It’s that time of the year, the time when the annual sport games release. Where some complain about them, and most lock themselves away for another year to play their one game that really matters. Most importantly, it’s the time of the year where the most competitive of two franchises come up against each other, FIFA and PES. With FIFA dominating the scene for so many years, who will take the crown this time around?
Thus far FIFA has been in the lead on the current-gen consoles. It helped that PES didn’t release when the consoles launched, and that FIFA had been in the lead for so many years before that. PES has been playing catch-up for a long while. FIFA 15 was one of the best in the series, and while it wasn’t without its flaws it was probably just ahead of PES in the ratings. FIFA 16 looks to take that lead further.
It’s all about production?
One thing we know about is FIFA and its licenses. It’s the one thing it will probably always hold ahead of PES. The production value of FIFA 16 is incredible yet again. The crisp pre-game information and entrance to the field is almost like watching a real game. The menus are as smooth and intuitive as ever and stadiums are truly gorgeous to behold.
The player likenesses are still a bit hit and miss with many having a bit of a plastic look but they do mostly resemble the players they are supposed to. It’s hard to argue with FIFA’s prowess when it comes to production and FIFA 16 nails it on the head again with a soundtrack to go with the fantastic visuals.
It’s just football, what can change really?
Annual releases often fall under the veil of “what can really change in a year”, so let’s take a look at what’s new in FIFA 16. The first, and most obvious inclusion, is the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) Draft mode. FUT is by far FIFA’s most popular mode, and the reason many people still play the game so much. It’s that mode where you start with a pack of players, mostly pretty average and you spend time and money on building your team up.
FUT is a long process if you do it without spending REAL money, but it’s a lot of fun getting a team that can take on all challengers, whether online or offline in a number of tournaments and leagues. While FUT is largely the same as last year (with all new cost caps to prevent cheating, YAY) and is as fantastic as ever, FUT Draft adds a whole new element to the game.
FUT Draft has you take part in a draft of players for a team. Instead of taking ages to build a team you get to select one from a selection of random, mostly great players. You get to choose for each position from 5 players, a formation and a manager and you must decide whether you will go for good chemistry or just the best players. Mixing and matching isn’t always easy as you have no idea what’s coming next.
FUT Draft is a blast, especially when picking your side. You then get to play a series of matches and depending on how many you win you get rewarded with FUT prizes. Obviously the more you win the better your prize, though I found that it was mostly Gold and Jumbo Gold packs that I got. FUT Draft is a great way to get straight into FUT, the only problem is that it is a costly exercise and takes a while before you can really give it more than one go (unless you buy FIFA points).
It’s got the Ladies too
For the first time ever, a football game has included Women. Such is the popularity in the Women’s side of the game that EA decided to include some of the international teams into the game. You can pick from the teams that recently took part in the World Cup, and you can ogle Alex Morgan if you’d like.
To be honest, the gameplay is almost exactly the same as the men’s side of things, so it’s just really different character models. A little disappointing considering the women’s game is largely different and quite a lot slower and at times more measured. At least the dodgy keepers make sense though. It’s still great that they feature in the game, but at this point it’s just a different ‘skin’.
You get a mode, you get a mode, and you get a mode
FIFA is always packed with modes and FIFA 16 is no different. There is your standard league and cup modes, online seasons and co-op seasons return alongside and as part of FUT. The online section is again bolstered by lobbies/lounges and of course the Pro Club mode where you take on one player with 21 other online players. Online is great as is expected from FIFA although there is still some slow down in the gameplay compared to couch co-op. The live fixtures which replicate what’s happening in the real world complete the online section of the modes. More than enough to go around.
Offline you will be able to play that side of the FUT stuff as well and then of course there is the Career Mode. Career Mode has come leaps and bounds over the last few years, allowing you to manage things as you see fit with your team. It still suffers from some really odd issues like players chatting to you about not playing in the last match, before you have even started… weird.
All in all, career mode is the same as last year. The scouting system is a little better and you have the option of playing pre-season tournaments, but other than that it’s the same and has the same problems and positives as before. Be a Pro is exactly the same as the last few versions of FIFA. You can see it’s just ported with little love or energy. It’s rather dull.
But Gameplay is Key
Gameplay is key in any football game, or any sport game for that matter. FIFA 15 was excellent but it had room for improvement. I am sad to say that none of that improvement has been made at all. Yes, there is a new driven pass which has its place and the no touch dribbling is a cute touch in principle, but the driven pass seems unwieldy and makes no sense when you consider that holding down pass for longer should and did do the same thing. The no touch dribbling barely works and when it does the novelty wears off quickly.
More problematic is the AI. Your own AI on defence are as stupid as I can recall. It was an issue in FIFA 15 and I had hoped it would be improved this year around. I think it may be worse. Players seem to have no idea about positioning and no matter what you change in your strategy and formation it’s the same problem over and over.
Player reactions are slow and unnatural at times. I can’t help feel that FIFA players still feel like they run on skates. If you try tackle a player and miss, it takes you about ten minutes (exaggeration) to turn and chase by which time you might as well give up. It just feels unrealistic. Add to that the fact that slide tackles are a complete waste of time once again and you have a pretty frustrating experience. In fact, you never feel like you are in control in defence. You chase and hope but miss that tackle and your player looks as though he is stuck in the ground.
It doesn’t help that the CPU opponents are the complete opposite. Perfectly timed slide tackles every single time, perfect interceptions when they are not even close to the ball and the ability to stick on you like a rash to tackle as you try to do a ten point turn in your tank of a player. The best though is that there seems to be no individual dynamic to any player. Peter Crouch beat Nathaniel Clyne in a race to the ball which is about as likely as Liverpool winning the treble this year.
No players feel any different, all can do the same tricks and skills, pace seems the same across the board and those special moments just don’t feel very special at all because anyone can do it. It’s sad because on the basis FIFA 16 is a fantastic game, but the engine is starting to feel tired, the promise of the collision system improving seems far off and a lot of the time, against AI you just feel (sorry to say it) cheated by the game.
A kick in the goal, or in the pants?
Despite negativity FIFA 16 is still a fantastic game, but it doesn’t feel as though it has built on last year’s edition. There were so few things that needed to improve and not one of them have. That said, Online is still brilliant, the production level is impressive and Ultimate Teams will continue to eat all your time and money, especially with the addition of the FUT Draft.
There’s tons to enjoy in FIFA 16, but for the first time in a long time it doesn’t feel like the series has moved forward. It actually feels as though EA aren’t quite sure where to take the game next and are happy to rest on their laurels and on the popularity of Ultimate Teams. It’s fine for this year, but you only have to look at “that other football game” to see how dangerous that can be.