Every year EA Sports has the ability to pleasantly surprise us in its choice and application of improvements to FIFA.
We are massive fans of the next-generation versions of FIFA 14 and genuinely thought we'd seen the closest the franchise could get to an accurate game of football without detracting from the fact that it is a playable and fun game. FIFA 15 happily and clearly shows that there is still some wriggle room with that concept.
Some of the improvements are, on the surface, minor tweaks, but they have a massive effect on the ambience and therefore immersion in the game.
We played an entire match on the EA stand at E3, which must have taken around 20 minutes, so we're sure we'd find even more to talk and write about after playing for longer, but it was plenty of time to experience a number of key changes.
We played on Xbox One (with PS4 looking identical) as Liverpool against a strong Manchester City side in the latter's Etihad Stadium and the first thing we noticed was the greater level of depth and enthusiasm in the crowd. The advertising hoardings around the pitch have also been tweaked to look like LCD screens, suffering from several of the caveats the real-world equivalents display when switching between advertisers. And then, of course, there's the new pitch.
As your players run about, their footsteps make indentations in the grass. And slide tackles take up clumps of turf. Essentially, by the end of the match, the pitch looks like it would in real life and at times stills can look photo realistic.
Players have been remodelled too. Pocket-lint was told that as good as they were in FIFA 14 the development team weren't quite so complementary about the graphical accuracy of players' upper bodies. That has been corrected, along with new styles for the rest of the body parts.
They certainly move better. Heavier perhaps, but more like the real thing. New animations and the emotion engine that has been employed for the first time – where players react differently to play and incidents based on their moods – just make for a much more substantial game of football.
That's the rub really. From our brief play, the game will actually bamboozle some dedicated fans initially. It plays a little different. Players don't react quite the same way and new ball physics might make you change your tactics and strategies. However, it is well worth the effort we think.
And that's from just one game. Which we lost 3-2 in the last minute thanks to the goalkeeper (Mignolet) diving a little too late because the ball came through a crowd of players. It's something that has never happened in a FIFA game before, illustrating the game's new feature set superbly.
We cannot wait.