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FIFA 15 additions feed realism in gameplay

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By Corey Brueggemeyer, For The Miami Student

The best-selling sports video game in the world is back, and this time better than ever. FIFA 15 hit stores Sept. 23.

This year's installment is marked by much-needed upgrades across all game modes, most notably in the on-the-pitch gameplay. Improved ball physics make scoring much harder, but add a much-needed touch of realism to first touches and long shots. Instead of relatively straight long-shots like we saw in FIFA 13 and FIFA 14, balls dip and bend more often, making it harder to shoot on-target, but easier to beat goalkeepers when you do.

Goalkeepers have also received a long awaited upgrade, no longer just being a brick wall in front of the net. An improved range of motion and upgrades in ball physics now allow for more realistic deflections and positioning, making it harder to score the first time, but easier for second-chance shots.

In my mind, the most significant upgrade in this year's edition has come from the in-game atmosphere provided by the fans and the players. Realistic in-game reactions have been modified for both players and fans, building intensity and making it much more satisfying when you hit that last-second goal.

Hundreds of personalized chants and crowd reactions have also been added to the game, from the pre-game bubbles at Uptown Park to the ritualized chanting of "You'll Never Walk Alone" before every match at Anfield. Pitch wear and tear is a great new in-game feature that has been added this year. Based on the weather and the resulting play, the pitch will decline in quality as the game goes on.

Probably the most noticeable upgrade in this year's installment comes in the realm of tactics. Players can now control where and how they position their players, developing custom strategies such as counter-attack, long balls or possession. In the "Team Management" screen, players can now also manually adjust the positioning of their players, telling them when and where to move on the pitch.

The playing pitch has also been noticeably expanded from last year's edition, making it much easier to counter attack or burn defenders with skill moves. It's much easier to go through an entire defense with one player, but much harder to sneak one past the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation.

While FIFA 15 may offer many new, realistic in-game advances, almost nothing has changed in Career Mode. FIFA is apparently sticking with the Global Transfer Network, an added feature from last year that adds a significant amount of time to scouting and signing players in Career Mode.

Improved "story-arcs" are about the only new noticeable feature in Career Mode. Fake news stories for each team crowd reactions and attendance based on how the team is doing builds intensity for the season and makes the mode seem more real.

Overall, a few minor upgrades in this year's model make the game seem more fluid and realistic. If you're a big fan of the franchise, I would recommend buying '15 simply for updated rosters and the added gameplay features. However, if you're not a regular footballer, I would probably sit this one out or wait until it rolls back at Walmart.