FIFA has been a constant factor in my gaming life for years, especially since the introduction of reliable online gaming in the days of the PS3/X360. There have been good and bad iterations, and also the rise to dominance of the Ultimate Team mode – a mode which completely changes the pace and controls of the game to be a lot faster and more arcadey, even altering the way your shots fly off the boot.
Having spent a good 5-6 hours with the FIFA 16 demo, I have come to the conclusion that a number of very small tweaks and one really big one have culminated in a FIFA that feels familiar and easy to pick up, but at the same time is different in a very good way. Let’s have a look at some of these changes in a bit more detail.
As many regular FIFA gamers will agree, pace and skill moves are abused heavily in modes such as FUT, which is a shame as it’s probably the most-played mode. The top tier players will have sides filled with fast players with 4+ skill moves, and will easily dominate anyone thanks to the arcadey, sped-up nature of FUT. The same can be said of normal online seasons; if you come up against Barca or Real Madrid, you will be instantly handicapped. Ronaldo, Messi, Bale, Neymar and Suarez can just speed past your team and 80% of the time score with no problem – even from 30-40 yards out, if you hit it at about 75% power and from one of four/five sweet spots around the penalty area.
The tweaks to gameplay this year have, in theory, addressed this issue (probably not for long, as people will find a way to exploit it). From the few hours I had with the demo, it seems pace is no longer king. Bursting past defenders is no longer a surefire way to score a goal, thanks to a new Defensive Agility system implemented into the game – defenders recover quicker from challenges, and limit the effectiveness of pace significantly. Added to this, the defensive positioning of defenders as well as deep lying midfielders has been tweaked so that space is covered faster and more effectively by teammates you are not directly controlling. This, of course, can still be gotten around with good passing and build up play, so the really methodical FIFA players should thrive online this year.
The skill moves have had an extra layer added to them, with the addition of off-the-ball dribbling that is activated with the L1/LB button. This can be mixed in with normal skill moves to devastating effect, but it’s definitely a lot harder to pull off. The new defensive tweaks have the same effect on players using skill moves as pace, so maybe we will all feel a little more pride when we pull off something really special.
Shooting has been reworked a bit under the hood as well. Shots feel heavier and slower, and even as Ronaldo, you can just ping in a shot every single time and have it be on target. Out of about 50 goals I scored, only 2-3 were long ranged efforts, and all of them were with players like Reus, Ronaldo etc. In FIFA 15, however, I would say more than 50% of my goals are usually from outside the box, and not always with the traditional big players. The ball, all in all, moves far more realistically, and you have to put more care into how and where you take your shot.
By far the most promising change to the game is the increased pass variation. There is now a drilled ground pass, in addition to the flair and normal pass. Although there are just 3 options, when used in combination together they can be deadly tools, and I can’t wait to see some of the combinations people will come up with over the next 12 months. What’s important to know is that just spamming one type doesn’t work; if you try to do more than 1 or 2 drilled passes in a row the ball just won’t be as accurate. All these small tweaks have added an extra layer of complexity to FIFA, which has at times in the past struggled with stagnation.
Now on to the big addition that made the headlines on most gaming and non-gaming sites a few months ago: women’s national teams. The demo offers you the opportunity to try out two teams, Germany and the U.S.A. There is a restriction – you can’t play men vs women, but that is only logical. The biggest thing you notice when playing with the women’s team is that across the field on average, the players are shorter and slighter. The game is also fractionally slower, and there seems to be a lot more space to pick passes out. The player models of course are also hugely different. EA have gone out of their way to create as real a representation of the women’s game as possible. The way the players run, move and interact with the ball looks and feels very different. On top of this, there are little touches like the shouts of female voices during the game, and even female refereeing staff.
Importantly, the female teams have their own set of ratings, with some of the U.S.A team, such as Abby Wambach, having ratings around 85-90, which puts them level with some of the better male players i the game. Therefore, it’s not like some expected: comparing the best women’s team to low-level men’s teams. You can score fantastic goals, go on dizzying runs and produce moments of magic just like in the usual men’s FIFA. Having the female teams with their own sets of stats and ratings is a smart move, and will probably make the mode popular amongst fans.
Overall, there is a lot to look forward to in FIFA 16, as a slew of small tweaks has further refined what is the biggest sports game on the planet. Hopefully the women’s side of the game will be popular and they can expand with club sides in future!
P.S. THEY ADDED VANISHING JIZZ SPRAY