Every year EA Sports tries to convince me that this year’s FIFA title is more than just a roster upgrade. In recent years, with the new-gen consoles and the introduction of EA’s proprietary game engine, Ignite, I’ve been a little more receptive to the usual marketing waffle. The improvements to ball control, crowd atmosphere, even player’s feelings have all been demonstrable improvements to a game that is as bloody near perfection as it can be.
EA have, however, been saving something very special for this year’s FIFA 16- women’s international football teams. The cynic in me could well dismiss EA’s intentions as being nothing but the company toadying to the diversity and social justice warrior set- which seems to have EA shoe-horning diversity into every one of their products at the moment, but this isn’t the case at all.
The introduction of women’s football into the FIFA series, in practice, is no marketing gimmick. Woman’s football is gaining popularity and, whilst there’s only one tournament with national teams only in the game at the moment, this is great introduction, giving females athletes some great exposure in what is THE football gaming franchise. The game features a modest line-up of twelve international women’s teams which, unfortunately, doesn’t include the The Football Ferns this year.
The woman’s game seems to play a bit different to the men’s, suggesting that they’ve not simply slimmed the player models down and stuck female heads on. There are new animations, but the players seem to be more agile- not necessarily quicker, but the controls seem sharper.
Being an EA Sports game, FIFA 16’s presentation is a slick as it could be. The menu system is the standard EA Sports interface that you’ll find across all their titles. I find it pretty intuitive, but I’ve heard from folks unfamiliar with the menu that it can be tricky to navigate.
The game’s visuals do the job, but could do with some work for next time. Player likenesses are still a bit iffy, especially when you look at how far that they have come with Madden NFL 16. FIFA’s players are identifiable, but there’s something definitely odd about them. To be honest, FIFA’s visuals are getting a bit left behind compared to other sports games, especially those for EA’s stable. I know football isn’t as up-close-and-personal as NFL, NHL or PGA golf but a little more effort with the players and the lighting wouldn’t be amiss.
The action on the pitch is exciting, with the ball physics behaving as you’d expect. I never once saw anything that make me feel cheated. If I had to criticize anything about the way that players behave, it would be the speed at which they seem to be able to race up the pitch. It just looks too fast. Saying that, though, I’d sooner players were responsive than have the controls feel sloppy.
Taking a cue from NHL 16, FIFA 16 includes a novel in-game training aid. When activated, on-screen prompts suggest situational button-presses and the direction that the player to going to kick the ball. This is a great way to get into the game or hone rusty skills “on-the-job” rather than via a tutorial. The pre-match skill games also provide a great opportunity to practise ball control.
As with all of EA Sports’ efforts, FIFA 16 comes feature packed. There’s the personal journeys of the manager and player career mode. Solo players can enjoy Tournaments, Skill games and, of course, Ultimate Team. Multiplayer fans will find the usual suite of internet enables modes such as Online Seasons, Co-op seasons, Friendlies, 11 vs 11 Pro Clubs and you can even enter the FIFA Interactive World Cup.
There’s been a bit a couple of tweaks with both the career modes and FIFA Ultimate Team getting some changes. The career modes now feature pre-season games and training matches. FIFA Ultimate team gets a new mode in FUT Draft.
FIFA Ultimate Team is a cross between fantasy football and collectable cards. Card packs are purchased using either coins earnt in-game or FIFA Points purchased for real money. Players, club strip, emblems, stadiums, manager contracts and perks can all be purchased or traded with other gamers.
FUT Draft simplifies things making it easy to jump straight in by choosing a team from a set number of players and competing in a four-match tournament. Each match rewards gamers with coins with a successful tournament gifting player packs
How you feel about FIFA 16 very much depends on what you want from it. Do you want a good football game or a good football simulation? I’d argue that there’s no such thing as a football simulator, but Konami’s Pro Evolution games seem to cater more towards an authentic experience matching the pace of real football. EA Sports, with FIFA 16, uses a fine balance of true-to-life football action and enjoyable gameplay to give us a very well rounded and playable football game.
FIFA 16 continues EA Sports domination of the genre, offering us something really new with women’s football, all in the usual well-presented package. The visuals could do with some attention to bring them up to the standard of EA’s other titles, but the gameplay and plethora of modes makes FIFA 16 the pinnacle of sports gaming.