Before I start talking about FIFA 16, I want to give a bit of context about my experience with the FIFA series. Over the last 10+ years, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that FIFA has been a significant part of my life. I’ve put tens, if not hundreds, of hours into nearly every entry in the series. I particularly liked FIFA 15 and played a total of around 1500 matches – or around 375 hours. Playing predominately in the highest division, I enjoyed a record of about 3 wins to every loss. Not to big myself up too much, but I’d mastered FIFA 15 in a way that I have never managed for any other video game.
FIFA 16 plays pretty differently to its immediate predecessor. There are a few changes that struck me nearly instantly. It’s more difficult to run past a defender with a rapid winger. Players can’t play perfect passes when facing the wrong way; generally build up play requires a bit more care than last year. These changes help improve the game. Andres Iniesta might now actually be more effective than Seydou Doumbia. Slower players like Francesco Totti can be used more effectively than ever. Goalkeepers have been improved, resulting in finishing being more about skill than knowing how to exploit the A.I.
Despite these improvements, I keep changing my mind about FIFA 16. I initially found the slower pace frustrating, but once adjusting to it I found the increased realism made FIFA 16 more satisfying. Yet after a few games online I was sick of it, bored senseless of some players spending the majority of the game passing sideways. After a week or so off and – having gone back and actually playing a few games of FIFA 15, I think I have finally come to my personal conclusion that I do really like FIFA 16 and that changes made have improved the series.
The changes to gameplay previously mentioned are a massive step forward in making FIFA accurately resemble real football. Players feel more representative of their real life counterparts. Although the majority of gamers playing FIFA 16 prefer their wingers to be as fast as possible, slower but more technically gifted players, such as Juan Mata, are viable options. Matches also aren’t as end to end as before. FIFA 15 would sometimes break down into 90 minutes of back and forth counter attacks. This was entertaining, but could also be very frustrating; often I would hit the woodwork and then concede within a matter of seconds. This can still occur in FIFA 16, but it does not happen nearly as often.
In FIFA 15, there were two easy ways to score. There was an exploit with long shots; if a player struck a ball with the outside of their boot there was a good chance it was going in, regardless of how far out they were. It was also comically easy to run around the goalkeeper for a tap in. Neither of these tactics are particularly effective this year (trust me, I have fluffed many one on ones this year trying to round the keeper). Instead finishing takes a little bit more care and different players require a different approach, depending on their shooting stats. Long shots are also less effective, again requiring players to show a bit more skill in the final third. Despite these positives there are a couple of shortcomings with FIFA 16
Firstly, I am struggling to set my team up correctly. Regardless of what formation I pick and how much attention I pay to attacking/defensive work rates, players often don’t stay where I want them to. Chances are I’ll find my defensive midfielder bombing forward, either leaving my defence vulnerable to a counter attack or forcing an attacking player to have to sit deep. My back lines takes worse shape than previously and attackers are played onside when they really shouldn’t be. In fairness, some of these issues can be counter acted by spending more time in custom tactics. But when playing locally it’s annoying to need to spend time adjusting sliders and player instructions for this; it should be clear that I don’t want my defensive midfielder racing past my attacking players, or that my left back shouldn’t be sat well behind the rest of my backline. Finally, in FIFA 15 I liked to use three at the back formations; this sacrifices some defensive security to allow an extra man in midfield or attack. However this year when I’ve tried this it’s been an absolute disaster. This year, regardless of who or how I’m playing, 4–3–3 is my best formation, which makes matches feel more repetitive.
I’d like to talk quickly about game modes before ending. The main online game mode – FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) – has been improved. In FUT, gamers build themselves a team with a trading card-esq system, buying and selling players and winning matches to earn coins to afford better players. Changes to the trading market have made the best players more affordable and have reduced the extent to which it is pay-to-win; last year it was easy to spend actual money for coins from shady websites. Unfortunately single player is worse than ever, especially on higher difficulties. The computer AI dominates possession, happy to keep the ball with the back four and every team is able to move the ball around like Spain. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Hartlepool FC or Barcelona, on the highest difficulties they will play in the same way.
I do like FIFA 16. They’ve fixed some of the main issues of recent games, although made it slightly more repetitive in the process. I’m also more motivated to stick with FUT – this may be the first ever year I have a chance of ever affording Messi. Regardless of how it was though, I would still play hundreds of matches over the next ten months: after all, it’s what I do with every FIFA. To provide some alternative opinions, I’ve asked a couple of mates what they think.
“The biggest change in gameplay in FIFA 16 is that pace is no longer ridiculously overpowered as it has been for years. Now there is a great appreciation of strength and the ability to protect the ball. Minor flaws that make the game seem unrealistic remain (for example the consistency of scoring when you smash it at the front post), though in fairness they have been tidied up a little. And I’m sure that everyone wishes penalties conceded from contact you didn’t create weren’t quite so common.”
Matthew Ridley, Career Mode Enthusiast
“FIFA 16: The ultimate way to pass time with a group of friends. Some of the mistakes the game throws at you results in the hurling of obscenities (I can’t count the number of times I’ve kicked a simple pass out for a throw); but ultimately this adds to the experience. Generally physical stats still feel overpowered, although a bit less than last year.”
Joshua Wilson, Penalty Shoot-Out Specialist
Matty Hyde, Yorkshireman/Maths Student