Despite a little bit of glitz and glamour, EA Sports’ flagship soccer title FIFA 16 left me feeling a little foolish. Somehow, I had convinced myself that with new-gen tech fully harnessed, we would see a legitimate heightening of the gameplay experience after another full year of tinkering with the new consoles. Of course, I forgot that major gameplay changes take time, and I was consistently left, match after match, with that “I just bought the same game” feeling, in reference to ’15.
Now, for many hardcore gamers and sports fans, this doesn’t matter. The chance to play with the latest rosters, expansion teams, added stadiums, etc.. are enough to keep sales incredibly high, and no doubt FIFA 16 will sell great as it always does. For me, as a soccer fan, I really enjoyed the addition of Century Link Field (home of the Seattle Sounders and Seattle Seahawks), one of the greatest stadiums and fan experiences in all of soccer, much less MLS.
It’s the small things that make FIFA 16 worthwhile.
First of all, the graphics are slightly better than last year’s title. A few minor but noticeable and ultimately significant graphical improvements make the overall flow of play look a little smoother, more realistic. For example, there is a new animation in ’16 for a “through ball” or “long through ball” pass, in which the player strikes the ball much more realistically than in previous FIFA games, when the animation for this difficult and technically challenges pass was the same as a regular pass. Also, referees now actually take out their notebooks an write players names down when booking for fouls and cards. EA seems to have added new and more realistic goalie animations as well, especially on saves in penalty situations. Its little improvements like that that will please discerning players and soccer fanatics but mean nothing to the beginning gamer or soccer novice. Overall, the graphics look nice, maybe small improvements in the players faces but not a huge jump from ’15.
Two things bothered me immediately. One, they added the “man-bun” hairstyle, which I KNEW they would but it still annoyed me. And also, EA mysteriously continues to deny us the ability to customize or even add tattoos to our created players. This is a feature I’ve been continuously waiting for, and at this point so many athletes and young people have tattoos, why not throw it in there?
Offline single player modes are virtually identical to FIFA 15. I enjoyed the return of the star rating system for clubs, which was missing from ’15. But again, nothing groundbreaking.
It was an easy transition for me, going directly from playing ’15 for year to ’16, with almost no drop in form. Player movements, pass weights, etc… all control and feel similar to ’15. EA played it safe this year, and didn’t attempt any innovative advances. Frankly, they usually don’t anyway.
Online play, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. Despite the controls feeling a little heavier and more lethargic than offline play, but that’s the case with all sports games. I found the online “season” system to be really rewarding. Incentivizing online matches with promotion goals in a simulated season adds meaning to what are too often just exhibition matches in other online modes. I played probably 20 online matches and had no issues finding opponents, dropped connections or glitches and lags. Online match-finding and gameplay was generally smooth, and only rarely did I have to search for an opponent again, and never more than twice.
I could go on for days about the music selection, but since musical taste is subjective, I’ll leave that part alone. Everyone plays their own playlists or listens to headphones anyway right?
The main selling point, and rightly the driving marketing force behind this release, is obviously the inclusion of 16 woman’s national teams (but not the NWSL) for the first time in an EA Sports game. I was curious to see if there would be any difference between the rating system or ratings scores between the men’s and woman’s teams, but the woman’s teams are rated on the same curve it appears, as they are not rated any lower, which is good. I enjoyed playing as Alex Morgan, and although its a cool inclusion, there isn’t a fundamental difference in experience playing as woman, it feels the same and, from far enough away from your TV, looks the same.
The bottom line is that FIFA 16 is probably exactly as fun as you thought it would be, but nothing more.
For those curious, here is some good gameplay (NOT the demo) courtesy of PatrickHDxGaming