FIFA 16 Review

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Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Rating: 3+

The FIFA series has a long and proud history of satisfying football fans more than it disappoints – such stand-out titles as FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, FIFA 11, and FIFA 14 are viewed by most long-time gamers as some of the best, whether for their realistic mechanics, innovative features, or out-and-out playability.

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FIFA 16 has now hit the market, promising to give players another exciting dip into the world of premier league football – and it’s bringing a huge new element with it. Being able to take on the role of a women’s team attracted a massive wave of attention (mostly positive) to the game, and is long overdue, but what else do we get from the latest in this long-running series?

Playing the Field

Considering the staggering variety of football games released in the past twenty years, it’s baffling that the women’s side of the sport has been so underused. By adding the option to play as a female team in FIFA 16, EA Sports has opened the game up to a wider audience, allowing fans to experience their favourite sport in a slightly different way.

While it would have been easy (but lazy) of the developers to simply re-skin random male players, they’ve instead used full motion-capture to ensure authenticity: there are noticeable differences between men and women on the pitch here, with passing, shooting, and control slightly tweaked. For players likely to keep choosing all-male teams, this new feature will probably make very little difference, but for gamers (both men and women) looking to experience their favourite sport from a fresh angle, it’s a welcome addition.

So, what other changes have been made from last year’s instalment? Defending has been improved, which will come as a relief to some: taking the ball from charging strikers is easier, using smoother slide tackles or toe-pokes. Given how vital a strong defence is to the game, it’s good to see EA has gone to some effort to improve on the previous entry’s system.

While certain players have seemed overpowered in recent FIFA games, this time speed & force have been tamed: now, winning matches depends as much on smart playing, timing, and finesse as outstanding attributes. As a consequence, FIFA 16 may take a little bit longer to get into: you may need to plough through multiple matches before you start to click with the more measured, tactical approach – basically, it might be fair to say this feels more like an authentic football simulation, with less of an ‘arcadey’ feel.

Keeping it Real

As well as the actions & control of the team themselves, authenticity extends into the behaviour of those around them: referees use vanishing spray for free kicks, and it actually remains on the field for a short while afterwards – a small touch, definitely, but it helps to immerse you deeper into the game, and adds to the illusion that this is a real match you happen to have some control over; players can also run at cameramen based on the sidelines during goal celebrations; and, finally, Alan McInally provides goal-updates on other matches being played at the same time.

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Meanwhile, shots have been tweaked to make them more unpredictable, and goalkeepers also perform better, which is key: having a keeper who leaves the goal unmanned can be annoying (to say the least), and seems to happen far less now.

Leader of the Pack

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Enough about the gameplay itself – what about the variety of modes? One of the biggest draws is the card-collecting FIFA Ultimate Team, which allows you to build your own dream squad from a selection of random players: you’re then put through four games, each of which is tougher than the one before it. As you make your way through, you pick up rewards and new card-packs depending on your performance & chosen difficulty level – you need to pay 15,000 FIFA coins as an entry fee, but if you don’t want to wait to earn these, you can pay with real money (these microtransactions are actually priced fairly, and many players might choose to take a quicker route instantly).

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Career mode has also been refreshed, with one impressive new addition being the worldwide pre-season tournament: this is ideal for exploring tactics, training, and trying subs. Speaking of training, you’re now able to supervise weekly sessions involving as many as five players at a time, with practice used to boost finishing, passing, and tackling; this can be utilised to assess the progress players make in real-time, and see how your training sessions are paying off. This is a nice feature, helping to enhance the feeling of immersion and authenticity, while the dedicated fan can take on the mantle of manager more so than before.

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All in all, EA Canada has done a fantastic job making FIFA 16 feel fresher than some of the previous entries in the series: more balanced gameplay, the inclusion of female teams, enhanced team-management, and greater immersion all-round is sure to please fans & newcomers alike!