I suppose that my fourteen year old son comes by his love of soccer honestly. Though I didn’t push this passion on him, it was all around us as he was growing up. My television channels include a number of channels that cover the game in club leagues around Europe and South America, along with national team competitions from around the world. In a way, it was unavoidable.
And so it was that the teenager in our home asked for FIFA 16 for Christmas. He wanted the Playstation 3 version, because the extra bedroom in our home was set up to be his office/fun room, and that console was stationed there for his enjoyment.
Thankfully, there were many deals on this game during the holidays, and I managed to snatch it up for about half it’s regular price of $59.99. We owned almost every previous version of the series, including a few of their “World Cup” and “Champions League” iterations. They were fun, all of them.
With each successive game, the folks at Electronic Arts have tweaked the characteristics, sometimes a little, sometimes a great deal. Because of it’s enormous popularity, this has caused some consternation among players of the franchise. Criticisms over the years range from “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” to “I wish they would do something new.” Though the gaming community can be fickle, “FIFA” remains one of the most popular video game series in the history of the art form.
So I was a very curious to see what they had scrapped, changed, or kept in the latest annual edition of the game. Here’s some of what I discovered…
The most obvious change in this version is right on the cover: Lionel Messi is there of course, and that’s no surprise. The Argentine superstar reached legend status years ago, and his name and face are recognizable even in some of the most hidden football loving outposts on Earth. Also on the cover of the North American version of the game is Alex Morgan, star of the U.S. women’s national team.
Some will say that it took too long for FIFA to feature women in one of the games. Regardless, it’s a big step for EA, and it’s paying off for them. You can now play as one of 12 women’s national teams in the game. We tried this, and it’s every bit as much fun as playing with male players.
The Main Menu has four choices which are Learn to Play, Catalogue, Ultimate Team, and Lunar New Year. Learn to Play is where you do exactly that. You’ll head to four more choices, and if you’re new to the game this is a great place to start.
You can choose The Basics form here, and practice everything from shooting to defending. These allow you to choose a player and start your challenge. These feature practice “tests” in which you attempt to redirect a stationary ball, cross, or lob toward goal. Of course, the mechanics being similar to most other versions of FIFA, I quickly moved up to a pretty high score. I do think this section works well as a primer to teach you how effectively do most of the things you’ll do in a game. As a tutorial, it’s worth a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the controls and skills required.
Skill Games are similar, and reward you with Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals for showing off your newly found skills in the same categories as previously mentioned. These are a bit more challenging, but certainly doable with practice.
But one of the few new things about this version of the franchise is also the biggest innovation in the eyes of my son is the FIFA FUT Draft Mode that changes the way “Ultimate Team” is created and implemented. Of course, the immensely popularity of the FIFA franchise isn’t because you get to work on your skills. The actual games are “the thing.” As always, this is why people play these games.
You can play as your favorite club team from leagues in Europe, South America, Asia, or Australia as in the past, or choose a Men’s or Women’s national team from the dropdown when you start a match. My son and I teamed up to play as Italy in a friendly match against Germany, because it’s what we always do.
Once you start a match, you can set your formation and line up. In the game settings, you can choose the length of each half, difficulty level you want to play at, the weather and even the stadium for the match. Another toggle and you can choose the camera angleand even customize this if you wish. Once you push start on your controller, an individual player under your control will show up and find himself in a challenge in which he is tasked to shoot at a target, hit a bullseye in the net, or some other slightly silly test of skills. Once the game loads, the Start button will send you to your game.
A fun feature in the Game which you can tweak at any time is User Gameplay Customisation. I found this to be a very nice way to get a bit more entertainment from FIFA 16. This allows you (via “sliders” you control) to adjust the level of things like the speed of your passes, the power of your shots, or how often you’ll make mistakes when doing various things in the game. These all default to exactly half of the maximum, but as we found that level to be a bit low, we set all of them a bit higher. A powerful shot that blasts past the goalkeeper from long distance is always fun, right?
The gameplay is very similar to the previous release. Movement, shooting, running, you’ll find all of it very familiar if you played that game or most of the other games in the franchise. We had fun playing it, mostly because we’re fans who love the game. If it’s a high difficulty level you’re looking for, you can always tweak the settings and give yourself more of a handicap.
If I have a gripe with FIFA 16 it’s one that’s due to the limitations in the technology of video games. When Messi shoots, the motion is identical to that of Van Persie, or Rooney, or any other player in the game. Leo’s incredibly swift shooting motion is always noticeably absent, as are the shocking accuracy of Ronaldo’s dribbling in tight space. All players move, pass, fall and shoot in the same, identical movements. Again, this is not the fault of Electronic Arts or any other game maker, but I look forward to one day being able to truly feel like I have control of a specific player as opposed to a figure who does everything the same way as anyone else.
It probably goes without saying that most video games today are made for the masses. With large companies in play and enormous budgets (often comparable to Hollywood movies) they have to sell many, many copies to reach profitability. With that in mind, I think EA can be forgiven for not innovating too much. The FIFA franchise is an enormous money maker for the company, and they’ve been criticized for tweaking “too much” in the past. Therefore, it was always likely that 16 would be similar in many ways to it’s predecessor.
My conclusion is that the game is fun, easy to play, offers plenty of replay value as there are plenty of gameplay options both in one or two player or online, and so worthy of your money. Since it’s been on sale so many times, we recommend you grab it for $35 or less if you’re willing to wait on a deal. We don’t think you’ll be waiting long.