Since 1993, I have been consistently loyal to one particular video game franchise, for more than two decades it has been my one definitive release-day purchase each year. The series has seen some good games, some not so good, sometimes the newest edition is a game-changer, other times it’s nothing more than a kit changer, you never really know with EA Sports.
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360
Release Date: 22 Sept(US)/24 Sept(Europe)
Last year’s outing, the first truly purpose-built for the modern console generation, saw a massive overhaul of the gaming engine and full upgrade of the user interface, so what can this year’s version do to keep the momentum going? FIFA 16 has a lot to live to.
Like most years, FIFA 16 has that one all important addition which gets all of the marketing hype and this year it’s one that surprised a number of fans, despite being seriously overdue, the inclusion of women’s football in the game – perfect timing given the recent women’s World Cup.
EA Sports has been selling this new addition as a major upgrade, the huge new mode that will change the way you think about the FIFA franchise, for the first time ever you can play the women’s game. Is it everything that EA said it would be? Of course it isn’t.
The women’s game isn’t for everyone, let’s face it, but with so much dedicated to the marketing it is still something of a disappointment. The first thing to note about this new addition is that it’s actually surprisingly limited, with only international teams included, and only available in certain modes. A new “Women’s World Cup” mode has been added and you can also use the teams in Kick Off, Custom Tournaments and Friendlies, that’s it. With Career mode significantly losing focus in favour of Ultimate Team over the last few years I was genuinely hoping that EA might use this as a chance to breathe new life into the core mode of the game, but alas no.
Surely, EA has decided to ease us into the world of women’s football and instead make the actual playing experience a better one before bringing the female sport into the core game? Well, if I’m honest, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of difference between playing as a man or as a woman in FIFA 16.
Don’t expect any jiggle physics in certain gender specific areas guys, after all we’re playing a football game not DOA. Even so, the women’s game feels like a last minute addition with very little effort put into making it a serious new function in its own right. To play, it feels like the developers have literally taken the female character models and pasted them over the top of the male ones, the lack of unique physics is incredibly disappointing.
One other very noticeable thing that annoyed me was the lack of female spectators in the now much more animated and graphically detailed crowd. It seems odd that EA and FIFA would go to so much effort to support the women’s sport but completely ignore the fact that women actually watch the game as well.
Looking at the positives, it is still great to see women’s football finally getting some support in the video games industry. The game plays as well as the men’s game and the player models of the female characters are just as impressive as you’d expect from the latest FIFA.
Moving away from women’s football, FIFA 16 is more than just a one-trick pony, a number of other new features have been added in this year.
Despite there being no Career mode for the women, make of that what you will, there has been a number of changes made to the core mode, all designed to bring a bit more realism and swing the game back towards the simulator it claims to be. Scout reports can now last up to a year, a massive improvement of FIFA 15’s 3-month period, and players can now be loaned out for up to 2-years, again increasing the limit on the preceding game. One improvement that got my attention was the ability to do free agent transfers outside of the transfer window to bolster your squad, a necessity if like me you’re playing with a team in the lower leagues.
Ultimate Team mode has certainly seen a huge increase in popularity in the last few years, something that continues with every year of refinement. This year’s newest feature is FUT Draft, a new mode which allows players to test their team building skills without the financial constraints imposed when buying the best players for your team. Draft allows you to pick from five of the best players in the world for each position, build up your ultimate squad and then play through game after game until you lose. The mode will definitely be a popular addition for fans of FUT, it’s a great idea which really opens up the gameplay to those not quite as good at the wheeling and dealing of the FUT transfer market.
The overall gameplay has seen a few modifications as well, most notably being the goalkeepers intelligence. FIFA 15 tried many new things and while some succeeded brilliantly, some failed appallingly. In many fans opinions, one of the biggest failures was the updates to increase the adaptive intelligence of the keepers, make them more responsive in-game, sadly this failed miserably and we were left with a situation where keepers would come off their lines for no apparent reason and could easily be lobbed by the opponent. Luckily, some very clever developers at EA have fixed the problem and brought in what the FIFA 15 designers has envisaged.
The other great addition is a host of new grounds to test your skills in, including one very dear to my heart, Fratton Park. Where almost all of the new additions come from top-level leagues like the Barclays Premiership, France’s Ligue 1 and Germany’s Bundesliga, it’s a true nod to Portsmouth football fans that even from the depths of League 2, the popularity is there to warrant the famous South Coast stadium in the game. As someone who has spent a good deal of time at Fratton Park over the years, all I can say is Pompey fans are in for a treat.
In terms of the graphical look of FIFA 16, if there are any improvements on its predecessor then they are extremely subtle. This seems to be a recurring theme when you compare the current console generation with the last, the lack of any stand-out difference is extremely disappointing. It definitely seems like the visual aspect has slipped down EA’s priority list in favour of gameplay (and marketing).
Overall, FIFA 16 is a little underwhelming if I’m honest, EA promise so much every year and so very rarely deliver everything their marketing tells us we’re getting. I’m not saying this is a bad game, oh no, FIFA 16 is still a great game but not for being a game changer, more for fixing the bugs of last year and adding a few additional features to keep us interested. After a couple of years of big change, the franchise seems to moving into a period of mild innovation and refinement.
Despite enjoying FIFA 16, I have concerns for the coming years, EA needs something big to reinvigorate the franchise once more.
- The inclusion of women’s football (though not the limitations in-game)
- FUT Draft Mode is a great addition
- A number a great enhancements on established play modes
- No innovation, even the new feature seem tried and tested
- Limitations on women’s football
- No noticeable graphical improvements