Right off the bat it stands out that FIFA 15 is a much better looking game than FIFA 14 on multiple fronts. The presentation and atmosphere are much improved. The player models look great close up. The grass on the pitch is more convincing and deterioates over the course of a game. The improvements graphically are substantial. It's a soccer game, and the camera during gameplay will always be far away and the game will never have the detail that a sports game with a closer camera, like NBA 2K, has... but FIFA 15 can be proud of how it looks.
Unfortunately it goes downhill after that. The gameplay is a step back from FIFA 14 and possibly even FIFA 13. Some of it can and hopefully will be patched, but as the game stands now the weaknesses are glaring. On the ball the game feels pretty good. Momentum feels a bit strong but it's easy to adjust to. Shots fly far wider than ever before, but again, it's an easy adjustment. The risk/reward of special moves or sprinting are still solid.
Off the ball is where the problems really start to add up. The AI seems oblivious to where the ball is most of the time (especially midfielders). The game seems to be begging the player to make every play, which in video game terms is ok, but when you are trying to play the game in a manner that at least attempts to simulate the real sport it feels goofy. When pushing the ball your AI teammates will rarely move into open space right near them, as if they weren't ever taught that being open is better than running at the same speed as your defender, seemingly following him, is not the best move. I have counter-attack set as my team's tactic but getting a player other than myself to actually make a run, even with the slider jacked up, is frustratingly rare. My guess is that if the offensive AI actually did look to exploit the defense the game would be far too easy. Two wrongs (the other being bad defensive AI) don't make a right.
The physics seem extra whacky this year as well. Off the ball you can pretty much maul people without the ref giving any care in the world. It's common to see players flipping over each other. It's even better when it's friendly fire.
I've also seen my fair share of bizarre glitches unlike anything I've seen in hundreds of hours of FIFA 14. For instance, the AI made a clearance that was sky high so I moved my defensemen under it. By the time it came down my goalie ran a country mile and jump kicked the ball back towards the opponents goal. Luckily it had some distance because he had a 15 second run ahead of him just to get back to the net. It made absolutely no sense. It's almost like he thought I was on the other team and he was the only chance to make sure I didn't get the ball. I know Liverpool is bad this year but that's just too much. Glitches like this aren't common, but when the normal AI feels like a step backwards, seeing the AI do something that weird multiplies the feeling that something under the hood is plain ol broken.
It feels like the game wants you to do everything. The AI will ignore a ball a few feet away from it if I'm within 20 feet. I don't use auto-switch and nor do I use player lock but there are many times where I would like to control the guy off the ball to put him in a position that is advantageous for when my AI player grabs the ball (which then will switch control to me). Makes sense, I think. Except they won't go after the ball! Especially on clearances, I will have 3 defenders watch the ball land in between them if I'm anywhere near them, even if I'm running in the other direction. The answer, of course, is to just switch control to one of those players but a lot of strategy is lost. My own off the ball movement is useless if the AI won't go after it themselves.
Set pieces are slightly better this year, especially with the ability on corners to give a bit of guidance to where you want your players to go. They still don't feel like an actual battle for positioning though and the AI isn't particularly aggressive on either side.
It's not all bad news on the gameplay front. The AI is much more aggressive offensively and will capitalize on your mistakes. They also are much better at shaking human defenders off, helped in part by the exaggerated momentum physics. The AI is also smarter about "parking the bus" when in the lead and playing aggressively when behind. Online play is smooth and extremely fun. I'm not an ultimate team guy but I haven't heard any major complaints out of that camp. I have messed with pro clubs and those are as fun as ever.
I don't regret buying FIFA 15, despite all my complaints. I will probably play a match right after I post this. It's not a bad game by any means, but it is frustrating to see the game get better in certain respects but actually move backwards in others. Much like Madden it is starting to pile up legacy issues that need to be addressed. EA, this year you got the game looking great... next year could you please completely rework the AI? I don't want to beg, but I will.
They need to patch how easily players go down, and how stupid they are. I have seen it more now since I played a bunch of seasons games. There were penalties in almost every game I played (including 3 for me in one game) partly because the players just smack into each other all the time. The game is very fun to play though. Also, this is great https://vine.co/v/OmKFhzFBELZ
Great review and spot on.