appeals for extra playing-time become regular annoyances, but not once did I have a player make the tabloids after uttering racial epithets during a stag night. Nor did any player become embroiled in a custody battles or hear Martin Tyler accidentally mutter a sexist remark during a match. Most surprising, though, is the fact that during one of those three seasons, Arsenal won the Premier League title. Arsenal! The Premier League is laughably inauthentic in FIFA 15.
Worse still is the game’s simulation of Serie A. Talented players willingly move to Serie A in FIFA 15, and nary once will teams play behind closed doors after fans racially abuse players. Furthermore, it seems that EA neglected to include a region-specific match-fixing mode; a decision you have to question given the capabilities of next-gen consoles.
The World Cup
Coming off the release of EA’s World Cup 2014 release, it would seem safe to assume that FIFA 15 would put plenty of effort into providing an accurate simulation of future World Cups in the game’s management mode. Nevertheless, the game struggles to reach the heights of last year’s World Cup specific game.
Users immediately recognize that World Cups will be held at the same set of stadiums, no matter the year or host. It’s possible that this was an overtly political statement on EA’s part, promoting fiscal conservatism in an era when nations struggling to provide the most basic of human rights to their populations willingly agree to host the World Cup and submit to FIFA’s (the organization) dictatorial regulations only to face more financial and political unrest once the World Cup has moved on and left underdeveloped nations to foot the bill. But it’s also likely that EA simply ran out of time to model the stadiums that will feature in Russia and Qatar.
Perhaps more astounding is the fact that the digital Sepp Blatter who hands over the World Cup trophy doesn’t melt into a viscous fluid once he makes his way into the digital sunlight. It’s the little details.
Similarly, it’s disappointing that EA neglected to include Be-A-Migrant-Worker and Be-A-Persecuted-Person modes. Their motto may be ‘It’s in the Game,’ but when it comes to experiencing digital homophobic oppression, it’s not.
Though the FIFA series has made great strides in accurately replicating soccer’s scouting network, the game’s version of the transfer market doesn’t quite hit the mark.
From the first instance users load manager mode, they will be confronted by transfer offers and contract negotiations, but for the most part these are all handled in a relatively straight-forward process: ‘make an offer, receive a counter, accept the counter, offer a contract, sign the player.’ The only exceptions to this come when players turn down contract offers for the benefit of staying at their favored clubs.
This, of course, is the problem. Where are the third-party negotiations or agent fees? Where’s Harry Redknapp signing and selling the same players multiple times to pocket additional fees for his services? Where are the players moving clubs under the threat of reduced playing time? Where are the players forced to move clubs because their parents sold their ownership rights a decade ago to a sleazy businessman who offered fast cash? Why do youth players seem to have common sense when signing contracts? How can it be that young players reject moves to big clubs to instead continue their development? In short, where is Jorge Mendes?
Most importantly, why do players seem to have more rights and seem to be treated more as human beings in FIFA 15 than in real life?
Joe Hart is a really good goalkeeper in this game.
FIFA 15 is the best simulation of soccer in the market, but it doesn’t come without its flaws. Buyer beware.