A new year of the beautiful game has arrived in FIFA 16. There have been major changes to the action on the pitch to differentiate it from last year’s iteration for the better. However, even with the addition of the Women’s National Teams, everything surrounding the actual gameplay itself doesn’t feel like it has been updated. The core modes of Career Mode and Ultimate Team haven’t seen too many major changes (outside of FUT Draft) which is not unexpected but still disappointing.
Last year’s FIFA saw a diminished emphasis on crossing the ball in from the wings and an increased emphasis on spamming over-the-top through balls to pacey strikers. Every year, the developer says that the importance of pace will be lessened while never actually happening. Well, they finally did it. In FIFA 16, pacey players running without the ball are still fast, but slow down dramatically with it at their feet. It is a change that completely changes the dynamic of the game encouraging more well-thought out build up play, stringing passes together to eventually create an opportunity. Pace hasn’t been nullified completely, but your Biabianys and Walcotts don’t feel like they used to.
This year more than in years past, it is a game of angles while defending. If you see a player dribbling down the wing, taking the correct angle to try and cut them off is critical as, more often than not, your strong defender will be able to muscle the attacker off of the ball. In addition to the change in pace, passing has been changed. In years past, passes were usually automatic in terms of aiming and pressing the button regardless of how your player was standing. But in FIFA 16, you have to have control of the ball with your player and be facing where you would like to pass or else it will be bad resulting in more realistic play. Errant passes were plentiful in my early time with the game until I became accustomed to the changes. First touches have also become more random even for the most elite players which can be frustrating. However, the overall changes made for this year are solid, downplaying what was overpowered in FIFA 15.
There is one major new mode and one major new addition to the game: the FUT Draft and Women’s National Teams, respectively. The former is by far the best new mode to come out of FIFA in years. When you enter the FUT Draft Mode in Ultimate Team, you are prompted to pick a formation out of five random choices as well as a team captain with the same method. You then go on to fill in every player trying to get the best team chemistry possible with the five random players given to you for each position. This also applies to all of your bench and reserve slots as well, so if you’re starting 11 leaves something to be desired, you can always hope you pull a great player on the bench. These teams you create are only available for a maximum of four games. Each game you win nets you higher rewards most often resulting in free packs to open in the store. It’s an awesome mode that allows everyone to play with players that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford (including special cards such as in-forms, Hero cards, etc.). The only downside is that it costs 15,000 coins or 300 FIFA Points to enter. The former consists of winning around 10 games and the latter is real money. There are also Draft Tokens which can be found in packs that act as a voucher for the mode, but I have yet to receive any myself.
Women’s National Teams were a big talking point leading up to the release of the game and are fun to play as with many players having their faces scanned for the game. However, they aren’t in Ultimate Team and you can’t pit men against women so their implementation in the game is very limited. It’s a cool first step, but that’s all it is.
Lastly, the other major additions that EA Canada touted for the game were for Career Mode with the two most important being preseason tournaments and player training. Preseason tournaments are nice to gain some extra transfer budget before the season begins and help you get to know your team but that’s about it. Player Training is great to help boost some of your younger players with higher potentials up faster than before but doesn’t feel like a major change. There are some minor changes for things like the length of loan players up to two years, but not much more. In a player career you also have access to the same training system as well. It has gotten to the point where the FIFA franchise truly needs to revamp Career Mode from the ground up, because it is getting stale.
Visuals and Sound:
Visually, the game looks very similar to last year’s edition. There seem to be some more scanned faces in the game but player models and animations in addition to the crowd and presentation have not seen much of an upgrade. There are some nice small touches such as referees bringing out the foam to mark free kick placements and walls with it remaining on the field for a time as well as some new celebrations such as running to teammates on the sideline or, my personal favorite, running toward the sideline camera which changes the point of view.
Alan Smith and Martin Tyler are back once again and do a fine job as per usual, but the in-game soundtrack doesn’t seem to be as solid as years past.
FUT Draft is by far the best new feature, but it’s unfortunate that it isn’t always an available mode but requires an entry fee. And while Women’s National Teams are awesome, the limited scale of their implementation is disappointing. Beyond those two things, this is a very iterative year for FIFA. Hopefully there will be some major new thing for next year’s version because the fatigue for new substantial changes to the core modes is starting to hit.
With all of this being said, FIFA 16 is still a good game. As I have been playing, an analogy to Destiny has kept popping up in my head in that the core gameplay is addicting, fluid and well-executed while everything surrounding it feels like it is missing something. Am I still going to pump hours into my Everton Manager Career Mode? Yes. Am I still going to play FUT Draft when I have the option? Yes. But I might not put the 85 or 90 hours into FIFA 16 like I did with FIFA 15. If you pick the game up every year, it is still worth picking up. However, just know that there isn’t much new to check out off the pitch.