EA’s annual FIFA games tend to come in two flavours: the important milestones that introduce a wealth of new gameplay mechanics, and the routine ones that simply tweak a few things here and there and mainly exist to keep the yearly tradition going. FIFA 16 falls squarely in the latter category.
On the pitch, not much has changed. The game’s pacing has been slowed ever so slightly, but only to the extent that you’d have to have both games running side-by-side to notice. Meanwhile, a new off-the-ball dribbling mechanic adds some lovely new animations but will only be mastered by a small number of expert FIFA players.
Other additions give with one hand and take with the other: the new driven pass is effective when used well but makes normal passes feel weaker by comparison, while the improved goalkeepers – a response to complaints that they were too weak in FIFA 15 – are now a little too good, all but certain to only come off their line when they’re guaranteed to get the ball.
It’s off the pitch where most of the more notable additions have been made. The welcome introduction of women’s football has been a long time coming, and though it’s only limited to 12 international teams, this will hopefully form a foundation upon which EA can build for future FIFA games.
It isn’t a half-hearted inclusion either, as female players have an entirely new animation set (except for goal celebrations, which look a little odd) and the game feels a little more frantic as a result.
The enduringly popular Ultimate Team gets a major new feature in the shape of Ultimate Team Drafts. This lets you put together a dream team by choosing from five randomly drawn cards for each position, and tasks you with trying to win four games in a row with them (either against CPU or human opponents), with greater rewards the further you go.
Not only does this mix things up a little and keep Ultimate Team mode fresh, it also gives owners of the Xbox versions a much greater chance to control some of the Legends players, who otherwise are rarer to encounter than a Blackpool FC win.
However, it’s impossible to ignore the presence of FIFA’s long-running rival, Pro Evolution Soccer, which this year appears to have won the on-pitch battle for the first time since the PlayStation 2 days. Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 has refocused its efforts on increased realism and a better simulation of the sport, and the result is an altogether more physical game that just nudges ahead of FIFA.
While FIFA continue to dominate when it comes to game modes, teams and official licences, a tactical change may be required for FIFA 17 if EA is to ensure its series once again plays the better game of football.