Hands-On: FIFA 16 Brings Physical Changes To The Table
FIFA isn’t a series that changes much year-to-year. Often, unless you have constantly played the former game in the series, latter titles can feel very familiar.
That’s not to say the games don’t change — the subtle changes between the annualised titles may seem superficial, but to enthusiasts, the game can feel dramatically different, and those small changes can make a huge difference to how they play. This is exactly what FIFA 16 feels like, after my comparatively brief time with it.
Name: FIFA 16
Genre: Playing with balls
Multiplayer: Yes, local and online
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (IGNITE), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Played on: PlayStation 4
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One of my largest complaints with FIFA titles over the past few years has been how insubstantial the passing has felt. That’s not to say you couldn’t hit hard passes, but if you did, they tended to go to the opposition or to the wrong player because of the game’s passing assistance and player switching settings.
The new game’s passing seems to have somewhat remedied this: basic passes feel a little chunkier, while hitting the right bumper and pass (which previously executed a flair pass, which is now mapped to left trigger + pass) will hit a hard pass, which will be better suited for long passes into tightly defended areas than passes in previous FIFA titles have tended to be.
The pace of some of FIFA‘s more blistering players has been lowered, bringing them to balance with their real-world counterparts and, importantly, the defensive players in the game. This has limits, of course, Dortmund’s Aubameyang still speeds past the back line when he has the opportunity, and PSG’s Lucas Moura won’t be losing out to Manchester City’s Aleksandr Kolarov, but the sprint speed stats of these players are more in proportion to the players they represent than they were previously.
The movement feels more physical too; attackers can’t just turn without any consequence to their player’s momentum and control, and defenders can use this to pounce on the ball, but conversely, defenders aren’t necessarily muscling attackers out of possession every attack. Mixed with the passing, these feels like a pointed switch away from the ‘long pass and run’ tactics which have so long been a staple of FIFA towards more of a measured and careful passing style of play.
The new additions to the line-up of skill moves only reinforces this. The developers have added what they call ‘no touch dribbling’; this means that players are able to dummy runs directions to elude defenders without having the unpredictability of the ball dropping elsewhere to contend with. The ramifications of this on PvP matches are staggering, as they will allow players another method of attacking another player’s defence.
The defensive mechanics have also been somewhat altered — players can now recover more quickly from slide tackles, which would be useful for catching up with an attacker who has turned past the tackle or avoiding committing a foul, and can now play fake tackles which can encourage an attacker to turn away into a less advantageous position or into one where they will more easily dispossessed.
As with the attacking switches, this adds a whole new element to the metagame of FIFA 16: on top of thinking about the tactics of an opponent, players also have to consider what they will do with their team on the smaller scale — what dribbles they play, where they will try to punch through the defence and how.
I see the changes on both ends of the field being positive for the game, although they’re both likely to heighten both the skill barrier and ceiling. While experienced players may have no issue picking up FIFA 16 and running with the changes that have been made to it, new players won’t be confident in using these new mechanics, particularly in defence, where misusing them can result in a goal, but the developer has implemented a system to somewhat minimise this issue.
One of the most significant changes I spotted in the FIFA 16 demo was the Trainer system. This system, which can be activated or deactivated by pressing the right analogue stick in, displays a ring around the player currently selected with controls which may help them in the current context.
This system allows players to learn how to use certain passes and moves without having to pore through control menus and play-test ideas. The intricacy of these techniques is set to automatic by default, but can be changed to manual and switched to higher or lower settings in-game.
The biggest issue I saw with this was that it was somewhat limited. It would definitely help new players with their play, but more experienced players will find very little use for it, even at its most complex setting. Its biggest help is to new players learning to use the controls for the first time, but even that is a little limited, as it won’t adapt as the defence rotates around them.
The other issue is that while it shows players the commands to input, it doesn’t tell them where they should be aiming them. If the system is expanded in future, it may be helpful to new players to point out players they will be able to pass to or who are currently open and available to pass to. In it’s current form, the system isn’t exactly useless, but it needs a couple of tweaks if it’s going to be truly useful in improving players’ skills.
FIFA 16 sees the addition of women’s national teams to the roster, which is otherwise bursting with men’s football teams. The demo showcased Germany and the United States’ respective teams, but fourteen others will grace the game when it releases.
Women’s football and men’s football are divided into two separate categories and teams cannot be pitted against one another, and while this may seem unnecessarily divisive, this does have a couple of important consequences:
Men’s and women’s football ratings are independent: The men’s and women’s teams in FIFA 16 are both rated separately, with the stats being based off their relative skill in their field instead of in comparison to one another. This is particularly important to women’s football, which doesn’t receive nearly the same support — in money or infrastructure — to men’s football, as it means you won’t have the best women’s teams being disproportionately compared to men’s.
It allows the developers to expand into leagues independently of men’s leagues in future titles: Women’s leagues operate differently to men’s. While much of the emphasis of men’s professional football is currently on England, Germany and Spain’s biggest leagues, women’s football is largely US-based. Dissociating the two means that women’s football in FIFA is not expected to expand into the same leagues as men’s, and the rosters can expand as the developer sees fit.
In-game, the match unfolds similarly to the men’s teams. There actually isn’t so much different between playing women’s and men’s teams other than the body models, which have been rendered excellently to render the teams’ biggest players, while the men’s character models have also received a significant visual boost since FIFA 15.
Suspected Selling Points
- FIFA has a very large audience — football fans often don’t mind shelling out for a new title.
- The game has had some very solid changes made to it.
- It’s a good game to have for a couch multiplayer setting, depending on your particular group of friends.
- The trainer system is a little limited, and does not altogether combat the game’s heightened skill barrier.
- There’s very little to the women’s football section of the game, although its inclusion is a step forward for the series.
FIFA doesn’t have much to worry about with its release: whether its good or not, millions will buy it every year. Despite this, however, I’m quite fond of the changes the developers have made. The changing gameplay means we may see more realistic games of FIFA in FIFA 16 and the addition of women’s teams is a good, progressive move — even if their inclusion is somewhat limited.