This might be the most difficult review I’ve had to write all year. FIFA has been on a roll for a number of years making it easily the soccer (or football for my brothers and sisters across the pond) to play. What makes the review of FIFA 16 a little more challenging is that although there are some significant updates to this year’s game its not the major overhaul we’ve seen over the last couple of years.
The big new feature that we've heard a lot about leading up to the release of FIFA 16 was the addition of women’s soccer. All I can say is it's better late then never. The good news is this is not a tacked on feature. You can tell there was some serious thought and effort that went into bringing the women’s teams to the game. There are 12 of the women national teams. These teams can be played in exhibition and tournament mode. The good news is they play great and also don’t play identical to the men, playing a bit more on the tactical side with a slightly different feel. If anything I hope that EA continues to build out the women roster so that you can bring the women into all of the different mode offerings in FIFA. This is a good first step.
The other big changes come on the pitch but even these aren’t major overhauls. Defense is the big focus on this year’s game. Now you have a lot more control of staying in front of the offensive players. The game does a good job of making AI react to pressure rather then having to tackle/attack players who have the ball. This helps make the on-field action feel more true to form and makes it even more of a chess match when moving the ball around the pitch. To make this work as you would want the computer AI positioning is a massive improvement. You won't have nearly as many scenarios of bunches of players following the ball rather they stay there position and continue to cover there areas.
The other big change is that you now have a much better opportunity to make the big cross. There’s a lot more versatility on how you cross and setting up players. Within the first three minutes of my first game in FIFA 16 I had gotten the ball down on my opponents’ end and crossed from near the corner for a bicycle kick goal. That’s something I almost never have been able to do in past FIFA games. Similar to what we saw in Madden NFL 16, the spectacle of FIFA 16 is in full display. The new feel on the pitch is all about making the game play more like the real deal. And for the most part they are successful.
The one issue that I had was getting used to the defensive side of the ball. In my first twenty games I had a lot of issues playing the aggressive defense I was used to. There’s a lot more patience required then in past games, and I really needed to pick my spots. To help players develop in the new system, they’ve added FIFA Trainer. It’s a small overlay that goes over the active player with a generated suggestion on what to do given the situation. The suggestions I would say are about 80-90% accurate. There were times were I would be in a good shooting situation and it would suggest to cross or pass. But on the defensive side of the ball I found the help to be extremely valuable. Often times it would suggest to keep off the ball and let the nearby players also help assist and work with me. It was extremely helpful to get to learn the new defensive mechanics of FIFA 16. The one drawback is that its a lot to take in, in a sport that very rarely stops. So to access your own situation while simultaneously trying to see what the game recommends can be a challenge.
In terms of modes, FIFA 16 is a similar to last year's offering. The menus have been streamlined to make things flow better. But in terms of content, this year’s game is less about new and more about refinement. They've added a much deeper training experience into the career mode, with a multitude of drills that you can do to increase the skills of your players. They're great drills, I've just never gotten into that sort of thing in any of these types of career modes and instead elected to simulate most of the training. The career mode is still one of the deepest in sports and offers up more content then most will be able to get through.
Bottom line, FIFA 16 is not a huge step forward for the franchise. The play on the pitch continues to get better and better and the refinements this year are all welcome. I especially was impressed with the overall flow of a match. It continues to get closer to feeling like the real thing while still being one of the most enjoyable sports games on the market.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to try and bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.