Footy Magic, or Snake oil? | Fifa 16 Review
The BPL has been underway for a couple weeks now. Ronaldo is pulling more hat tricks than a magician, and Mourinho is clashing with, well everyone. It must be football season, and that means one thing. Fifa is back!
Fifa has always been an interesting game for me. Having actually played rec soccer at a young age, I’ve always enjoyed the sport but was always busy playing Madden and NHL as the summers months came to a close. But this year, I’ve finally taken to FIfa, and what a great year to do so.
To be quite honest, for the last couple years I got my footy fix with the various demos from Fifa and PES. While I enjoyed the pacing and animations far more in PES, it was never able to match the atmospheres and visuals of Fifa. But, from my dozen or so hours played thus far, Fifa16 seems to have managed to find a nice blend of slower, more deliberate pacing and the outstanding atmosphere we’ve come to know from the franchise.
As for my first 10-12 matches, the pacing did throw me off a bit. I was used to charging in and pick-pocketing opponents with reckless abandon and sprinting to a breakaway on the other side of the pitch. Or there was always lobbing a cross from outside the box and scoring via header 9 times out of 10 but not so much this year. The defensive side of the game feels more true to life where you have to smartly decide when to go for a tackle, or even more so, decide to push them to the edge of the field and force them to make an errant pass or cross. Surely this change in defensive play will slow down the game and may cause veterans of the series to be put off by its more deliberate pace. But, I feel it’s all the better for it. When commanding the offensive, it’s a bit harder to get that perfect cross to connect with your teammates head/foot. Every lobbed through pass doesn’t land perfectly at your teammates foot, and every strike won’t hit the top corner of the net. It’s more akin to an actual match. You have to work for each and every point, but when you do manage to land that perfect strike during stoppage time, it’s quite magical.
Everyone loves scoring in Fifa, similarly how Baseball fans love smashing that upper deck shot, but there’s some solace in fighting for positioning and only making it within striking distance a handful of times per match. It’s those moments where you’re hunched over, staring at the pitch, and when you take that shot, you stand in sheer joy or agony. I’m sure this all sounds like hyperbole, but the way this game has you on the edge of your seat is quite fascinating, and that’s in large part thanks to how well the atmosphere complements the actual gameplay.
I’ve not been fortunate enough to attend any soccer matches, in the US or in the likes of England, but I’ve been to my fair share of college (American) football games and understand how important fan interaction is,and this year, Fifa nailed it.
The field chants you know and love are all there, and it’s quite easy to tell that Fifa has some of sports’ best game announcers in games in Martin Tyler and Alan Smith. It’s one of the few sports titles where I don’t feel the need to turn the commenters completely off… I’m looking at you Madden.
EA sports has done a great job this year across all of its titles, and the one future that is featured in all of them, in some capacity is the Ultimate team draft. Fifa Ultimate team draft puts a spin on the tried and true Ultimate Team formula. You get to select each player on your squad out of a selection of five choices. The idea is pretty neat as you don’t have to grind Your teams are set for four matches, and your prize is based off of where you finish. But, where Madden plays their cards straightforward, Fifa adds in a twist. Your first FUT draft is free, whereas the subsequent drafts cost 15,000 coins. This idea, at first, felt like a cash grab at its finest, and I pretty much loathed the idea that I had to use in-game coins to even participate. Having said that, it does make the games much more intense. I was much more invested in my teams form than I would have been had it been a free entry. I would, however, like it to be a bit less coins to start, especially in the early portions of the game. Something more akin to a 5-8K entry fee seems to make a bit more sense in the early-game. The prizes are, surprisingly, not that bad. I won three of the four games and won a Gold and Jumbo gold pack. Yes, it’s just as addicting as Ultimate Team, and yes you should definitely give it a shot.
There’s nothing quite like taking your squad against the top draws in the various leagues across the world, and in Fifa 16, you get a nice taste of that with the pre-season tournaments. Work on your tactics, and win a cup before your season even begins. Also added in this year is training. Each week you can train your squad for up to five sessions. While a great idea and a way to see the growth of your team, it’s quite boring. I completely understand the reasoning behind the feature, but I couldn’t imagine doing this for an entire season, let alone a month’s worth of drills. It’s kind of the ugly side of turning a sport into a video game. You want a true to life representation, but for the large majority of us, we just want to fight it out on the pith and not on the training field. Surely you can skip it, but if you’re like me, the completionist in you will take hold. You will ‘waste’ time working on drills when you should be on the real pitch. The final big change of career was the “Story of The Season” feature. It does add a nice touch, and while I only played about half a season, I feel it would be great in subsequent seasons to add a little differentiation from grinding through season after season.
The game looks pretty good, but I feel it should look a little better. It could be me coming from Madden where the camera is a good 10 times closer and makes everything looks great, but it just doesn’t feel that awe-inspiring as I’d hoped it would. It isn’t that the title looks bad, far from it actually. It just won’t have that wow factor when you fire on your console. The broadcast packages are absolutely top of the class here, especially when compared to other sports titles. The BPL and La Liga have been featured in the past, but this year Bundesliga gets some love and gets a true-to-life broadcast package. The mixture between the very realistic broadcast layouts, the stadium atmospheres with a ton of new chants and the almost entirely good commentary, you really get that feel that you are part of the match. Although, things aren’t 100% perfect.
For the most part, animations looks decent, but there are times where things just don’t look right at all. When trying to jog down the ball, my player jockeys leaving me miles away while the ball gets turned the other way. I could use my run (speed boost) button, but it doesn’t seem necessary to use my match stamina if my character would just turn and face the ball. Another niggle that became quite ridiculous was the collision detection would sometimes think I was playing american football. I’d get tapped on the foot and fly in the air as if I was tackled by a cannonball. Again it’s not a deal breaker, but pretty illusion breaking nonetheless. Also, in-game, the framerate was perfectly fine and responsive; the five or so seconds when a match was loading and you do a drill is another story. Finally, while the skill moves are fluid, just basically dribbling looks a bit off. I can’t necessarily say how, but it just doesn’t look as smooth as you’d want it.
I’d be remiss to say that them adding in Women’s football, a collection of National Teams anyway, wasn’t a fantastic idea. It was nice finally seeing women on the pitch, and they do play slightly different than their male counterpart. But, it doesn’t feel that different. Arguably this was their first crack at it, so I’d imagine things will get better.