Review: FIFA 16 Understands Football’s High Points
The FIFA series is one which has a massive fanbase, despite the series's shortcomings -- but does FIFA 16 do anything to overcome the known issues?
- Worth The Time?Yes
- Things LovedThe game hits the high points of football perfectly. Broadcast atmosphere is fantastically preserved throughout. Additions to passing and dribbling systems do a lot to improve the game's flow and functionality. Defensive changes are constructive, while not game-changing.
- Things HatedVisually, it's lagging behind its competition. The game has some very inconsistent AI -- an issue which persists from earlier games in the series. The passing can inconsistent, and that assistance mechanics can prove to be more of a hindrance than a help sometimes.
- RecommendationIn all likelihood, a review isn't going to influence your decision to buy a FIFA game. If you do, you likely won't be disappointed, however, as the game is every bit as solid a football simulator as you'd expect, and edges closer to the real game than ever before.
- Name: FIFA 16
- Genre: Highlight Reel
- Players: 1-22
- Multiplayer: Yes
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: EA Sports
- Publisher: EA
- Price: R799
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
The FIFA series has often been a target for derision and in the gaming industry it’s often shown as an example of a game that doesn’t tangibly change or progress from year to year, in its mechanics, visuals or core offering. In fact, even as a regular player, its fair to admit that the game doesn’t progress in leaps and bounds from year to year but rather in increments, all the while retaining an incredibly solid set of central mechanics which are very rarely messed with.
And for all the game’s gaffes, one thing FIFA has always understood is how football fans work: what they want to see, how they want it presented to them, and how they like to play. FIFA 16 is no different in this regard, it just adds a new sheen and an extra couple of mechanics to assist players in reaching these.
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The first thing to notice in FIFA 16 is the egregious ring around your players with instructions next to it — the new Trainer mode, meant to acquaint new players with the intricacies of the game while in the game. Though a set of simple button prompts rather than an in-depth instructional system, the system is still comprehensive enough to give even the newest of players a good sense of how to play at different parts of the pitch.
The more complex settings of the Trainer system may also help fairly experienced players grasp some of the more technical controls of the game, including low aerial passes and driven ground passes, the latter of which is a new and immensely useful addition to FIFA 16. Despite it being possible to play the game without any of these advanced controls, making them easily accessible in an in-game context is helpful, and the Trainer system does well to remind players of this.
The game itself plays a little more physically than FIFA 15. A lot of rebalancing has clearly gone into adjusting players’ statistics, especially where Sprint Speed and Strength are involved. What this does is make the game less breakable, as such — you may have trouble keeping up with Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale, but they won’t be unbeatably fast, and this aids the defending, which has also gained a few new, helpful mechanics, including fake tackle and slide tackle recovery.
This is countered by a new dummy dribbling system, which enables players to execute feints and body movements to fake shifting in a direction to fool opposition players. This shifts the emphasis in individual play away from speeding past players to misdirecting them to gain extra space, to gain more space on the wings to get a cross in or in the centre to get a pass or shot away.
Passing is another crucial system which seems to have been re-evaluated by the series’ developers, and feels better paced. Passes don’t seem to stumble along the ground, and flowing passing moves feel more direct and intentional than they have previously. The addition of a driven ground pass — mapped to R1+X — seems innocuous at first, but it allows players to execute harder, more direct passes without the risk of the passing assist system skewing it to the wrong player, or horribly ahead of the intended target.
All of these changes work in tandem to do what EA Sports has mastered with their FIFA series — provide football fans with the parts of football they like to see most.
It’s clear from the way the game is built that it understands that players want to see the pinpoint chipped through ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger or David Silva, that they want to be able to hit the 40-yard bullet of a shot with Zlatan Ibrahimović or Ivan Rakitić, and that they want to be able to fool defenders with the trickery of Lionel Messi or Arjen Robben. It may not be perfect — all these things take a relative amount of skill and practice to execute properly — but when everything comes together it does so in a way that is incredibly smooth to play and watch.
Again, these aren’t perfect systems: the passing differs between crisp and smooth and the equivalent of heart surgery with a pair of soccer boots and a referees whistle, which can make the game seem a bit unfair, especially against a wildly inconsistent AI component — a long-standing issue in the FIFA series.
The other thing the game suffers with is an unintuitive user interface. FIFA has been using this block-driven interface for a few years now, and while it looks pretty and is fairly easy to navigate, it’s very clunky, with most actions taking a second or two to process. If you’re spending a lot of time in the menus — which you will be if you’re playing a career mode or the Ultimate Team mode — it can get very frustrating and time-consuming.
The game is looking much better than previous FIFA games, and the animation and broadcast atmosphere is absolutely excellent, as expected. The physics are notably better: hair and clothing now move notably separately to the players they’re connected to, which is far more realistic than the single uniformly moving mass that we’ve seen in previous iterations. It’s worth noting the improvements that FIFA 16 has made, but it’s also worth mentioning that visually the game lags far behind PES 2016. It’s not the hugest issue, as its gameplay is what it’s built for, but perhaps it’s time for a major update of the game’s visual systems.
That said, no matter how it looks, it’s still a very solid football simulator which tangibly differs from its predecessor. Most importantly for a sports game, its fun and captures the best part of the sport its representing. It may not be a perfect game, or even the best-looking of its kind, but its a game that knows what its audience, and that’s crucially important.