Playing FIFA 16 feels like learning a new game

Like the best professionals, FIFA 16 responds to an unexpected challenge with disciplined play driven by the knowledge of what it takes to win. Having slammed the door on its competition for much of the preceding console generation, EA Sports’ FIFA was blindsided last year by the soccer video game equivalent of an equalizer goal. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 delivered stronger gameplay than FIFA 15, a withering success against a franchise that prides itself on technical brilliance. To carry the sports metaphor further, all eyes fall on the betting favorite after such a startling blow, especially when a fickle crowd turns and cheers the underdog. After PES 2015 arrived, players of both games wondered if the big goals routinely scored in FIFA 15 were truly earned.

We should probably start with ‘everything’, as there’s a lot to get through. What I mean by ‘everything’ is that the heart of the game, the way in which FIFA plays football, has for the first time in a few years made a jump big enough to feel like a distinct break rather than an iterative polish. Last year’s slants and foibles–pace, over-the-top through-balls, maddening defender behaviour–have been taken sternly in hand, to the extent that playing FIFA 16 feels like learning a new game. It’s hard, and the first few games are a mixture of frustration and promise. Alright, opening packs were once a fond experience for us all, now it has become quite boring and typically annoying when you get the same players. Most times we are disappointed by the quality players, packs are just hit and miss, mostly miss. IF you don’t have the money, you’ll never get a half-decent striker for your squad either.

Let me be fair, you’ll eventually get great players (if you stick around playing FUT long enough), but expect to have a lighter piggy. I’d say it is better to enter the transfer market to build your team with affordable players with high chemistry, rather than having one or two big name stars. Rooney and Muller just do not belong with Benzema. The things Benzema can do with the ball are things Rooney and Muller would not even dream of doing. Messi was instrumental in the semi finals against Bayern Munich and in the final against Juventus. Messi’s goals also produced far superior results than Ronaldo’s. Messi’s goal against Atletico Madrid gave the title to Barcelona and he scored a wonder goal in the final of Copa Del Rey as well.

FIFA 16 promises a much more aggressive and combative midfield. New animations will allow you to have more control over drilled high-powered shots and catch that loose ball dropping down and volley it to the back of the net. In FIFA 16, the players can curve their crosses just so that it is perfectly timed to get past the defenders into the six-yard box and have your striker present there to nod or tap the ball home. EA has plenty to learn from other sports sim games, and even getting your own face in the game needs work – EA’s own Game Face system hasn’t been properly updated in a long while, and being able to use next-gen tech like the PlayStation 4’s or Xbox One’s Kinect to get you in the game should be a no-brainer. Let’s just hope the results aren’t as nightmare-inducing as last year’s NBA 2K15 squads.

And how about some other Create modes? We’re able to Create a Player, but we’d love to see even more Create modes. While Ultimate Team scratches the itch to create your perfect team, you’re still at the mercy of the transfer market and luck of the draw. We’d love to be able to put together our own dream team to take through career mode, whilst letting us create our own stadiums, kit and even a mascot. And how about a chant creator? It’s not the end of the fight, of course. FIFA will always struggle to make wholesale changes simply by nature of how popular it is. Fans expect a certain game each year, of course, but FIFA 16 is looking to appeal to the midfield battle fans. PES 2016 is the one to beat, however, so it looks as though it’s over to EA to topple Konami from the throne.

Therefore, when Women’s Football was announced for FIFA 16, a lot of gamers voiced their frustrations. We seriously hope they are not just straight out misogynistic remarks. But that wouldn’t really surprise us at this stage would it? Basically we were seeing statements like, “Whats the logic behind putting women teams in FIFA? It won’t fix the game and more shit players will be there. Great logic EA.” and “Why would they put women in FIFA when 95% of players are boys??? Makes no sense.” Hmm.

FIFA 16 womens games seem far more prone to random glitches

It’s extremely likely that regardless of the score at the end of this review, you already have an opinion on FIFA 16 Coins. Publisher Electronic Arts (EA) put out a demo earlier in the month, the full game was available this week as a free 10-hour trial via the Xbox One’s EA Access program, and street date breaks resulted in copies available early in many a retail store (which is how we got our copy). This is why some of you already know if you are going to buy FIFA 16 Coins or not, if you haven’t already. If you’re looking for validation or a reason to rage, go straight to the score below. As for the rest of you, who are still deciding whether you want to play FIFA 16, keep reading.

Putting it bluntly, FIFA 16 doesn’t play a better game of football than PES 2016, nor does it come close. The sport’s intricacies aren’t intelligently replicated, tactical battles are simplistic and game-winning patterns are easily forged. Yet, most players know this and have been enjoying the game for years (myself included). EA’s series doesn’t need to be the most technically gifted or realistic to dominate the two-horse race currently being waged in the video game world (let’s all forget Pure Football happened). Proceedings are interestingly pitched when the action begins. The effectiveness of pace has once again been quashed, with physical contests and 50-50 challenges taking on greater prominence.

The result is a step away from the hugely exciting but slightly silly end-to-end play of FIFA 15 and a step back towards the slower, more methodical defensive play of FIFA 13 and 14. On the one hand, the defence is significantly stronger, strikers are easier to pin down and fast-paced attacking players aren’t continually storming your goal – all fixes for some of the major complaints fans had about last year’s FIFA. Time passes correctly and they’re fast, precise and controllable, helping you transform a sudden interception into a speedy, laser-guided assault on the oppositions’ goal. On the other hand, there’s more of a tendency to get bogged down in the midfield and to have carefully executed assaults on goal spoilt by last-minute interceptions or an impenetrable defence. The upshot? FIFA is both a better, more authentic football game and a harder one to love.

It’s ironic that this should happen in a year when FIFA introduces the single most progressive feature of the two games. This year’s World Cup saw women’s football reach a much wider audience than it ever has before, and it’s heartening to see 12 international women’s teams represented here for the first time. And EA Sports hasn’t simply reskinned the men’s game; you’ll notice tangible differences when playing as women, while female players have been fully motion-captured and look authentic. I’m not convinced it’s a particularly accurate simulation of the women’s game – the quality of the football is akin to a Championship club between two teams with unusually high passing stats – but I probably enjoyed playing as the women more than the men because of these mechanical differences. Though it seems to take longer for strikers to get their shots away, and the best female players don’t quite have the close control of the superstars of the men’s game, these matches are often more dynamic, unpredictable, and exciting.

The main caveat is that women’s games seem far more prone to random glitches: I got a bug that rendered one pre-match tackling exercise uncompletable, while on three separate occasions my defensive line stayed rooted to the edge of the 18-yard box, leaving me with little support going forward.“ I rarely cheer my players in any other sports title because it’s like laughing at your own joke. Yet here I am, falling into a 2-2 tie with Germany in the semifinal of the “Women’s International Cup” tournament, dreading extra time or, worse, penalty kicks. And in the 90th minute, Ali Krieger swoops in on her own, takes the pass and lofts a pinpoint cross to Alex Morgan, whose divebomb header delivers our salvation.

FIFA needed a year like this. Without serious competition from Konami’s PES in the past few years (until now), and with Ultimate Team keeping players playing and paying all year round, there’s been no pressing motivation to ring the changes. Annual titles will always evolve gradually, but recent progress has felt glacial. Fut 16 Coins can be stubborn and stifling, but it feels gloriously new, and having to learn fresh strategies and nuances in a game series like this is an almost-forgotten pleasure.