The FIFA football franchise, in recent years, has in some part rested very much on its laurels having been spoilt by authentic league licences, unrivalled access to players and behind the scenes goings on of the beautiful game. The fact that FIFA has enjoyed a certain monopoly in the football genre, ever since Pro Evolution Soccer found the sort of form Fernando Torres found at Chelsea, has made the franchise slightly fat and lazy.
Last years iteration; FIFA 14 did improve the ever popular franchise in some areas but it notably fell short on others. It was almost as if EA Canada had forgotten what made FIFA so appealing, so popular. It lacked an certain edge, for many it was too clean and had a somewhat overtly mechanical approach to the sport we all know and love.
Thankfully FIFA 15 has kicked those elements high and wide into row Z as this year EA Canada have managed to produce a theatrical footballing master-class.
FIFA 15 is beautiful, there's no point creating a crescendo in the build up to this point, it's a fact.
The presentation is as slick as Cristiano Ronaldo's hair styling product with Sky Sports-esq menus and in-game statistical and score updates adding polish and quality to the proceedings. The build up to any given match is introduced by Sky Sports very own Jeff Stelling and his familiar, authoritative and somewhat reassuring tones go along way in help you think that this experience you're about to enter is going to be good, very good.
Matches start with all the pomp, fanfair and ceremony expected with a FIFA title but this time the presentation has been carefully choreographed with a much more realistic TV camera viewing dynamic than last year cutting to scenes of the fantastically superior rendered fans jumping around in a living, breathing stadia not seen in the franchise before.
Match highlights are also actually worth watching, it just looks so so good partly because ‘living pitches' now play a part in the drama. Grass can be seen flying off boots as players kick the ball, players socks muddy when sliding around and the pitch itself tears up as slides and fouls dig at its pastures. The players themselves have found a good run of form on the next generation consoles, Rooney and the gang no longer look like malnourished zombies, they look the part and absolutely play the part.
EA Canada have managed to wrap this visually stunning footballing feast with architecturally sound recreations of each and every one of the Barclay's Premier League teams stadia which again adds to the ‘match day experience' all FIFA players crave for. The game has a real sense of being and drama. Magnificent.
And the sound? Wonderful. EA Canada have seemingly hired some very through sound engineers for this product. Every single kick, scuff, thump, shout, shot and crunching tackle sounds harmonic. And we swear someone has even recorded the unique sound the ball makes when it strikes and parry's off a goal-keepers glove, it's the detail here that makes it truly remarkable.
The commentary provided by Martin Tyler and Alan Smith is sharp and professional sounding peppered with references to the recent World Cup exploits of certain players and league positions of last season which give it a little more association and personality than previous titles.
Yet nothing can prepare you for the sensual triumph that is the sound of the crowd. The huge swathe of digital football fans filling FIFA's stadia react to each and every kick, each and every decision you make. As you thunder down the wing the voices of your supporters builds up into a loud expectant boom for glory, and my word, when you do score you're deafened by an almighty roar, so loud in fact that the camera actually jiggles a little as the stanchions below rock with delirious fans. So satisfying.
If you foul an opponent out of frustration these fans remember too, booing, whistling and heckling that particular player's every touch adding that extra spice to the experience. It's all very visceral.
We can only assume EA Canada have ripped out the old game engine and replaced it with super-chargers as not only have players become more fluid and engaged with everything that takes place on the pitch they also now possess emotions, feelings.
Every player reacts to their surroundings on the pitch meaning that they are not afraid to show disdain to a particular opponent if fallen victim to a heavy challenge. Miss a ‘sitter' and the player will collapse with embarrassment as team-mates berate him for not taking the simple option. There's far too many nuances to detail here, but all are small, clever and amplify the game to higher levels not seen before in any football video game.
Tackling is now an art form and requires pin-point accuracy to avoid the referee collecting names in his little black book and passing the ball has become ever more crisp. Attacking styles can vary meaning there are many different ways to win in this particular incarnation of football. If you prefer playing the direct game down the middle channel you can, if you want to play ‘David Moyes' Style with the long ball you can, if you want to ‘park the bus' ala Chelsea you can do that too, no really.
The mechanics of the game let you play how you want to, there is real freedom here.
We could also talk about other stand out features such as the hugely popular ‘Ultimate Team' but this review would turn into a 10 page dossier. Let's just say that that the Ultimate Team winner formula remains as strong as ever.
We could also talk about the addition of ‘friendly seasons' where you can play friend over the course of a 10 match mini season to see who comes out on top, but that'd take up half the day. We can only recommend you go out and get it and experience this all for yourself.
Let's be clear, FIFA 15 is not only a huge step forward for the franchise it's also a massive in-depth footballing universe which users will become completely submerged in very quickly.
FIFA 15 hasn't just given everyone the chance to use every footballing cliché in the positive again, its given everyone a chance to fall back in-love with the franchise, to enjoy the pure adrenaline rush that football provides, FIFA 15 does that buy the boot-load.
With it's mesmeric presentation, fluid game play, cinematic highlight reels, and its bone-shaking authentic sound make this the best FIFA incarnation yet!
Just feast your eyes on the video below if you don't believe us…