Is FIFA 15’s beauty only skin deep?

And so, with the meat and veg of this year’s Fédération Internationale de Football Association 2015 dispatched, we move on to dessert, with a ragtag assortment of hacks invited down to the Cologne of the North Downs (Guildford) to catch-up with improvements to the match engine and take in a few new features while we were there.

Having had the privilege of attending a few of these EA events over the years, it’s hard not to become just as interested in the marketing aspect of these announcement-dumps as you are in the game itself. The line we were given last time around was “emotion”. FIFA 15 was to be the most “emotional” ever, with gamers reduced to quivering wrecks and every 12-minute match a Last of Us ending and Aeris death wrapped up in one.

After another session with the game it’s clear that what was really meant by “emotion” is “presentation”. To use a technical term, FIFA 15 will be the most presentationy Fifa ever, with more of a focus on things like stadiums (all 20 Premier League grounds scanned with pin-point accuracy), authentic chants (but no rude ones!) and in-game cutaways that 90 per cent of us will do our best to skip whenever possible.

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Of course, it’s easy to be a bit too sniffy about these sorts of aesthetic improvements. “FIFA 15 – it’s a bit more fun than last time, we promise!” isn’t going to convince Joe Buystwogamesayearintescos to part with the better part of £50 this Autumn. And the excitement I witnessed on Twitter from fans of smaller teams suggests that being able to play at Selhurst Park is going to go down very well.

Besides, what’s wrong in luxuriating in a bit of window dressing now and then? The crowds and pitches, in particular, look fantastic – every bit as impressive as you’d hoped they might, what with us standing on the vanguard of a new technological generation. Even the commentary has benefited from these expanded capabilities, with “stitched” audio ramping up the realism up another tiny notch. Robot Martin Tyler even reads out the teamsheets before each match.

Nevertheless, this is all still dessert, a great wobbly blancmange of Poznans and photoshopped Jack Wilshere heads. The gameplay experience itself is still what really matters and, thankfully, it still looks to be coming along very nicely.

Despite some reservations about the new player models – with the strength attribute seemingly linked to shoulder size, Ricky Lambert looks more like a NFL running back or Dynasty-era Joan Collins than the nation’s most beloved beetroot-packager turned England international – the verve and zip granted by truncated turning circles still represents a big step-up from last year’s somewhat stodgy outing.

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Most prominent among the newly announced gameplay features is a completely rewritten, next-gen-only goalkeeper system, with two years of development time spent creating new, “emergent” behaviours that should rule out some of the more erratic animations and errors we’ve become used to.

If a shot is deflected in FIFA 14, the goalie will still jump in exactly the same way, often leading to the quite ridiculous sight of a fully-stretched keeper arcing towards the top corner of one side of the goal as the ball dribbles, slowly, into the bottom of the other.

In FIFA 15, these animations are no longer so rigidly fixed, so while Joe Hart’s no less likely to save the shot, he’ll at least throw an arm out and act more like a human being. Bringing the keeper out to close off a through ball is also much less of a kamikaze option than it has been, with the AI constantly recalibrating its decisions based on the flight of the ball, the proximity of a defender and so on.

This move away from the game as a collection of thousands of pre-scripted events to a series of constantly reactive and, in EA’s words, “permeable” behaviours is the real, unheralded evolution that’s happening beneath FIFA’s hood. The culmination of all these changes will, hopefully, be a more natural flow to playing the game, and that’s certainly a feeling that impresses upon you once you’ve kicked off.

Away from the pitch, team management has also been completely rewritten, though the fruits of these labours are essentially a collection of slightly different looking menu screens when you pick a formation or make a substitution. One particularly useful result of this work is the ability to save a formation and starting line-up as a “team sheet” – meaning much less fiddling in between matches, as you swap tactics and players in and out, for Career Mode players.

Finally, we come to FIFA Ultimate Team, where EA must be reluctant to rock the boat too much as money continues to pour in.

The biggest change is the introduction of loan players – for the first time you’ll be able to recruit the likes of Messi and Ronaldo for a few games by spending a small amount of in-game money.3

 

We originally claimed here that you would loan players using “real-life” money, but that was a misunderstanding on our part. Apologies!]

On one hand it’s a shame that the ornothological element to Ultimate Team – look, a lesser-spotted Cristiano Ronaldo! – will be compromised in such a way. The excitement of seeing a rare player in the wild, let alone getting to play as one, is one of the many small features that have made the card-trading squad-building mode such a phenomenal success.

On the other, the cost of actually buying one of the game’s best players means that, currently, your average Ultimate Team player is unlikely to ever get to use them. At around 500 coins earned per match, and with Messis being traded for a couple of million on average, you’re going to have to play hundreds of games even to get close. Even if you’re willing to resort to back-alley card-farming techniques, we’re talking the investment of some serious man-hours.

As a resolute cheapskate, the very fact that I’d be tempted to pay a fistful of FIFA coins to use Ronaldo for an evening suggests to me that this will be a huge success. With finer details yet to be confirmed, I just hope there’s sensible limits placed on the way the loan system is used lest it spoil the mode’s highly competitive league system. Of course, the cynic in me suggests EA is going to err on “ch-ching” side when trying to strike this balance, but then even they will realise that Ultimate Team is too big a cash cow to risk, er, tipping.

With so much new stuff on the table, there’s every chance Fut 14 Coins could end up feeling like a bit of a work in progress. And it wouldn’t be a great surprise if it took a few next-gen iterations to hit its stride – that’s certainly what happened last time around, both for EA and Konami. What matters most, though, is that in its current state it simply plays better than its predecessor. And with that main course sorted out, it’s hard to imagine it not satisfying our appetites.

That Shaun Wright-Phillips Is As Good In The Air As Peter Crouch

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You know something is wrong when you spot Shaun Wright-Phillips leaping like a salmon, high above Per Mertesacker, and slamming the ball home with a bullet like header.

The super charged heading is something that you not have really made the most of it you play a floor based game, but start pumping the ball up in the air and you will see the goals start to pour in – even with your shorter strikers.

The interesting this to point out with the heading is that the whole heading system seems to be out of balance, not only do short players win far too many headers against much taller, stronger defenders, they also manage to produce extremely powerful headers or goalkeepers flap haplessly at each effort. EA must be crazy if they thought that we wouldn’t notice the poor in game balance when it comes to crossing and the ease with which we can score.

Don’t get us wrong, we like to win – we’d just rather earn victory.

2014 FIFA World Cup: What We Learned, Day 28

At the end of each day of action, our writers weigh in on what we learned from each of the day’s matches.

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Argentina 0, Netherlands 0 (ARG advances 4-2 on PKs)

Germany is blushing: Tuesday’s semifinal was shocking given the absolute dominance of the German strikers. It was 5-0 at halftime and 7-1 before the whistle mercifully sounded in the first World Cup semifinal.

Wednesday’s semifinal was the complete opposite of that train wreck as both Argentina and the Netherlands dug their defensive heels in, adamant that neither side would concede a goal. It only ended after keeper Sergio Romero made two tremendous saves in the shootout against the Dutch.

Argentina’s defense was outstanding, shadowing Arjen Robben for the most part (Javier Mascherano probably saved his side’s World Cup dreams with a sliding deflection late in the game) and Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder were mere shells of what we’re used to. That sort of man-marking is exactly what doomed Brazil in yesterday’s semifinal vs. Germany. There was so much space as Brazil’s defenders practically allowed Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira to dribble right to the goal’s edge. That won’t happen on Sunday as Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Garay and Mascherano will hold a much tighter line and close gaps quicker than did the depleted Brazilians. (Side note: The only thing worse than seeing Brazil’s team flounder like it did in front of its home fans would be to see Argentina lift the World Cup trophy). That may not happen because..

Messi was a non-factor: I’d be worried if I was Argentinian manager Alejandro Sabella because the Dutch gave the Germans a blueprint for how to defend the world’s best player. There were so few counters that Messi rarely had any space, but that was also due, in large part, to the unglorified work of Nigel de Jong. The feisty midfielder, back from injury, trailed Messi throughout the neutral zone, and when he subbed off, it was Jordy Clasie’s turn to hound him. Georginio Wijnaldum was often hovering just a few feet away as well. Van Persie and Sneijder offered their help when called upon, too. Messi’s only attempt on goal was from a free kick that he blasted directly at the Dutch keeper. He’s very much the focal point of Argentina’s offense, especially with Gonzalo Higuain as a primary finisher (he was denied twice in today’s game, though). The Germans will toss Mesut Ozil, Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos at Messi to stifle his production, quite similar to how the Dutch did.

Germany is favored over Argentina in the finals: Looking at the two semifinals, there’s simply no doubt that the Germans, flying high on confidence after burying seven (!!) goals against Brazil, can’t be seen as the favorites. Their passing was deliberate, their movements and chemistry were precise, and the onslaught was absolutely relentless in the first half of yesterday’s game. Argentina has scored two goals in the knockout rounds and one was via the injured Angel di Maria. Germany has scored 10. Argentina has to take solace in the fact that it locked up the Dutch’s threatening strikers, but Germany has so many more weapons with Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle to go along with Muller and company.

Not to mention, while Germany coasted its way to the finals, Argentina was locked in a defensive stalemate that proved physically taxing. Aside from the physical recovery time, Argentina must also assesss whether Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta are healthy enough to play after each getting cracked in the head on Wednesday. Both were on the ground as doctors evaluated their conditions. Argentina is already missing one key player, Fut 14 Coins and it can’t afford defensive holes or players in untested positions. Just look at what Thiago Silva’s absence did to Brazil in the back.

StubHub Shuts Down Brazil Site and Sports Tickets Sales After Web Attack

On Tuesday, StubHub, eBay’s take on ticket sales, had to shut down its Brazil site due fifa 14 xbox 360 coins to a cyber attack on FIFA World Cup ticket sales.

According to Los Angeles Times, Brazil and FIFA have encouraged fans to buy their tickets from FIFA only. Still, StubHub has been a popular venue for individuals with tickets to sell online, usually for more than face value. Up until this week, there were plenty of options for those hoping to get a seat at the World Cup from the website. On Tuesday, this changed. StubHub spokesperson told the newspaper that there was a “huge DOS [denial-of-service] attack on the site from Brazil.”

As a result, the website is investigating and made itself unavailable to Brazil surfers. Those who try to access the website from Brazil see an error message. As per StubHub’s standard, however, World Cup tickets that have already been purchased remain valid.

“All World Cup tickets are fully guaranteed, just like any other ticket on our site,” the StubHub spokesperson said. “We do quite a bit of cross-border trade from Brazil.”

According to a government spokesperson, Brazil has not taken any punitive actions against neither eBay nor StubHub in Brazil. The country did, however, remind the company’s Sports Ministry that tickets to the 2014 World Cup should only come from FIFA via its official website.

StubHub has yet to determine when visitors will be available to access its Brazil site again, but there is a lot of potential income in Brazilian patrons. The World Cup is expected to see 600,000 audience members from around the world, but its main ticket sales will come from native Brazilians. Los Angeles Times reports that 3 million soccer fans from Brazil are expected to come to the tournament Fut 14 Coins, which will run in June and July, in their home country.

FIFA 14 Ultimate Team: 7 Best Squad Styles You Need To Know NO.7

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Akin to a child going into a sweet shop and being told they can fill a large sack with all the candy they can carry, sometimes playing the manager, chairman and captain of an Ultimate Team can be an overwhelming task. Will you be an all-or-nothing Brendan Rodgers or a park-the-bus José Mourinho? Will you play the traditional 4-4-2 or congest the midfield like our Spanish rivals? Perhaps most importantly, which type of squad will you commit to in order to maximise chemistry fifa ut coins and best suit your playing style?

The uninitiated FUT player may think that a squad combining the might of the Bundesliga with the pure technique of La Liga would be unbeatable on Ultimate Team. The thought of Cristiano Ronaldo leaping into the air on the end of a Franck Ribéry cross is the stuff of every FUT-fanatics darkest fantasies. However, from a chemistry point of view this marriage of the two greats would never work. The game is designed such that a squad of lesser silver players all from the Sky Bet Championship can beat a mish-mash group of football’s biggest names thanks to their superior chemistry. This means when devising a squad on Ultimate Team you have to meticulously think about which players can bring the best out of their team mates.

It can be a daunting task nailing your colours to the mast of a squad type on FUT as clearly you don’t want to have regrets or realise that you and the Bundesliga were never meant to be. Never fear, What Culture is here to help you make the right decision. Here is our comprehensive guide to the sbst FUT squad styles:

7. Argentina

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Argentina’s international football team may have been dormant for the last few years but the South American giants will likely erupt this summer. Much like a gun-boat filled with torpedoes but no life boats, fielding an Argentine build gives you arguably more offence than you’ll ever need but less options on the defensive end. However, it is obviously more enjoyable scoring goals by the bucket-load than eking out close victory after close victory.

Up the top of the park you have a wealth of options like no other. Luckier (or more wealthy) players will likely want to add the likes of Messi and Aguero to their rosters while extremely talented budget options are still available like Gonzalo Higuaín and Carlos Tevez. Supplying these dynamic front-men is an easy job with an Argentine squad as they have arguably one of the best wide-pairs in the game in Ángel di María and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Both these men have the ability to create unmissable chances for their forwards or bang from the edge of the box themselves.

The issue with an Argentine squad is the limited talent available on the defensive end and in midfield. Though you can change the likes of Tevez and Higuaín to play in midfield, there are only three midfielders available to an Argentine squad with a rating of 80-or-greater. Argentina has a similar issue with left backs and right back – Zabaleta is the only gold-rated RB available so you are basically forced to utilise silver cards in your squad.

High-End:: Lionel Messi – 1,000,000

He may not be the most physically imposing player to have ever grace the football pitch but there are many who argue Lionel Messi is the greatest player of this generation. Messi’s raw talent is all too apparent in his FUT card. His 97-dribbling and 96-ball control makes him the most fluid dribbler in the game while his 97-finishing means a wide shot from Lionel is rarer than a piece of Arsenal FC silverware. He also has a creator rating of 84 enabling him to pass his brilliance on to his teammates.

Bargain: Ezequiel Garay – 800

Garay has likely saved the hides of every Argentine FUT manager more Fut 14 Coins times than they care to mention. Of the limited range of centre backs belonging to Argentina, Garay is likely the most solid and available at a measly 800 gold. Some may be tempted by the flashier Javier Mascherano but as pure defending goes Garay is his superior. Mascherano’s 74-strength and 70-heading are simply outclassed by Garay’s 83-strength and 81-head.

It’s time to crown the Goal of the Tournament

The goals have been scored, submitted and reviewed. It’s time to announce the finalists for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2014 Goal Of The Tournament! Watch our finalists videos on the FIWC14 Goal of The Tournament page and submit your vote!

Congratulations to:

Player Country

Patricio Alarcon Testa                             Chile

Luis Miguel Ortega Reano                      Spain

Khasan Malikov                                      Uzbekistan

Hassan Nouman                                     Pakistan

Daniel Angeles Lujan                             Peru

Ahmed Asire                                          Saudi Arabia

These six EA SPORTS™ FIFA 14 gamers sent us the most sensational goals of Online Season 6 for the FIWC 2014. Over 8.7 million goals were scored in Season 6 but only one can be crowned Goal of The Tournament! Which goal deserves the honour of being named the best goal of FIWC 2014? Watch the six goals and submit your vote! You can only vote once, so make it count and help decide the winner of the FIWC 2014 Goal Of The Tournament!

FIWC heads to Brazil on 24 April

Want to experience more incredible FIFA skills and goals Fut 14 Coins? Join us on 24 April on Facebook and Twitter for live commentary of the FIWC 2014 Host Qualification Event. In Rio de Janeiro, eight of Brazil’s best FIFA 14 players will collide for a day of live qualification. One Brazilian will win the honour of representing the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ and Grand Final hosts at the FIWC 2014 Grand Final!