Review: EA Sports FIFA 16
EA Sports FIFA 16 (available here) sees the return of the long-running series for another year of soccer gaming adventures. The trailer for the game proudly proclaims “Football is Back”. Read on to find out if it is thanks to our review of the latest edition of the venerable title on Sony’s Playstation 4.
What EA Sports Says
Before we delve into our thoughts of FIFA 16 here’s an overview of the game from EA Sports. It’s interestingly concise this year and clearly indicative of the videogame giant’s strategy of continuously tweaking the game (often for the better) over the past five years or so.
FIFA 16 delivers a balanced, authentic, and exciting football experience that lets fans play their way, and compete at a higher level. With innovative gameplay features, FIFA 16 brings Confidence in Defending, Control in the Midfield, and gives players the tools to create more Moments of Magic than ever before. FIFA Ultimate Team, the game’s most popular mode, introduces FIFA Ultimate Team Draft, a brand new way for fans to test their team building skills and compete with some of the best football players in the world. And this season, Career Mode adds two features most requested by fans: Pre-season Tournaments and Player Training that ensure an even deeper and more authentic career whether fans play as a manager or a pro.
Still current in look and feel, the menu use for FIFA 16 is largely unchanged from the game’s menu of the past two versions. It maintains its mosaic feel with further options in each title accessible by using the right stick of your controller. The home screen has been changed somewhat via the addition of a video section that brings you tutorial footage such as this week’s offering of “Intermediate Skills”. These are some of the videos that you’ll find on the EA Sports FIFA YouTube channel.
Dig a little deeper into team management and even Ultimate Team and you won’t notice any overhauls. It’s all familiar and works well so EA Sports seemingly opted to stick with a user interface that will get you into the business of gaming quickly.
Still the best in the business, the graphics of EA Sports FIFA 16 is as stunning as ever. The game is now fully evolved to accommodate the benefits of the current generation of consoles and looks deceivingly close to HD match broadcasts when being played.
The best graphical feature of FIFA 16 comes in the form of the amazing detail that it provides for just about every major soccer stadium in the world along with all twenty Barclays Premier League grounds. Stadium architecture, localized digital advertisement boards, scoreboards are all in the game to provide the extremely authentic gaming experience that can only be had through the many licenses of the FIFA franchise.
The Premier League overlay package that includes the same set of graphics that you see during broadcasts of the world’s most popular league is back in FIFA 16 but improved. A good example of the enhanced look is flashes of in-form and newly signed players that include real life pictures of them. The German Bundesliga is the other major European league in FIFA 16 with authentic overlays. This is great timing given that the league is now on Fox networks in the USA.
Players faces are spot on in most cases as are body shapes. This is very much the case for the Premier League for which EA Sports conducted player face scans. Just about every big name player across the world in FIFA 16 looks like his or her real life incarnation while less known players (think an MLS rookie) seem best effort based on FIFA 16’s built in stock of faces and body types.
The player animation if FIFA 16 are very fluid and lifelike even when the game is played with the up-close Dynamic camera and in the close-up highlights of match action. If you compare the player motion in FIFA 16 to that in EA Sports’ other big name football title (albeit gridiron), Madden NFL 16, that in the American football game seems much more rigid.
The soundtrack of FIFA games have become almost as popular as the titles themselves because of the careful song selection involved. This year’s edition includes jams from 42 artists from 15 different countries including well-known acts such as Of Monsters and Men, Beck, Icona Pop, Disclosure featuring Sam Smith and Skylar Grey featuring X Ambassadors.
The game’s soundtrack will keep you entertained with a series of catchy up-tempo tunes when perusing the menu. If you really get into it then you can go listen to it via the Spotify playlist that EA Sports has created for it.
The English language commentators in EA Sports FIFA 16 are once again Martin Tyler and Alan Smith. Their standard repertoire of in-game analysis has been spruced up with a series of relevant tidbits regarding everything from the history of the stadium a team is playing in to player career facts. Since the commentary catalog is limited, it can get repetitive of the course of a full season as content is recycled.
The biggest improvement in commentary prevalent from Tyler and Smith comes in via up to date details regarding club and player form. This is heard when playing the latest match for the club that you’ve chosen as your favorite when setting up the game. An example from this weekend is the current goal drought being experiences by Swansea City striker Bafatemi Gomis.
Teams and Leagues
Just about every major domestic soccer league on the planet is present in FIFA 16. While the crown jewel of the game remains the Barclays Premier League all of the other big European leagues are there along with the big name clubs from those that area not (for example Super League Greece). Our local favorite Major League Soccer is once again present along with authentic stadiums for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders.
A couple of long overdue additions to FIFA make an appearance in the game this year. The first is the national women’s teams of Germany, USA, France, Sweden, England, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, China, Italy and Mexico. You can insert them into tournaments of your choice or play a World Cup feel Women’s International Cup competition.
Although the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A isn’t licensed by EA Sports, sixteen of Brazil’s big name teams are included in FIFA 16 to allow you to play in a similarly formatted league. Flamengo and Corinthians are a couple of big absences however.
The plethora of domestic competitions in EA Sports FIFA 16 make them the focus of the game in its very popular and enthralling Career Mode. The default mode for many a gamer back in its glory this year with enough features to make FIFA 16 a management game in its own right. Scout, hard negotiators, compressed match schedules and the heart rate increasing Transfer Deadline Day can keep you busy in your virtual office for hours on end.
One of two major additions to Career mode in FIFA 16 is a training feature that lets you assign specific drills from the game’s repertoire of skill games to players of your choice. It’s a great way to develop young players and veterans alike as you move through the season. You can play the skill games yourself or simulate them and hope for a good result.
Career mode also sees the introduction of pre-season tournaments that have prize money. While they obviously let you tinker with your roster before the start of the season, the pre-season competitions are also a great way to earn transfer money. Winning one can get you up to $10 million in funds before the end of the transfer window. Good enough for securing the services of a decent player.
FIFA Ultimate Team Draft makes its debut this year. Your first go around with the game costs you no FIFA coins or point and seems too good to be true. You pick a formation, select a captain and then draft an all-star team from world football’s elite. Of course the usual FUT matching algorithms like league and nationality are in play to determine the chemistry of the team. You then take them though a knockout competition that rewards with FIFA points along the way. Once done you’re locked out of FUT draft again unless you’ve got a load of coins or points to buy your way in We thought it was somewhat anti-climactic in the long run given the barriers to entry. The draft itself is quite flashy and sexy in true and true FIFA style though!
Sadly, the Games of the Week section of EA Sports FIFA is now a thing of the past. The feature that let you play the big matches of the week with current rosters and player forms was a great way to get your quick FIFA fix. We’re not sure why EA Sports retired it but we really hope they bring it back. A slimmed down alternative is that FIFA still lets you play your default / favorite team’s next match from the main menu with current form incorporated. We had Arsenal vs. Tottenham this week and thoroughly enjoyed the affair.
EA Sports continues its well-supported trend of avoiding annual gameplay overhauls in the FIFA series. Instead the game is once again tweaked for a more immersive soccer simulation experience.
The level system remains the same as the past few years in EA Sports FIFA 16. If you’re a seasoned player then skip Beginner, Amateur and Semi-Pro and move straight into the challenges of Professional mode. The difficulty is about the same as last year. World Class and Legendary are available for the diehards but are certainly not for your casual gamer or the feeble hearted (unless you like stress of a relegation battle).
Upon picking up FIFA 16 we immediately noticed that it is much easier to pull off skill moves than last year’s version of the game. Even the old Cancel Shot fake now works as expected without resulting in unwanted shots on goal. No Touch Dribbling also works quite well and lets players (based on skills ratings) get their Cristiano Ronaldo on.
Moving players while they have the ball in any direction now feels much more natural than ever before and is truly a 360 degree experience. This makes for some nice quick cuts past defenders and pullbacks when needed.
The easier skills move execution and overall dribbling does result in players unrealistically seeing more time on the ball in opponents’ penalty boxes however. This is true up to Semi-Pro mode where you can find a reasonably skilled attacker shaking off defenders and passing within the box in a manner similar to Germany during their 7-1 demolition of Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
There is improved midfielder support for strikers in FIFA 16 with intelligent overlapping runs from wingers and swashbuckling forward runs from attacking and even center midfielders. In a 4-2-3-1 system a forward can even be a holding player awaiting support from midfielders who run towards goal.
The most evident and greatest improvement to EA Sports FIFA 16 is a leap in defensive intelligence. EA Sports calls it “Confidence in Defending”. This isn’t a surprise given the emphasis on defense in the modern game and FIFA’s development team making marked defensive upgrades in the game for the past three years.
Defenders in FIFA 16 now seem to work as mini-teams in of themselves and act as true “Back Fours” that are supported by ball winning defensive midfielders. They are also more anticipative than before and look to intercept passes on the ground and in the air. As in the real game, the defensive mids and fullbacks are more apt at cutting off passing and starting offensive plays while the centerbacks are generally more physical and less graceful. Tackling is still something that must be carefully timed however. You can spend much time stabbing away at fleet footed attackers to no avail. We found that just getting in front of attackers and holding them worked better.
While the Tackle and Slide Tackle defensive controls are the same as before, EA Sports has introduced a new Holding Tackle move that works well when defending on the wings. On the PS4, you press the square button to jostle with an attacker. This includes shirt pulling and shoulder blocking. It is definitely welcome in winger and fullback battles. It is also fairly well-received by referees who rarely call fouls for these moves.
Goalkeeping intelligence in FIFA 16 is about the same as it was in FIFA 15. However, netminders now have additional animations that given them some more flair. This can create some more excitement in matches because of the increased dramatics.
With no shortage of league, cup and Ultimate team options, EA Sports FIFA 16 could be the only video game that you need for this entire football season. Get into Career Mode and you can quickly become addicted and need a daily fix of team management as long as you are playing on a level that is challenging to you.
The winning streak continues! EA Sports has done it again with FIFA 16. It is the most immersive and intelligent game in the series so far. With its many league licenses and unchallenged authenticity, it is the closest that a football fan can come to getting on the pitch in one of the cathedrals of world soccer. Football in truly back.