Whether you call it soccer, football or the beautiful game, the world’s favourite sport is once again in the limelight with the anticipated release of EA Sports’ FIFA 16. It’s a title that sends many into a frenzy, and keeps folks glued to their televisions throughout the world, making it no surprise that the series is quickly approaching its twenty-fifth year of existence.
Following an off year, where the game that was released felt familiar and far too safe for its own good, FIFA 16 comes to us with the promise of gameplay enhancements and new ways to play. Looking to fix the wrongs of yesteryear, it hopes to reclaim the throne that it once felt like it owned. Goodbye complacency.
From the get-go, things feel different. Not in a bad way, either, unless you’re someone who doesn’t particularly like faster paced soccer. FIFA 16 has all of the intricacies that the hardcore players crave and require, but it feels quicker and a bit more arcade-y than before. Players don’t have as much weight to them as they do in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, but they glide across the field with effortless grace and dance with the ball.
I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t a big fan of the new feel of the game, but it grew on me and I ended up enjoying it a lot as time progressed. The gameplay is definitely improved from last year’s, which felt kind of stale and a bit boring, and this year’s FIFA feels like it’s own game instead of a rehash. Of course, it helps that the AI has been beefed up, the defensive side of the game has been improved and players’ anticipation has been heightened.
Another thing that is new to this particular outing is the FIFA Trainer, which mimics what we saw in NHL 16, although not as well. At its core, it’s a hint system that aims to make it easier for the less skilled among us to enjoy the game. That means putting a circular outline around players in use and outfitting it with an arrow that points in the direction you’re facing. It’s an easy way to know where your pass is going to go, although it’s not just for that. Other indicators appear above the players’ heads, telling you which button (or combination of buttons) to press in order to pull off moves that will assist you at any given point in time. It can be as simple as “Press X to slide tackle,” or more complex.
You can turn the on-pitch trainer on and off at the press of a button, and it’s never forced upon you outside of at the beginning of the game’s tutorial match. It’s not the most helpful thing in the world anyways, because it doesn’t highlight where your shots will go like NHL 16‘s does. Shooting can be a bit tough, too, because it can be difficult to judge how hard to press the button or exactly where to aim at times. That’s something that has been a bit of an issue with soccer games for a while now, although the last couple of PES games have shown improvements. FIFA 16‘s camera angles also could’ve been a bit better, to be frank.
Passing also takes time to get used to, as it’s been made more difficult this time around. I’ve never been the greatest interactive footballer, but I don’t have a problem passing in PES 2016. Here, though, I regularly find that my passes miss their targets, by either going to their side or not going far enough. It’s a similar issue to that of the shooting, although both will likely get a lot easier as time goes on.
When it comes to modes, FIFA 16 has a lot to offer. It asks you to pick your favourite team, monitors it and lets you play its upcoming game(s) and features a host of online options including ranked matches, leagues and online tournaments. You’ll also find returning fan favourites, like the Be a Pro-esque player and manager Careers, plus the card-based FIFA Ultimate Team collectathon. The latter has been an annual addiction for many hardcore fans, and that will surely be the case again this year.
This time around, a new way to play FUT has emerged. They call it the draft, and it allows you to pick players for each position on your squad. I’m not talking about shitty footballers, either; these are good, high-rated players with rankings that top out at about 84/100. As such, you’ll likely be able to create a pretty strong team, although the catch is that you can only use it in draft mode and even then, the mode is locked behind a paywall. To play it, you’ll have to earn opportunities by playing, or spend FIFA coins. I assume that you can also keep playing if you win, but I didn’t fare that well online.
Speaking of multiplayer, it’s important to note that FIFA 16 seems to have very solid online play. My experience was smooth as butter, and not even a hint of lag presented itself. That bodes well for those who spend hours upon hours playing against friends and strangers.
FIFA Ultimate Team will be the highlight for many, but my favourite part of FIFA 16 is a brand new addition, that being women’s soccer. EA deserves commendation for opting to include the female side of the sport in this game, as it’s about time that they received this type of respect. Although it’s not as physical as the men’s game — as is pointed out by the interesting colour commentator — it’s become very skilled and is very entertaining. I certainly appreciated being able to play as Team Canada and score countless goals as Christine Sinclair, who’s been one of my country’s best and classiest athletes for quite a few years.
Several international women’s teams are available for use, and have their own tournament to play through. It’s just a made-up competition where you pick your team and play through round robin games and playoff matches, but it’s something, and the gameplay is quite fun. The female athletes also look very lifelike, though their hair physics occasionally get a wee bit crazy.
Honestly, the entire game’s presentation is well above average. Its player models are very detailed and lifelike, and its graphics are thoroughly impressive as a whole. There’s also a lot of licensed music, although I can’t say that I recognized any of the artists. You may if you’re into the type of upbeat, Euro-centric music that these games usually feature. The important thing, though, is that it’s fitting, which it certainly is.
Martin Tyler and Alan Smith return to the fold again, as the game’s play-by-play and colour commentators. They do a rather solid job, too, although there’s room for improvement. The commentary features a lot of colour, meaning that there’s some good discussion and interesting points about what’s going on, the teams that are playing and the women’s game as well, but there could be more.
Overall, FIFA 16 is a return to form for soccer’s most popular video game franchise, and ushers in a welcomed new way to play with the introduction of female teams. It’s a very solid pick-up for anyone in the market for a footie game, and exists as another step forward for the critically acclaimed series.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
FIFA 16 is a return to form for the world's most popular sports video game, and although it has a couple of issues, it's a definite step forward.