At the beginning of every season, each team in every league has a fresh start. Managers and players alike have spent the summer striving for improvement for the upcoming campaign. Whether it be new fitness regimes and diets, or spending sprees in the summer transfer markets, everyone is trying to become a better version of themselves from the year prior. This also applies to football games, the FIFA series in particular.
EA Sports has spent another year on making the beautiful game better with their latest instalment of the FIFA series – FIFA 16.
Last year, I reviewed FIFA 15 and I felt that the series was deteriorating into a ping-pong, pacey spam-fest. The passing was too easy. The speed was way over the top. And speaking of over the top, the now infamous L1+Triangle was an absolute nightmare which the FIFA on-line community exploited to the nth degree.
I am happy to report that EA Sports has actually worked on these matters, somewhat.
In terms of game play, the passing is a marked improvement of FIFA 15‘s attempt. Passing now requires more thought. It also requires more patience. Gone are the days of blindly pressing X until your heart’s content (unless you have always played manually).
Not only is it a lot slower in terms of pace, but you need to also put more consideration into the power of the pass and whether or not your intended receiver is being closely marked. However, this can become frustrating due to some passes going astray or sometimes even in the completely wrong direction that you had originally intended! For regular players of FIFA 15, this is the biggest adjustment that they will have to make.
The name of the game is now midfield warfare. In FIFA 15, the midfield could be easily eliminated by just exploiting the L1+Triangle lobbed through ball that ALWAYS magically landed straight to the players feet. Now it is all about the passing and jostling battle in midfield.
Gone are the days of your defence constantly being on their heels as Ronaldo or Messi just fly past them willy-nilly with ridiculous speed and ease. Defenders now have a chance and can be positioned a lot better to eliminate any avenues that speed freaks could exploit. This change will irk the more brainless players within the FIFA community. However, for everyone else, this is a much welcomed change. The way to try and deal with last year’s pace problems was to use the L2 button to try and jockey your defence into position and this still applies to this year’s edition. If you had enough practice of this function in FIFA 15 then you will be familiar with this aspect of the game.
EA has also added in a new power pass. By holding R1 and pressing X, players will now send a bulleted pass along the ground. This can sometimes be a bit too easy to use. On some occasions, the receiver of the pass will struggle to control the ball, sometimes they take the pass as if it were any other normally-weighted pass. The whole point of this particular method of passing is to combat against the opposition players from swooping in on loose balls and cleaning up everything in sight. This feature falls a bit flat.
Another new improvement within the game play is jostling and jockeying. It is now a physical challenge between players to get the ball. By using the L2 button, you can out-muscle players who have possession of the ball or you can use L2 to try and keep possession and stave off any physical challenge.
Shooting has been refined from last year. The ball now feels like it has more weight to it, therefore more power is required to shoot and reach the postage stamps. It feels more satisfying to score a long range screamer or free-kick.
Another much welcomed improvement are the goalkeepers. FIFA 15‘s goalkeepers were easily the most awful bunch of hopeless idiots in the entire series. Goalies were diving away from shots, letting balls easily roll through their legs, and even punching the ball into their own net! They were one of the biggest gripes many people had with FIFA 15. Thankfully, they have improved in FIFA 16. They are much more solid, trustworthy and reliable. When it comes to corner kicks, they are maybe a bit too reliable. They seem to always punch or catch every cross in sight. Don’t get me wrong, if you put a gun to my head and asked me to choose between hopeless or overpowered goalkeepers, it’s a no-brainer. This isn’t a huge issue but it is something that is noticeable during game play.
Although there is a marked improvement on goalkeepers, they aren’t perfect, and for the sake of realism, nor should they be.
Heading the ball is a lot more challenging. Defenders are stronger than before and even if you make connection with your head to the ball, it won’t bullet into the top corner on the first time of asking. You really have to battle to get any chance of heading the ball.
There are some more minor improvements which have been made. Simple things from more options at set-pieces to having the offside lines during a replay. Yes – for whatever reason, EA Sports made the ridiculous decision to remove the offside lines from offside replays in FIFA 15.
Referees are still up to their usual tricks. Getting in the way of passes, obstructing players and making horrible decisions or lack of any decision at all.
The lacklustre amount of game modes still exist. In terms of modes, FIFA 16 really does feel like a copy and paste of last year’s entry. There are still no unranked matches available. There is still no lounge mode. It really does look like we will have to forget these modes even existed and move on because EA Sports are not budging on this peculiar stance that they have taken on removing game modes.
The skill games return and as always they are fun and as addictive as ever. Some are new, some are not. But this game mode is one I sincerely hope EA Sports doesn’t decide to randomly remove at any point.
Manager Mode is back and is pretty much the same as FIFA 15. A few bells and whistles have been added in an attempt to bill it as new or at least refreshed. However, once you see past them, you will notice the same old staleness that still hampers the popular mode. These bells and whistles I am referring to are the pre-season friendly tournaments and the training games.
At the beginning of every season, you’re invited to 3 different pre-season tournaments. Each choice has a certain level of team and they each earn you a certain amount of extra cash. However, the variety in these choices leave a lot to be desired. In my play-through as Porto, every choice in pre-season tournaments were all four-and-a-half star level, with a hundred grand here-and-there in difference for cash prizes too. This exposes the new added detail as a rather shallow attempt to freshen things up.
The training games are essentially just the skill games again. The purpose of these training games is to boost player stats, especially young, promising players. For each week, you are given five slots where you select a player for each slot. You then assign each player with a skill game which will improve certain stats such as stamina, control and so on. This might sound tedious, however, EA Sports has added in the handy simulate options as well as a copy-and-paste approach of “copy last week’s drills” option. The training mode is a nice addition to manager mode, however, it doesn’t completely change it up or freshen it either. Far from it. I look forward to see if EA Sports build on this idea and make it more worthwhile.
Another new feature is the women.
In FIFA 16, EA Sports have added twelve female international teams which competed in this summer’s women’s world cup.
There is a dedicated tournament for the females titled the “Women’s International Cup”. This is just a pre-made tournament that could easily be created in the create a tournament feature.
In terms of game play, the women feel a little more agile than the men, however, within this addition there is nothing ground-breaking in terms of game play. Cynics may see this as EA Sports jumping on both of the recent “USA winning the world cup” and “let’s have more female characters in games” bandwagons. But while this could be the case, it is at least something that is different in a series that is stale beyond belief and is begging for new features.
Speaking of staleness, graphically there is not much of a noticeable difference from FIFA 15. EA Sports have improved the lighting ever so slightly, and there is slightly more detail in some players’ facial expressions. However, it is the same old, same old. Generic faces are still the same painfully plain ones we’ve seen since seventh-gen consoles. They look even worse when compared to the detailed and more obvious realism within the scanned faces of the more popular players.
Another small graphical improvement is the addition of a few more weather conditions such as “Hazy”, “Foggy”, “Showers” and “Flurries”. After so many years of developing these games, you’d think that this sort of detail would have been added years ago.
In terms of any noticeable changes in the sound of the game, there are some new chants. The one I have personally noticed is Chelsea fans chanting “Dieeego, Dieeego” whenever Diego Costa scores a goal. However, the crowd seem to get over-excited for yellow cards. There was one instance when I got a fright after the crowd randomly exploded out of nowhere because I was awarded a yellow card. So in terms of sound, there is still some room for improvement.
I do recognise that FIFA is EA Sports’ annual cash cow. However, I still find the pricing of the FIFA games to be way too much for what we actually get in return, which is pretty much the same old game modes, the same old graphics, and same old presentation. Although there’s lots of progress made within FIFA 16, some of this progress is based on some of the horrendous mistakes that were made in FIFA 15.
FIFA 16 is a marked improvement on it’s predecessor. However, from all of its minor-to-moderate improvements in the graphics and gameplay respectively, it is still succumbed to the overwhelming sense of staleness which has now plagued this popular series for years.
This review is based on a physical copy of the game for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts.