Gaming: How the new Fifa 15 demo drove me back to my first love - Winning Eleven 10

Maybe you've not played the Fifa 15 demo yet, but trust me, you know how it plays.

What's new this year? Next-generation goalkeepers, apparently, although this new breed of custodian seems magnetically drawn to sweetly-struck shots but strangely vulnerable to low strikes hit straight at him.

The list of other additions, while surely taxing EA’s ability to give fancy names to silly, mundane things (Emotional Intelligence! Living Pitch! Correct Contacts!), will mean that with Fifa 15, you can play a better game of football.

And Liverpool fans will love the demo, at least, as it sets you down immediately at Anfield, playing as Liverpool while You’ll Never Walk Alone resounds from the Kop. Defeat Manchester City and you win the league title for the Reds. It’s gaming wish fulfilment at its finest.


So far, so good. It will certainly sell shedloads, and continue to be a multi-player fixture both online and off.

But if you’re still reading at this point then perhaps you feel the same as I do, and you’ll agree as I whisper: At its heart, the Fifa series is utterly soulless - and not just because Ruud van Nistelrooy has somehow been given the same rating as the artist Dennis Bergkamp. (Seriously, just look at this)

I think it’s the Chelsea of football video games. The obvious product of heavy investment, Fifa 15 does everything competently, looks and sounds good, and hey, it’s probably the best around, but there’s none of the spark and energy that brings real football to life.
The latest game is little different from the last few - shambling, glass-eyed automatons going through canned animations that mean the players are never as fluid and responsive as you’d like.

It’s always been a bit of a hollow experience for me, even after a good multi-player game. I’ve spent hours both online and off in the previous iterations, sending in crosses for Frederic Kanoute and Luis Fabiano to nod in as Sevilla, and using Newcastle’s athletic supermen Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse to brush everyone off.

I have a long list of gripes, but most of all, I can’t deal with how the game feels in the hands - hundred-million-dollar players feel like they’re running through treacle.

And so the Fifa 15 demo drove me back into the warm embrace of my first love - 2006's Winning Eleven 10, also known as Pro Evolution Soccer 6, for the PlayStation 2. It keeps drawing me back in. I wrote about it a year ago, and nothing has changed today.

I dug up the now-antique console and got a few games going, and immediately, the difference is day and night. PES6 absolutely fizzes. Players hare down the field at 200 kmh. Skilful dribblers cut to and fro with wanton ease. Frank Lampard rattles one in from outside the penalty box and almost bursts the net. Adriano, who lives on as a legend to anyone who has played the game, takes all the defenders on and smashes the ball in with his left foot.

I like to run a France team with the twin terrors of speedy Nicolas Anelka and godlike Thierry Henry on the flanks, with David Trezeguet in the middle waiting to finish their passes. His right leg, cocking back to hit the ball home, is like an executioner raising his axe. Ageing, slow Zinedine Zidane sits in the centre, running the show, the technique and skill practically dripping down my hands as he gets the ball.

Subsequent instalments went off the rails entirely, allowing Fifa to eclipse the series that was once king, but it shouldn't take away from the pinnacle of the genre.

PES6 is as much an approximation of real life football as Fifa is - that is, not much at all. They are football simulations in the same sense that Need For Speed and Mario Kart are facsimiles of serious racing.

But while PES captures the spirit of football as it should be played, Fifa channels the sometimes grim reality.

The Fifa series is football as it sometimes can be at its worst - shiny, often boring, better captured in a three-minute highlight clip, with the richest team winning in the end. It’s the fan who supports Manchester United one season and Man City the next, it's the drab 0-0 big match where both sides are petrified of making a mistake, it's the bloated 24-team Euro 2016, it's the exorbitant prices you pay to watch live football on TV in Singapore. Soulless.

PES6 is football as it was at the 2014 World Cup - fast, exciting, with goals galore, and above all, damned good fun. It knows that 22 men kicking a ball about should be a giddy, breathless ride, and provides the game to match.

I certainly know which one I prefer.