I’ve put a few hours into the PC demo of FIFA 15 this afternoon, which as well as being a fairly pleasant way to spend time at work means I can now tell you what I think of this first Ignite Engine powered effort on our platform of choice.
Let’s start with something simple: the graphics options. There pretty much aren’t any. I mean, okay, there are a few, you can (just about) see them in the screenshot below, but they’re the same as the ones for FIFA 14. You’ve got some basic resolution stuff, a high/low rendering option, some MSAA and an optional frame-rate lock.
Maybe I was expected too much of FIFA 15, but I thought the engine change and the increased PC spec demands might result in a couple more tweaks. The chance to go back to the weird 2D crowd instead of the newer 3D-ish one on slower machines, maybe. Or better anti-aliasing for those who can apply it. I don’t know. Just something that would acknowledge the PC as a scalable platform.
Perhaps the final version will have a few more options to check. Probably not, though.
But alright, that’s not a huge thing. If you have a semi-serious gaming PC from the past half decade or so, you’ll probably be fine with FIFA 15. In all honesty the all-singing, all-dancing Ignite Engine doesn’t make the game look a whole lot different from the PC version of 14. Except, to my delight, the facial expressions are sometimes even weirder, which we’ll come back to in a moment.
First let’s talk performance. With the frame-rate locked at 60 (unchecking it was just mayhem on my 60hz monitor) there were occasional odd stutters. There’s no reason to suspect that should be happening on my machine (i3-2100 / 8GB RAM / 2GB 7870, for reference) but I do recall this occurring with FIFA 14 after either a patch or an AMD driver update.
Using the ever-handy Radeon Pro tool sorted that out last time, but replicating my profile for the FIFA 15 demo didn’t fix the issue. Given more time (or the full game) I’d probably fiddle about with it more, but since this is just a demo and might not represent final performance I’m happy enough to just put up with a frame-judder or two.
Weirdly, replays, free kick situations and penalty shoot-outs all reverted back to 30fps with the “lock at 60fps” option employed. When unchecked, they all play at 60. That’s hopefully just a demo oversight, because otherwise it’s a bit of a perplexing decision. In FIFA 14, locking the fps to 60 gave you penalties at 60fps. As you’d expect.
Assuming they can get things like that ironed out, FIFA 15 is otherwise feeling quite fluid. Players don’t turn like trucks any more and dribbling offers a degree of close control that just never seemed to be there in FIFA 14. There’s still an input delay to certain actions because FIFA has to play its little animations, but they’re feeling less intrusive than the last effort.
Long passes seem a bit more cultured now, less an “up and under” hoof and more of a drifted pass out to the wings (or wherever,) which feels nice. Heading also feels different in a way that even a couple of hours of play haven’t really helped me define. I think I’m winning more headers in the box, but they’re either harder to get on target (no bad thing, this was infamously easy in FIFA 14) or jostling defenders are having more of an influence. Ibrahimovic still wins everything in the air though. It’s the power of his ponytail. Also his massive height and strength.
There are some nice extra touches at corners, including the option to switch to a player receiving the set-piece and call for a pass/harass an unfortunate defender. Plus the chance to set little corner instructions like “hey you, attack the near post.” Mind you, the old “hold LB and power up two bars while aiming kinda in the center” corner routine still works as a fall back for some easy goals.
I also scored a particularly bizarre headed goal for Napoli where my player was sort of on his knees and contorting his neck. Poor old Simon Mignolet was so confused and distraught he just allowed it to loop into the top corner.
Speaking of goalkeepers, they have a lot more save animations in their repertoire this time around. This is attractive to watch, but has resulted in a couple (hopefully just demo-based) glitches where the keeper has got all confused about which type of low, gathering save he’s supposed to be making and had a brief mental breakdown while the ball bobbles away at an odd angle. A bit like this, basically. I find those kind of FIFA physics bugs pretty hilarious, but I can see how that may frustrate during a crucial match.
Only sustained online play (not possible here) will be able to ascertain whether the lofted through-ball is still the all powerful route to cheap glory. I’m cautiously optimistic that it might be at least slightly harder to score that way in FIFA 15, but I’ve already witnessed a recurrence of one old annoyance. The classic case of an incredibly fast striker running on to a low through ball but deciding to have a bit of a breather to let the AI defenders catch up a bit for no particular reason.
Conversely, there’s finally a way to tweak a player’s position on the pitch mid-match through the substitution menu (you just select who you fancy and drag them somewhere new.) The substitution interface is a bit more painless all round, really. This is a good thing.
Martin Tyler and Alan Smith’s commentary is the usual stuff that you’ll probably switch off after about a day. I’m already fairly tired of hearing about how Cavani used to play for Napoli in a three-pronged attack. Or about how Higuain scored against Belgium in the World Cup. Guys. I know. Stop telling me.
I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for a future option to switch off the animated advertising hoardings, because just like real life they’re about as welcome as a bee sting up your urethra.
The new 3D crowd looks alright from a distance but can appear to be doing some sort of co-ordinated flag-less semaphore when viewed up close. Players, meanwhile, can sometimes look like horrifying creatures of nightmare. Which is great. Obviously. Have a look at this NeoGaf sourced compilation of terror to see what I mean.
As well as offering that to look forward to, FIFA 15 seems to be slightly exceeding the minimum standard required of an annual sports sequel. Overall player control is certainly preferable to last year’s release, and the tweaked approach to things like corners and substitutions are welcome. I’m not entirely sure how much credit the Ignite Engine can take for things besides the (not especially amazing) 3D crowd and (maybe) more lively goalkeepers, but there’s enough here to suggest the game has improved.
Playing FIFA 14 afterwards felt a bit clunky and awkward, so the demo has at least done its job to convince me that, even though the differences aren’t monumental, it would be just that little bit too difficult to go back.