(Played on PS4)
I’ve been a committed FIFA Nut™ since FIFA 11 came out. Prior to that I’d been steadily a Pro Evolution Soccer man for roughly most of the previous decade. I just found the PES games more fun to play and felt they created a more authentic recreation of football. However, I found FIFA 11 to be a real return to form and I converted back to EA. And now with my Konami boycott in full swing, it’s unlikely I’ll be going back to PES anytime soon. So FIFA wins the “Soccer Wars” with me almost by default, but would it stand on its own merits to boot? Let’s have a gooesy gander.
From the first few matches that I partook in, I could sense that the overall pace of the game has been reduced somewhat. Passes and crosses feel a lot more deliberate while tackles seem to carry more weight and crunch to them. Legacy defending remains as an option for old warhorses like me, but it’s distinctly less accurate than it used to be. The days of simply spamming the A or X button are long gone, as the chances of this leading to a foul have been greatly increased. The overall gaming experience feels slightly more measured and calculated than it has in the past and after I’d had a few matches to get used to it, I grew to rather like it.
The difficulty is weighted very well and the game itself selects the best difficulty for you to play on based on how you do in the opening match you play. It ended up assigning me Semi-Pro but after a couple of matches on that difficulty I felt it was better to move up to Pro. I’m confident that most players will be able to find a difficulty level that works for them. Pro difficulty is almost amazingly perfect for me at this stage actually, with me being able to hold my own while also being challenged. It’s not like I’m whipping the opposition 6-0 every time out but I’m not getting clobbered by the computer either. FIFA normally balances difficulty with entertainment very well and this year is no exception.
Aside from the overall feel and pacing of the game, everything else is pretty much as you were from last year. A well placed chipped through ball is still as defence splitting as always and there are a host of different formations and tactics at your disposal. The game has lots to offer the returning player while still providing a welcoming experience for someone new to the series. It’s both thoroughly pick up and play while also providing a richer experience behind the curtain.
There are a still a few annoying gripes that rear their ugly head again. For instance, you STILL can’t change who your captain is during the match. This is so annoying when your captain has to go off for whatever reason and the game just assigns the captaincy to another player on a whim. I want to be able to decide who that armband goes to. It’s such an annoying little thing that they could easily change and the fact we’re here in 2015 and they still haven’t put something in the game that let’s you do this is excruciating. Goalkeepers will still occasionally flip from being world beaters to butter fingered goobers at a moments notice, but thankfully that happens less than it used to with keepers generally being better controlled.
Ultimate Team is back and I actually played it this year, seeing as I knew I’d be writing a review for the website. I’ll be honest and say it’s really not my cup of tea but to some this mode is the be all and end all. I’ve met people who love this mode so much they would go round its house, mow its lawn, cook its dinner and tickle it’s nipples given the chance. The premise of being given a random deck of cards and then winning matches so you can craft a better team is a decent enough one, but I just didn’t really feel compelled to persevere any more than a few hours with it. Player chemistry is based around whether players play for the same club side or come from the same nation, which ultimately means you’ll be eventually filling your team with people of the same nationality which to me defeats the purpose. I would rather more emphasis was put on playing styles and personality types when it came to crafting team chemistry rather than nationality. Sometimes chemistry comes from difference rather than similarity. FUT doesn’t really explore the idea of two polar opposites, such as a Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, coming together and working well as a tandem BECAUSE they are different, not in spite of it. I’m sure fans of Ultimate Team will be happy with this year’s incarnation, but it just isn’t for me I think.
Career mode makes its return with a few tweaks on last year. You can now arrange for your team to take part in money spinning pre-season tours while also having a more hands on approach to training your squad. If there’s a player you’re looking to develop in a certain area you can select them to take part in a specific training mini-game with the goal of upping their stats. This works well and gives you a more hands on feel when it comes to player development. I’ve sunk hours into Career Mode already and I’m looking very much forward to sinking even more in the coming months. With Gaming Respawn’s commitment to post review content, I’ll be doing a feature related to Career Mode in the near future.
All the assorted online modes make a return and Pro Clubs can still be a lot of fun when you play with people who actually take it seriously. I unfortunately jumped into a game where the person controlling my teams goalkeeper decided to keep playing 1-2’s with the teams centre back and the ball never left our own half as consequence. Still, find a good bunch to play with and Pro Clubs can be an enjoyable experience.
FIFA has long since been the standard bearer for taking the match day experience seen on television and translating it to the home consoles. EA once again delivers with aplomb in this arena. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith return to take up the commentary duties and do a good job, especially with the female players in the game by fleshing out their back stories to what will likely be a slew of new audiences unfamiliar with their work. The soundtrack is decent enough but it lacks that one killer track to really grab you, like was done with The Black Keys back in FIFA 11 or Digitalism in FIFA 12. It’s serviceable yet ultimately fails to enthuse.
FIFA 16 will no doubt be criticised for its lack of innovation, but my question would be what innovation SHOULD it have? The game play has been tightened, Women’s teams have been added and Career Mode has been tweaked. What else is there to do? Do we want it to go in the direction of games like Red Card and add absurdist Super Moves and teams of Dolphins and Apes? FIFA is a simulation game, not an arcade one, and the simulation is pretty much pitch perfect. Little annoying nit picks persuade me to avoid giving this the Full Monty, but it’s pretty close to being there.