I have never been a huge fan of soccer, but with the World Cup happening this past summer, the urge to dive more into the world’s sport was stronger than ever.  I would have to say much of the success FIFA has garnered over the years has a lot to do with the refined gameplay that EA has been able to tweak year after year to make appealing to hardcore fans. Riding high on past success and being built from the ground up for next-gen consoles, FIFA 15 aims to deliver a game winner.

One of the most stunning and noticeable improvements is the player models. Not only do they look more photorealistic and move more naturally, but now each player’s emotions are expressed in natural responses to the game. Finally, after I kick the ball into the goal or receive a bad tackle, my player expresses the same emotions as I do in the living room. It might seem like a small change, but it helps make every play feel more critical and dramatic. Likewise, the realistic ball movements allow for some intense rebounds in front of the net, making every moment tense and satisfying.

It’s hard to imagine how far we have come with sports games when it comes to crowds and stadiums; they are not part of the gameplay, we rarely interact with them and they rarely interact with us. In the real world, however, these venues inspire competition. They are not just a building, but a statement about the team and it’s fans. In FIFA, these stadiums are finally on display in all their grandeur, being modeled to the finest of details. Before each match, these picture perfect  pitches rotate so you can take in all the detail.

What I like most about FIFA 15 is not how realistic and stunning the stadiums and players are, but how fun the gameplay and matches are. FIFA was never about strategy and tactics, but rather the fast and dramatic turn of events within each match. FIFA 15 exemplifies this speed, by how fast the transitions are in the middle of the pitch. One moment you can be defending, steal the ball and lob it in front of your opponent, and suddenly both teams are off to the net. The dramatic moments are what make FIFA so exciting, and the one-on-one match-ups you can have with players have been reworked to give you more control on how you can attack a defender.

The soundtrack, like those of past installments to the franchise, is one of the best you will find in any game. One band, the Broods, I have never heard of and now I can’t get their song out of my head. In addition to the great music, career mode, co-op seasons and Ultimate Team also make a comeback. Each have minor changes, but having them back is better than having them excluded until later installments.

The teams at EA Sports are undeniably having a hard transition to the next-gen, but FIFA 15 has weathered the transition quite admirably. Of course we want everything to be perfect in each new game, but then how could they keep us coming back for more each year? FIFA 15 has made enough changes and improvements to warrant an upgrade, and has done so without any yellow or red cards. There will be nothing to complain about when you pick up this year’s best soccer game, other than needing additional controllers so everyone can play.