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FIFA 15's dribbling game is stronger than last year's

FIFA 15 is probably EA's most convincing and varied effort, then, but it still struggles in some key areas. It might look like football, but it rarely flows like football. Matches - especially online - are almost always played on the counterattack, with quick reverse passes to the strikers far too easy to pull off. Matches, then, take place in constant transition, far more like basketball than the gradual shifts in momentum that 'real' football typically enjoys. This is less of an issue when playing against the AI, but this raises its own problems. Computer controlled players seem hell bent on proving that FIFA 15's dribbling game is stronger than last year's, and consistently attempt ridiculous runs that more often than not result in them getting tackled.

Changes to gameplay you ask! How have the mechanics been improved? Well there is one fundamental change that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Historically in all football games once a ball is controlled or even touched by a receiving player then the spin on the ball is reset to zero automatically. In FIFA 15, the spin of the ball does not automatically reset to zero now once a touch/contact has been made.

The AI calculates the intensity of the touch and determines how much of an effect this would have on the spin as well as the movement of the ball. From a gameplay perspective though, what’s new? Well, for starters you can now skip those annoying waits in play while your player faffs around trying to get the ball from out of row Z. However, they’ve replaced some of those agonising moments with various unskippable cinematics at times – obviously masking some loading times – which are just as annoying.

The build we played was said to be 50-60% complete so there's a lot of room for this to change obviously. I would say I was pleased but not blown away. Team mate control lets you switch to controlling the receiver from corners, throw ins and free kicks, using the right stick to flick through your players, much like you can in normal play. Once you've selected your player, hit pass and they'll receive the ball. From throw ins it works brilliantly, 100% of the time, because the passes are much shorter, but from corners it's not bullet proof, which is a good thing. If you bring your receiver closer to the corner taker you'll stand much more of a chance of winning the ball making it great for short front post runs but not much more I found. As soon as you take the player further into the box to contend with more defenders, the chance of them receiving the ball is greatly reduced, as it should be.

Penetrating that defensive barrier can be quite a challenge at times, not least because opponents seem more ready than ever to put their bodies on the line. Blocked shots are a common occurrence, and even nippy forwards and wingers like Sturridge, Robben and Navas will struggle to accelerate clear of the last man, as lumbering defenders suddenly find a superhuman burst of speed to catch up with players they shouldn’t be able to get near. I get some joy by running into the channels and cutting inside, or back onto your other foot, particularly with flair players: long, mazy dribbles are now easier than ever, and players with low centres of gravity will skip over the outstretched boots of their markers, retaining the ball even as their shirts are being tugged.

I actually play possession football and have minded work rates on teams I use as well as players I bought on UT. My issue with the runs the computer makes lies in their awareness. At the same time I really don’t think the game’s all that realistic. Scoring goals from curled shots outside the box shouldn’t be a go to move but it is in this game. How many long shots do you actually see go in during real matches? They’re very low percentage shots.

There’s also a load of great animations too, like flicks, bursts of flair, back heels and what not, which are all fantastic, but at the same time, some players look like they’re running with a stick up their arse – some of the sprint animations are so unnatural it’s almost ridiculous, but I guess that’s the problem with creating a realistic looking game. Good old uncanny valley!
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