Another year, another season, another Fifa.
The trouble with an annulaised franchise like this is finding enough changes to justify the release. Sure players get moved and rosters updated, but it must be hard to keep pushing the boundaries year after year. While there are changes deep seated in the gameplay that fanatics would pick up on and the big fanfare over women players being included – is there enough?
In recent years FIfa has been a slickly presented package and has also been streets ahead of the competition in terms of presentation. Often providing some of the best front-end and user interfaces seen on consoles, there have been years when the presentation rivalled a Sky Sports TV spot which made the whole experience really ‘feel’ like engaging mainstream soccer. This year however, out of the box Fifa has gone for the popular Tile style of presentation, while being slick and functional it loses some of the web/TV razamatazz that previous versons offered. The information is still there, real world news clips, updates and an orgy of menu options, but it just doesn’t grab.
Once inside the usual stack of game modes are on offer, a variety of league and competition modes both with teamplay or management styles of gameplay, the always enjoyable ‘Be a Pro’ and the cash cow of Fifa Ultimate Team. FUT is the drawcard for the game these days and microtansactions are seemingly the way forward. The mode is a twist on classic Fantasy Football, but allowing the player to spend real cash to spend in-game currency and tweak their team. All well and good if that’s your thing, but when you just want to play a few games casually this isn’t the way to play.
Be A Pro still stands head and shoulders above as the football experience, playing as a single player offline or online makes for great games, feeling the responsibility every time a co-op teammate gives you the ball is a buzz. Gameplay wise the scoring seems a bit harsh by the way it monitors your postional play, but that can soon be remedied by knocking in a few out of position goals.
The big buzz this year was for the inclusion of women teams, while this may be long overdue it doesn’t particularly add a whole lot of depth. The Women’s national teams and competition offerings are limited, although because of their animation and stats the ladies do require a more tactical gameplay style. Will they be back next year? Not sure, but hats off to EA for giving them a run out however late in the day.
While the controls and feel of the game may have enjoyed some sublime tweaks one of the most obvious additions is a tutor mode, by clicking the left stick the game add some handy control aids over your player. Showing where passes will go, dynamically which buttons perform what actions as the situations change. Fifa diehards will turn it off immediately, but it is useful for new or rusty players.
Also making a welcome return from the last couple of years are the training drills that load up pre-match. Designed to enhance your skills in all areas of the pitch whether it be shooting, free-kicks, passing and fast dribbling. These mini-games are often fun, valuable learning tools and are quite addictive, often the player will have ‘one more go’ even though the match is ready to play. Natuarlly the challenges are also scored versus your friends and it is always a joy to knock someone off the top of their free-kick perch by slotting home a few etxra banana shots.
Overall, Fifa 16 is a slick package as expected, it clear does exactly what it says on the tin, but you have to ask: are the boundaries changing enough – have we finally seen the end of an annual full retail release? Obviously not, but maybe its time to review the model, because as it stands for a casual player there isn’t really enough to keep me excited and I’m probably going to go back to Fifa 15 purely as a matter of taste.