A playable demo of FIFA 15 is now available for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and allows you to check some of the new features set to be introduced to the next edition of the football simulator from EA Sports. Gamereactor's resident FIFA nut, Ricardo C. Esteves, played through several matches via the demo, and here's his opinions regarding the experience had thus far with game.
FIFA 15 is a different game to FIFA 14. Players who only play occasionally might say that it is equal, or that the differences are minimal, but anyone that plays FIFA on a daily basis will immediately realise that something is different in FIFA 15, especially if FIFA 14's mechanics are already ingrained in your system.
Graphically there are no major changes. The game has a good visual finish, plus, the general presentation and production values are phenomenal. Even so, we were not dazzled. Despite the introduction of the Ignite engine in FIFA 14 for the new generation, the skeleton and the base of the graphics are the same as the versions built for the old generation, and as such, we don't notice any drastic changes in the graphics department. Yes, the crowd is fantastic. Yes, there are many new animations. Yes, the grass is excellent. But this is still not a true new generation of FIFA, at least visually.
The demo lets you play with eight teams - Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Paris Saint Germain, FC Barcelona, Boca Juniors, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool (plus predefined squads in Ultimate Team Mode). The only available stadium is Anfield (Liverpool), and if this stadium is an example, the Premier League on FIFA 15 will be fantastic. EA Sports signed a recent agreement with the British league, allowing EA to replicate all players, stadiums and chants, and it shows in this stadium. The chants from Liverpool supporters (especially "You'll Never Walk Alone") and the general atmosphere in the stadium is impeccable. It remains to be seen how it will be in other stadiums outside the Premier League.
FIFA 15 has several new details, although most are purely visual. You will quickly realise that the grass is now dynamic, exhibiting marks caused by players, like footprints for the sprints and tackles. At the end of the game you will notice the pitch is full of marks and scuffs. Another visual detail is in the players' interactions. There are several new animations for different situations, such as harsh inputs, requests for cards and small on-field squabbles. There are more elements that add to the atmosphere and spectacle of a match, but don't translate wholly into changing the feel of the gameplay.
Another examples of this, albeit with a more visible impact on the game, includes a new option to control a player in set-pieces. In a corner, for example, you can select a forward, make a run, and call for the ball. It's an easy process and it works quite well. There are similar examples, including new animations for situations like passing, dribbling, handball (now, when you are in the area, defenders put their hands behind their backs, to avoid conceding penalties).
But not everything is visual, there are also important changes in terms of gameplay. Dribbling, for example, is very different. There is a genuinely realistic reaction to the ball, with very different steps on the ball. This means more accurate control with technique players, but also a botched dribble with less gifted players. In sprint (which is significantly slower than in the past) it's now considerably easier to lose the ball because it goes out of reach a lot more frequently. Also different are the passes. While the passes find their targets more effectively (usually), it also seemed more difficult to choose the desired player when they are in nearby passing lanes.
Protecting the ball (left trigger) and realistic speed changes, are the main innovations introduced in FIFA 14, but only now do they seem to be reaching their true potential. There are plenty of new animations for protecting the ball, and speed changes are really hard to follow. This means that it's easier to dribble past an opponent with speed and change of pace, although skill moves themselves (right analog) appear to be less effective in FIFA 15. The same applies to the classic First Touch feature with the right analog. In FIFA 15 that touch is quite fierce, and if not used carefully, can easily result in turning over the ball.
One of the most publicised features coming in the new FIFA are the improvements for the goalkeepers, and we can confirm that they are indeed different. There are many new animations and behaviours, with accompanying claims that players in that position will be more realistic. You shouldn't read "realistic" as "better" though, as goalkeepers will not defend better than in FIFA 14. In the past, at times, it seemed as if goalies were super-human, but in FIFA 15 you will get a lot more believable goals. Truth be told we've seen some situations that were to close to ridiculous on behalf of the goalie, but further evaluation with the final game will be required.
If the new take on the game might at first might be a bit difficult to get used too, given the changes brought in for FIFA 14, you will eventually begin to embrace the new inclusions. But while these systems make the game more realistic, the demo also showed us several issues. We observed bizarre and frankly idiotic behaviour from the AI, but also some flaws in the animations. We witnessed players who received the ball poorly or ignored it completely, as well as unnatural player movements and other similar issues.
This, however, is normal. The demos of FIFA are usually completed before the production team enter the final phase of development, which means that it's likely that the final version of FIFA 15 will be presented in better shape than it is in this demo, with some new features and fewer problems. Or at least, that's what has happened in recent years.
Before ending, a word on the new tactical options. There are several new developments in the tactics, strategy and behaviour departments. You can now define whether a player should mark the area, if he can go up during attack or if he should stay back. If this really works properly in the final version, it might be an interesting addition, and we look forward to seeing it in action.
FIFA 15 will also see several tweaks and additions to the game modes, additionas that we could not test with this demo. However, the gameplay looked nice, despite the occasional problem. We enjoyed the majority of the new features that EA Sports has implemented, and although the demo has issues, we believe that most will be resolved in time for the game's release at the end of September.