Thursday 22 March 2018

FIFA 16 review: Trotting is the new sprinting

FIFA 16 (XOne/PS4/PC/X360/PS3); rating: 8/10; age: 3+

FIFA 16: Even Messi doesn't run as fast as he used to
FIFA 16: Even Messi doesn't run as fast as he used to
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

IF only the real-world politics threatening to tear FIFA apart could be replicated in-game – now that would be some bullet-point on the back of the box for EA’s marketing gurus.

But instead we must content ourselves with a typically conservative update that will annoy fans of FIFA’s 15 fast-paced drama. This year’s effort for 2016 remains a supremely polished game of football. It’s stuffed from end to end with content, slickly presented and incorporates even more live updates from the big leagues around the globe – minus the likes of the Blatter saga, obviously.

Big props too to EA for finally deigning to acknowledge the women’s game, with FIFA 16 incorporating 12 national teams (not including Ireland, alas). The competition is limited to online friendlies or an offline cup but it lays down an equality marker that’s been a long time coming.

Neither is it just a case of putting Suarez in a sports bra, with the women noticeably different from men as players, encouraging a more considered, less physical type of football.

FIFA 16: immaculate presentation and animation
FIFA 16: immaculate presentation and animation

But it’s FIFA 16’s gameplay tweaks that will probably attract most attention, if not opprobrium.

Pacy attackers have been emasculated, removing the thrlll of bursting down the wing with, for instance, Gareth Bale as he leaves defenders trailing helplessly in his wake. The speed of matches has thus been nerfed to a slow trot and it sometimes feels as if a whole avenue of attack has been shut down.

FIFA 16: The women's games plays subtly differently, less power but more measured
FIFA 16: The women's games plays subtly differently, less power but more measured

Perhaps by way of compensation, EA split ground passing into two different disciplines – a conventional (but sluggish) short ball and a zippy (but difficult to control) precision ball. My take so far is that it cuts down on the unfair pinball-like passing that could dominate matches. But with precision passing so risky, the overall effect is to dampen the pace of games to less enjoyable levels.

Add in the fact that AI defenders (yours and your opponent’s) seem much smarter and less likely to leave gaps – suddenly matches become much harder to win.

So FIFA 16 inevitably feels more realistic – but depending on your point of view, that doesn’t necessarily mean more entertaining.

But that’s the eternal dance EA maintains with players each year– giving with one hand but taking with the other, for the sake of justifying an annual update. Maybe pace will make a comeback in FIFA 17…

READ MORE: Pro Evolution 2016, FIFA's great rival, sticks to its guns this year with high-speed, chaotic action - read our review for a comparison.


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