World in emotion
The most notable change is strictly an aesthetic one, but it adds hugely to the overall narrative of each contest.
It's something EA calls 'feel the game'. In English which people might actually use down the pub, that means anything that happens in a match can directly affect your player's mental state.
So, your star midfielder might brush off a crude challenge in the first five minutes of a match, but an identical coming together after half-time with his team two goals down could see him barge into the offender in response. Similarly, players might encourage or cajole one another after a missed chance, or let their heads drop across the board after an own goal.
All of those 'mights' and 'coulds' are necessary here because every one of these reactions, demonstrated in-game via a wealth of new off-the-ball animations, is again contextual and dependent on factors such as the scoreline, importance of a particular fixture, and so on.
The reason for this feature being a purely visual thing is EA's keenness to avoid accusations of scripting. Imagine, for instance, Wayne Rooney getting himself sent off with no input from yourself midway through a crucial Online Seasons game. Quite rightly, you'd be outraged. Still, it'd be intriguing to see EA develop this clever mechanic so it affects the actual feel of the game in some fashion next year.
More after the break...
The inside view
While team-wide AI has taken a massive step forward this year, FIFA 15 producer Nick Channon admits that one of his toughest tasks is making every side feel unique. For instance you'd expect Liverpool to utilise the pace and finesse of Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling in trying to unlock your defence, while Citeh should rely more on Yaya Toure's surging runs from midfield and Edin Dzeko's aerial prowess.
“One of the reasons we wanted to look again at team tactics was to make the game more varied, and give the sense that you’re playing a human,” he says. “It is difficult. We try to make the teams feel as different from one another as we can, and will continue to do that – but the vast number and variety of clubs in the game mean it is a big challenge, definitely.”
Those teams mightn't feel truly individual on the pitch just yet, then, but they certainly are off it. Play at Anfield and you see – not just hear – The Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone before a match gets underway, while City supporters do an enthusiastic Poznan after the home team scores at the Etihad. Impressive realism there, but no word yet on whether Spurs fans boo their boys off at half-time regardless of the score.
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FIFA 15 - release date
FIFA 15 will be released on Xbox One (the version we tested), PlayStation 4 and PC this autumn. Other formats are still to be confirmed, although Channon does nod when we enquire as to whether PS3 and Xbox 360 instalments are on the horizon.
Make no mistake, though: there was a huge gulf in class between the two generations where FIFA was concerned last season, and we only expect that to grow wider once the 2014-15 campaign gets underway.
Look out for a full review later this year.
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