The past few years have seen the FIFA series emerge as the standout football game for gamers. While Pro Evolution Soccer has sometimes offered a credible challenge to the EA developed titles, they have largely faded away in recent times and left the studio behind FIFA to concentrate solely on improving their own experience rather than having to watch to see what the competition is doing. You might think this could mean that EA would rest on their laurels and just pump out a marginally improved experience with squad updates every year.
That hasn’t been the case though. Each new entry in the past five years has been notably better than its predecessor, adding new features and game modes to keep people glued to their consoles. While it’s true that nothing dramatic or game-changing has been implemented, most players had a sense that nothing really needed to apart from a few niggling problems that needed addressing.
Carrying on the pattern that EA has established, FIFA 16 is certainly an evolution rather than a revolution. Yet, this is also easily the most changed title in the series in recent history. The addition of female international teams, new Ultimate Team modes and a significant change in gameplay definitely make it distinct from the titles that came before it.
The biggest change to the gameplay in FIFA 16 comes in the flow of the matches. No longer is speed and strength the key to goals, meaning that players cannot just pass the ball to their fastest players and let them do all the work. There is far more emphasis on the build-up to goals, with careful passing and movement needed in midfield to open up space and create chances. Everything seems to have been slightly slowed down and passing now takes far more concentration to get right, otherwise opposition players will intercept the ball in a heartbeat and leave you open to a counter attack.
These changes are a definite improvement overall, as they bring more strategy and thinking into the game than previous. However, some other alterations are not as good. Most notably, goalkeepers now seem to be infallible. Aware of the criticism that many FIFA fans have levelled about goalkeepers being completely incompetent in FIFA 15, it seems that the developers have overcompensated when rebalancing them to create goalkeepers who are able to come and claim any cross without the threat of a mistake. This takes away much of the threat of corners and wing play.
There is also the issue of defenders being able to barge any attacker off the ball regardless of their own strength and defensive attributes. This is particularly obvious in cases when you are using a striker who should be imposing and able to shrug off opposition who are tussling with them. This has remained an issue throughout the past few iterations of the series and it is something that EA doesn’t seem to be able to get to grips with. Getting it right would allow for more tactical substitutions to deal with opposing players rather than using them simply because one of your own players is tired.
Away from the gameplay side of things, EA has definitely made a number of improvements to other areas. The career mode now features the ability to train players individually to upgrade their stats and increase value using skill games. While this may sound boring, the variety in the skill games on offer is great and they are generally fun distractions from full matches. Meanwhile, there is also a new FIFA Trainer feature that will help newcomers get used to the basics by given instructions during games if it is toggled on.
Ultimate Team has also been reworked slightly. Prices for the best players aren’t capable of going quite as high as previously, making the transfer market a bit more engaging for those who can’t dedicate as much time to building their squads. The most notable addition is the inclusion of a new mode called FUT Draft, which draws from Madden’s own fantasy league draft and lets players choose from a selection of players in each position. You can then play up to four matches for big rewards. It’s a change of pace for Ultimate Team and an interesting way to get more out of the feature that is probably most important to EA and FIFA.
As I mentioned earlier, the biggest single new feature comes with the inclusion of women’s teams for the first time. The recent world cup brought the female side of the sport into the spotlight and EA have taken advantage of this by bringing 12 international teams into the game. While there isn’t much difference to the traditional men’s gameplay that you’ll already have experienced, the players do have their own specific stats and the flow of matches does feel slightly different. Hopefully, future entries will put more emphasis on the differences between the sports and include female clubs.
Visually, FIFA 16 is everything that you would expect from a game in the series. Much attention has bene made to getting stadium models looking for more authentic while more players have had full face scans so that every individual has far more detail than ever before. Combined with the elegant user interface, FIFA 16 is certainly pretty. The soundtrack itself on the other hand is not that impressive but the in-game sounds are the best they have ever been, with real audio taken from crowds around the world imported in to make the game an even more realistic proposition.
FIFA 16 has built on its predecessors and become a solid football simulation game. The new features that are available are very welcome and definitely add something to proceedings but it feels as if EA could have done more to make the title more definitive. There’s probably an element of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” about the way the developers approach new instalments in the FIFA series and with its popularity so high there is little incentive to carry out a complete overhaul. For now we will have to make do with the incremental improvements on offer, which is fine because they have come together to create a very enjoyable experience.