A great game of football, but it is eclipsed this year by its rival
Game review: FIFA 16
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC
THE ability to reconcile an authentic game of football with an entertaining package has been the forte of EA’s prestigious footballing franchise in recent years. Once an isometric, arcade-style game, it has evolved into a critical and commercial behemoth that plays a fine approximation of the beautiful game. With every annual update bringing the subtlest shifts, the 2016 offering opts for a move towards greater realism and midfield attrition.
The most high profile innovation in the new iteration, and one which EA deserve praise for, is the introduction of women’s teams. Granted, this extends only to a dozen countries, with no club teams available, but it is a long overdue offering and adds variety to proceedings. Encounters in the midfield are not as packed as in the men’s game, freeing up space, and success depends on a short, quick passing game rather than exploiting pace.
No touch dribbling looks great but it requires a player of considerable skill
The other noticeable addition to this year’s version is the ‘no touch dribbling’ control option, which allows you perform feints and fake shifts of direction while running just behind the ball, without actually touching it. The animations are spot on and playing online multiplayer with a four or five star-rated team, it is a cunning tactic that often draws fouls. Against the AI with players of lesser ability, however, it is less effective.
More generally, the latest evolution of EA’s long running series has slowed down the pace a little and curbed the excesses of star players. Against the AI at least, it is no longer possible to wrest control of the ball in your own half and then slalom past opposition players en route to a long-range goal. The defenders post a sterner challenge than last year and overall, the developers have tried to make midfield battles far more integral to the outcome of matches.
Individuals players feel less distinct than in previous years
Unfortunately, it feels as if they gone too far in the opposite direction. Individual players do not feel as distinct as they did in FIFA 13 or 14 and hitting a long, lobbed pass invariably results in the loss of possession. A lot of the time it feels like the only way to eke out a result is through short, quick passing, but the moves seldom come across as genuinely fluid. The outcome is an over reliance on using two or three players in a triangular formation to pass your way out of trouble, or using the driven pass option which can cause the receiving player to lose control of the ball.
This restrictive new play style is mitigated to an extent by the wealth of game modes on offer, one of the best features of FIFA. The Ultimate Team option has been improved considerably with the introduction of a US football-style draft option, ideal for those who don’t have the time or patience to pore through the transfer market, while the career mode has undergone some beneficial tweaking, with pre-season tournaments replacing meaningless friendlies.
FIFA is still great but in some areas it has taken a backward step
Overall, FIFA 16 is still a great game and after a few weeks of getting used to the changes, longstanding fans of the series will no doubt find much to enjoy and keep them playing for months to come. But in a year when Konami have produced the best Pro Evolution game for years, too many of its changes feel like a backward step and it has ceded momentum to its challenger.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
The no touch dribbling is only worth attempting with a player boasting very high ball control ratings.
Keep the FIFA Trainer option on for your first half dozen or so games. This feature shows prompts suggesting various moves and is a good way to learn some of FIFA’s more intricate skills on the hoof.
As well as faking shots, you can now fake tackles as a defender. This is useful to lure in dribbling wingers and then dispossess them.