FIFA 16 is a big improvement

FIFA 16

The only thing soccer fans look forward to more than a new season is the new “FIFA” game.

So many questions emerge. Does it look better? Did they fix the issues I had with last year’s version? How’s the soundtrack? Is it worth shelling out another $60 for this year’s version?

In that order, the answers are yes, some, not great, yes if your budget allows it.

But let’s dive into more detail, shall we?

Looks

“FIFA 16” is the most beautiful “FIFA” yet.

Player movements are as loose and varied as ever before, and it helps make this year’s game look like the best “FIFA” game so far.

Most player faces look even more realistic and recognizable than ever. That said, EA may need to apologize to Memphis DePay and Anthony Martial for botching up their facsimiles in the game. (Who else looks nothing like they do in real life? Tell us in the comments section!)

EA also smoothed out most of last year’s game’s occasional, yet infuriating, stuttery performance during penalties and free kicks. These are moments when you need to kick the ball at exactly the right time (according to the moving arrow on the screen) by pushing a button, and stuttering animation often led to botched penalties and free kicks. I still saw some stutters during a free kick, though. Which is to say: it’s not perfect just yet.

Huge improvements to gameplay

Gameplay is also improved over last year’s game.

One of the best things EA added to this year’s “FIFA” is the powerful, fast pass when you press controller’s right shoulder button. Before “16,” players passed like they were having a kickabout in the park. The ball rolled so slowly that making long passes to cut through the midfield was always a bad idea.

There are other nice additions, like getting back up quickly after a slide tackle by pressing the slide tackle button again. And there are new body feints and different types of dribbling that add some new variety in what you can do on the pitch.

EA has also dramatically improved player AI in “FIFA 16.” For one, AI players haven’t been colliding into each other and collapsing like utter idiots as often as they did in “15.” Great!

They’re also much smarter defensively all over the pitch. AI player positioning is far better, as they close down space like (most) actual players. Defending players on both sides can also stay more with an attacking player, and you get the slightest assistance from the CPU that keeps the defender you’re controlling on an attacking player who slips past you so the gap isn’t so wide when he breaks away.

Players also make efforts to intercept the ball, which is another huge improvement over previous generations where players would only intercept if the ball came directly to their Fifa 16 coins. While playing “15,” I often questioned (cursed at the TV spitting with rage) if players knew they were playing a game of soccer, as they wouldn’t make any effort at all to intercept a ball.

Above, my intercepting AI player stays in good position and does a much better job identifying the passing channels.

The defensive AI improvements also apply to the opposing team — it’s going to take some adaptation on your part, as getting through defenders is harder than ever.

For example, too often do one of my players autonomously sprint to try and keep a ball in play, even if it was last touched by an opponent’s foot. And they often ignore my commands when I try to pull them back using the stick.

Check out the example in the video below — an opposing attacker crosses the ball towards the goal, but as you can see from the yellow X, it’s going out of play, which would result in a goal kick for me. But instead of letting the ball go out of play, Jones rabidly sprints towards the ball to head it out even more than it already is. In the process, he becomes the last one to touch the ball, and the opposition end up with an opponent’s threatening corner kick.

And notice Jones is supposedly under the control of the blue player, but despite pulling left on the stick, he’s barreling right. It’s exasperating. There are still times when EA decides it’s best for the CPU to take over the controls entirely, and it’s plain wrong.

There was an odd instance/glitch when one of my defensive players decided to stay in a forward position. He simply wouldn’t get back to his defensive position, and I’m absolutely certain all my tactics and settings were set to the default settings. It only happened once, but it was odd.

It’s a big update

EA’s also made a ton of new additions to this year’s “FIFA” game.

Of course, I tried out the new women’s international teams, and it was every bit as fun, intense, and emotional as playing “FIFA” with the usual men’s team. Fans of women’s soccer will be utterly thrilled with this addition to “FIFA” games.

It’s also added the “FIFA Trainer” option, where a large circle surrounds your player and suggestions for your next move floats above them. It’s meant to help and ease beginners into the complexity of “FIFA” gameplay.

In career mode, you can play in new pre-season tournaments that let you break your new team into a new season. You can individually train up individual player attributes between matches to improve their performance, and it’s also great for training up your youth team.

The franchise’s most popular game mode, “FIFA Ultimate Team” (FUT), has a new Draft mode where you can fill out positions from a draft of five players. There are four matches in the Draft season, and you win better and better prizes the more you win.

Poor calls

Inevitably, some negatives still linger.

EA confusingly continues to leave out some practice features in the “FIFA” games that are crucial for learning and testing new tricks, tactics, formations, set-pieces, and general gameplay.

Instead, we can only practice one-on-one with a goal keeper in the third-person pro mode, which makes little sense. “FIFA” is mostly played from a television broadcast’s point of view, so it’s inexplicable why anyone would practice from a third-person point of view.

It’s only good for practicing skill moves. And even then, if you perfect the joystick movements for a skill move in the third-person practice arena, you have to adjust the direction the joystick movements when you play regular game in the broadcast point of view.

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FIFA 16 is an improvement

“FIFA 16,” the highly anticipated latest installment in EA’s best-selling soccer video game series, was released Sept. 22. It’s gameplay is a modest improvement on past iterations of the game. Everything is slower — players sprint more slowly, they take longer to change direction and they take longer to control the ball. This is an improvement, as it emphasizes tactics and patient play. Passing the ball well and keeping possession are important ways to draw your opponents into vulnerable positions in “FIFA 16,” mirroring how real soccer is played. This is a departure from previous versions of “FIFA,” in which the best way to win was often to simply pick the fastest players and out-run your opponent.

From a visual perspective, “FIFA 16” scores. The players’ faces look better than ever, the players hold themselves more naturally and all the menus are clean and easy to navigate.

For a game like “FIFA,” however, improving the gameplay and graphics from year to year is not enough. Each year should bring new ways to play the game and new details to enhance the modes of play that already exist. In this department, “FIFA 16” has upshots such as the addition of women soccer players for the first time, but in other ways the game disappoints.

Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity is the game’s “Career Mode.” In Career Mode, a player can either play as the manager of a team, making trades and running the whole team without Fifa 16 coins, or as just one player, starting from the bottom and working up to being an all-time great. “FIFA 16’s” Career Mode is essentially the exact same thing as “FIFA 15’s” and “FIFA 14’s.” No significant new feature was added to this mode specifically.

FIFA 16

This is especially disappointing when compared to the Career Mode features of games like “NBA 2K16.” In the “2K” series, the player can form rivalries with other NBA players, give press conferences, sign shoe deals and select which skills to increase when given the opportunity. “FIFA” Career Mode feels lifeless and stiff by comparison — one plays the games, and that’s about it, just like last year and the year before.

Overall, it feels like “FIFA” is stagnating. That’s disappointing for people who love “FIFA,” but it should also be disappointing for people who love real soccer. Sports games, at their best, augment our enjoyment of the sports they represent. How many people learned the difference between man and zone coverage playing “Madden NFL?” Or what a pick and roll is playing “NBA 2K?” Or what the icing rule is playing “NHL?” Sports games bring new fans into the sport, and they turn casual fans into aficionados.

After its release in 1999, “FIFA 2000” sold about 220,000 copies in North America. “FIFA 15,” last year’s game, sold over 2.5 million copies in the same region. Over 17 years, that’s over 2 million new Americans who can tell you what the Champions League is, 2.5 million new Americans who can name a player on Chelsea FC, 2.5 million new American soccer fans. Because soccer is still developing a fanbase in America, “FIFA’s” ability to bring fans to the game is more important than in any other sport.

“FIFA 16” is a solid game — overall, an improvement on “FIFA 15”. It is still far from perfect, and that is disappointing because a mediocre “FIFA” title represents a missed opportunity for the continued growth of soccer in America.

The Visual Improvements of FIFA 16

Photo-realistic visuals are almost standard in sports video games these days. Elite series bring you action that causes you to double take when you glance at the gameplay on your monitor or TV screen.

Because of the size of the field and the amount of teams, soccer is a tough task for developers to take on as it pertains to photo-realistic player renders. That said, EA Sports has expanded its amount of scanned player faces for FIFA 16.

Per EA Sports, there are over 350 new star heads scanned into the game. To put that into perspective, consider this: The NBA has 30 teams with 15-man rosters if you count the three players who may be on the squad but don’t dress for games.

FIFA 16

If all of those players were scanned for NBA 2K or NBA Live, that would only be 450. FIFA 16 has almost that many new star heads to go along with the ones it had from previous versions of the game.

You see Gareth Bale of Real Madrid in the lead image, but take a look at Eden Hazard from Chelsea as well you have a lot of Fut 16 coins to own them.

Current players aren’t the only ones with scanned heads. Per EA Sports, FIFA 16 also features scanned faces for some of the FIFA Ultimate Team legends.

The Stadiums

There are a whopping 78 stadiums included in the game this year. Nine of them are new to the series, and 50 of them are actual licensed venues.