FIFA 16 [Review]: Mend It Like Moody.
The title to this review may be confusing to some, because how in the hell would the “Monsignor” Moody be able to fix a video game franchise that was already great? No, silly; I’ve finally solved the issue to one of GHG’s biggest problems: we’ve never had a review of EA Sports’ high cherished — often worshipped — soccer game before…
Soccer, association football, or fútbol, however you wanna say it/spell it/spit it, usually gets lost in our Fall sports video game release calendar among the NFL, NHL, NBA, and hell.. car racing games even with all of FIFA‘s massive popularity and sales around the world. That — and this superhero-driven site is a little more worried about its favorite tights-and-capes return to the boobtube at this time than a bunch of guys (and now women!) in tiny shorts and high socks kicking a damn ball around.
Thankfully, FIFA 16 kicks about as much grass-stained ass as the Justice League.
While I’ve always been a huge fan of FIFA despite only being a casual fan of soccer (talk to me around the World Cup), I’ve never been much of a loyal one, as the game — no matter how impressive year-to-year — always appeared the same to me. I loved the challenge and speedy gameplay in FIFA 14, but GM Career Mode’s frustrating contract negotiations threw me in for a loop. It didn’t take much for “free agents” to skip town, and signing/resigning superior players was highly problematic. Perhaps due to my 200-semod hours in Dragon Age: Inquisition I skipped out on FIFA 15 (and just about everything else), so any amount of subtle changes from last year’s edition might sweep my feet a tad more than dedicated fans.
Let’s talk about those improvements. Clearly there was no better feature this year than the inclusion of 12 Women’s international teams (hey, what other sports moment in the last 365 rocked the country harder than the success of the US Women’s National Team?). Better late than never, the women’s game offers a new challenge, one that plays freer/wilder/more open than the Men’s game, and often more of a grinder. I got rocked by Germany with the current World Cup Champions in my first game and have yet to lose a men’s friendly on either Amateur or Pro difficulty. Of course, EAS often likes to “slow roll” their features, so don’t expect any full career modes with the ladies — or even, due to licensing, the US rival Japanese team just yet.
The second best addition is a technical one. There’s far more grit between the turf than of FIFA‘s past, as I noticed many more physical midfield exchanges and gaps being covered, leading to more passes (despite being more instantaneous this year) being deflected and intercepted. These one-on-one battles shift more towards the D than previous installments, cutting down the ridiculous pace of the past and leading to a more realistic portrayal of soccer. You shadow ballcarriers like passive-aggressive magnets by holding down the A/X buttons, and even shade them into loose coverage that has you more concerned about their teammates.
On offense, the left bumper can perform no-touch dribbling, an oftentimes clunky–overly showie–balltrick that might freeze your defender every once in a while; but more times than not will wind up stolen. The formerly automatic through-ball (Y/Triangle) is still great, though, and leads to many fast breaks, pending on your difficulty. If those aren’t doing it for ya, you can now hold the right bumper and send a much speedier, hard pass. The catch? You shouldn’t always expect your receivers to handle ’em. While these minor tweeks by no means make FIFA 16 a technical masterpiece ala Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (from what I hear), at least this year’s installment moves past the constant run-and-gun feel of Real Madrid.
Another big new feature is the FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) Draft. Somehow I was given a token — perhaps for having a press copy — to play the mode right away, despite that it otherwise costs you 15,000 earned coins (or real money, if emptying your bank on microtransactions is your thing). The reasoning for such a high cost to play a mode is the amount of rewards given upon your success; even if you lose, you’ll earn some pretty solid Gold packs, even if most of the great players you open up are only for loan. Drafting your own team of quality footballers (to which success is based on formation chemistry) like Portugul’s Cristiano Ronaldo makes this the most fun mode in the game — and like the Madden UT Draft, your “gooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllll” is to win 4 in a row to earn the most robust awards. Players can also find friends to FUTD against online or locally.
Sticking with cosmetics, you already know that FIFA typically offers one of the hippest presentations on the market. The commentary by Martin Tyler and Alan Smith is legendary, and only rivaled by the work of the current NBA 2K broadcasts. Better, no sports game goes out of its way more to deliver the truest atmosphere of the sport, as diehards will notice every signature anthem, overlay, celebration (which are now manual) and stadium/grounds layout.
FIFA 16 also has a super slick menu, which I found both captiviting and user-friendly. The soundtrack is always righteously modern day world music, and intro tunes that bookend every match feel like you’ve been watching Sky Sports. Instant replays are amazing, too.
I also, too, like Madden 16, found myself nearly as entertained by Career Mode’s many drills than gameplay. You’re given the option of setting up 5 unique and useful training segments between each match, not to mention the traditional practice segments you can do during loading screens. Yeah, I know; surely all this talk of practice will have “Allen Iverson spinning in his grave,” if I may quote Charles Barkely. If video games can make drills fun, all the more reason to play. This year’s FIFA 16, despite all its little subtleties to actual gameplay, still gives fans many reasons to check it out; it all just depends on how excited you are for the addition of Women’s soccer, the inclusion of an FUT Draft, and how much time you’ve invested in FIFA year-after-year.