FIFA 15: First Play preview

First pre-season friendlies hint at a summer of tactical tinkering for the world's biggest football game

How do you follow up on a glittering season in which you overcame all your closest rivals? It's not only Manchester City fans asking that right how.

Over at EA Canada, after outdoing even the almighty NBA 2K with FIFA 14's Olympian leap to next-generation consoles, the footy-obsessed development team is trying to resolve the same question.



Who knows what Manuel Pellegrini's solution will be; in Vancouver, it's tiny tactical tweaks as opposed to a wholesale overhaul.

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Brain training

A warm familiarity leaves you feeling at home in FIFA 15 within moments of kicking off your first match, but after a handful of games it's clear this is a tangibly different game to last year's.

Whether it's better remains to be seen. You would expect that outcome, naturally, but at 55% complete some of the changes made still need fine-tuning. For instance, the success of both through balls and headers has been toned down, but perhaps too far: my day spent playing the game is littered with chances from crosses that soar miles over the bar, off the bonces of such superstars as Dzeko and Ibrahimovic. Fair enough it needed looking at, but the devs mustn't overdo it.



Thankfully, our hands-on showcases more pluses than minuses. Ball control is a touch tighter, improved physics enables super-fast, tiki-taka style passing, and player runs are significantly more intelligent; instances of your team-mates remaining statuesque as you scream at them to sprint into space are super rare, on this evidence. 



Just as importantly, team-wide intelligence has been reworked so that all 22 players on the pitch understand the context of a match as it unfolds. At 1-0 up with five minutes to go in a game between Borussia and PSG, the computer begins pumping desperation balls into the box at Ibra and Cavani – a lifelike change of strategy that I can't recall seeing before in either FIFA or PES. 


Similarly, at 0-1 down late in a different match, the AI's forwards begin shepherding the ball towards the corner flag at every opportunity, in order to preserve its lead. Again, exactly as you'd expect in reality, yet previously unforeseen on football's virtual turf. 

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FIFA 15: First Play

FIFA 15 review
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