Sports games are often criticized for their yearly updates and lack of innovation in between installments. While this is an unfortunate side effect due to how rosters, rules, and strategy are constantly changing, it does allow for developers to constantly fine tune their releases.
In the case of FIFA, the yearly release formula has seen EA’s football series get consistently better over time. Each year has been better than the last, with the on-field gameplay constantly evolving, and players being presented with more options in terms of modes. I’m glad to say that FIFA 16 not only continues the series’ momentum, but also stands as one of the best times you’ll have on a virtual football field. Well, besides Mega Man Soccer of course.
The Beautiful Game
Soccer is lovingly called “the beautiful game” by fans, and FIFA 16 has definitely taken the nickname to heart. Not only is FIFA 16 mostly gorgeous (more on that in a bit), it allows players to truly create beautiful plays on the field. Every movement by a player looks natural, and the new ability to dribble off the ball has changed how the series is played.
It only makes sense for this to be this year’s major addition, as FIFA 16‘s cover star Lionel Messi is known for his ability to fake players out based on his movement. By holding in the left bumper players can dribble off the ball, this means they can fake in one direction and cause defenders to go the wrong way. This adds a tremendous amount of depth to the game, and creates a true mind game.
The rest of the gameplay has largely stayed untouched from last year, but considering how polished the series has been this isn’t a negative. You don’t fix what isn’t broken, and the core gameplay is as fun as it has ever been. EA has smartly enhanced one huge part of the game, while leaving the solid foundation in tact. This is a great example of a yearly release done right.
The other big gameplay addition is a new variant to the very popular Ultimate Team mode. While EA’s team building game, which is filled with micro-transactions, has never been up my alley, it’s a big selling point for a lot of fans. They’ll be glad to know that the mode is still largely the same in FIFA 16. But for those who have never found buying virtual packs of cards to be fun might enjoy the new Online Draft mode.
In Online Draft, players quickly select from a group of cards, most of which are good players. The drafting takes about two minutes, and then players can use their newly drafted team for four online matches. It’s instantly satisfying to see that you made smart drafting choices, and allows players to instantly play with talented players online. While I would still rather play a standard match, I did find this much more preferable to Ultimate Team.
Equality on the Pitch…Almost
Not all the new additions are big hits, though. While it’s fantastic to see Women’s national football teams in the game, EA has phoned in the new additions. The 12 female teams can only be used in two modes (free play and a tournament), and are pretty much segregated off from the rest of the game. Hopefully they’ll be used better in future installments.
Another area where it shows that the women didn’t get equal attention is in the player models. The players are not nearly as detailed as their male counterparts, which takes away from what is otherwise a beautiful game to look out. Instead of Alex Morgan looking like her gorgeous self in FIFA 16, she instead looks incredibly awkward. It’s a shame since a lot of casual sports fans in the United States can name more women who are a part of the U.S. National Team than men.
Women are also not represented in the game’s Be a Pro career mode. Instead, you’ll have to settle with creating a male player to go from a young prospect to superstar. This mode is similar to previous years, as it smartly allows you to improve your player by achieving milestones on the field. For example, if you score five goals, then your shooting skill will improve. It’s a smart way to handle progression, and the career mode is as much fun as it has always been. If you just want to be a GM instead of a player, that is available too.
Everything you do in FIFA 16 earns the players an in-game currency called FCC, which is largely tied into the game’s micro-transactions and Ultimate Team mode. Other than Ultimate Team cards, the coins can be used to buy a variety of alternate kits and extras. I found the currency system to be pretty well balanced, and was able to regularly buy new kits to use.
One of the fastest ways to earn coins, other than buying them with real money, is to play online. EA has a variety of different types of online modes this year, ranging from matches involving your Ultimate Team squads to online seasons that are played against real players. I ran into very little lag in the matches I played, and it looks to be fully featured.
FIFA 16 Review – Full Stride (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
This means that players will be able to play football against their friends online without any issue. Well, if they can find the right mode. The one area where EA has dropped the ball is in their cumbersome menus. Their grid interface is a constant nuisance as it hides modes, and it’s initially hard to find out where to go to play a normal match. Players will get used to the terrible layout after a few hours, but there’s no excuse for such a sloppy interface.
While there are some rough edges, FIFA 16 stands out as the best football game in recent memory. The new dribbling mechanic adds a ton of depth to the game, and women’s soccer is finally represented (even if it isn’t the high point it should be). Die-hard fans will be glad to know it is as fun as ever, and there are enough hooks for even casual fans to have a ton of fun.
Review code for FIFA 16 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here