The unenviable question I am tasked to answer in this review is whether or not EA have developed a game that it is more successful than its predecessor. I suppose that I answer this question around this time annually, and I also concede that it is probably a question associated to most games, but this year is a little different. The difference is that last year I thoroughly enjoyed FIFA 15 (it was my favourite since FIFA 10) and I have been playing it since its release. In fact, I was loathe to see what FIFA 16 was about, particularly because I thought the previous title possessed the balance required for us football hooligans and especially because I didn’t want to ruin something that was so good.

The things that haven’t significantly changed in FIFA 16 include the graphics – which are already impressive, the overall setup and the presentation, but these are areas we didn’t expect much improvement in any case. Although it would be refreshing for EA to introduce a more user friendly interface, the current one “will do” and as such any complaining in this regard would likely be considered as unnecessary. Something that did strike me right away was that many of the in game players, especially the newer “unknowns” as it were, did not look anything similar to their real life counterparts. This was evident from their facial structure and hairstyles, to their skin tones and general physique. While this may be something that doesn’t affect the actual gameplay, it is something that effects the experience as a whole. I am not intimating that EA should have every AI doppelganger look exactly like their real life counterparts, but you would expect a lot more effort to be placed on developing players from the world’s biggest football clubs. After all, this is a fantasy game and I do not feel fascinated when half of my team don’t resemble the idols I am aspiring to emulate.

EA have spent much of their development on figuring out differing ways to rebuild the AI- mechanics of FIFA and to truly create a single and multi-player experience that inspires realism. By realism here I am talking about nothing other than the dynamics of a football match and how these dynamics change given different factors and styles of play. This would be nirvana for a footy fan, where the balance is captured in a way that truly represents the game they love. EA have given the AI yet more intellect in 16, across all difficulty levels, and there has been a drive toward more proactive gameplay where players are closed down more quickly, AI moves more intelligently and tackles are made without having to try and control every player on the pitch. This is a double edged sword though, as the AI is improved from both sides and your opponent will have all the same advantages as you. For example, it may be easier to locate a pass because the clever AI Wayne Rooney has moved into a pocket of space but it may be difficult to execute or keep possession because the clever AI opponent has support from other on-field AI players. I loved this. The midfield is a lot more dynamic and the days of cheap through balls seem to have been done away with. No longer can we just play up and down the pitch and considerations must be made in respect of different angled passes and smart runs. Most of this is focused on the centre of the pitch as opponents seem to have more guile on the ball than before. I would advise strongly, depending on what difficulty level you are playing on, to be more cautious in possession and value having the ball. Never before have had I found it so tricky, and sometimes frustrating to get possession. I am used to dominating these stats but this has all changed and this lends itself to more realistic and well thought out gameplay. I suppose this is a combination of better passing and tackling mechanics and is a true win for the franchise. Timing is thus essential in succeeding and splitting open teams, with a methodical build up often being more rewarding. This authenticity extends, as before, to the weight of passes and the direction and concludes in something gamers should love.

Although there aren’t any drastic changes in the game modes, there have been welcome surprises to whet one’s appetite. Much emphasis has been put into new training for the career modes and allows players to take on an array of never seen before drills to fully grasp the game. This combines well with player growth and is a fun “mini game” type aspect, especially considering the diversity offered in FIFA 16. Ultimate Team is still a big part of what makes FIFA so attractive and a regularly committed player will be given due reward. Briefly, Ultimate Team is a combination of conventional FIFA and a card collection game where players manage and develop fantasy teams with players from around the globe. To further impress on this idea, EA have created a mode known as Draft Mode which allows gamers to pick the best of the best players instead of spending hours developing a team as in the normal Ultimate Team mode. This gives the less serious, or more impatient, fans something to enjoy and all matches come with special rewards, including coins and packs. This requires less input for more output and is yet another innovation that EA have come up with to keep its fans smiling and to allow us to experience what an ultimate team could truly look like.

For the newbies, there is an advantage with the new “built in trainer” which surrounds the player on the ball and gives prompts depending on what situation a player finds himself or herself in. This can be switched on and off at will and is a caring thought for those picking up their first FIFA. Combine this with the diversity of new training drills and we can have a newbie become a Cantona within a few hours. Commentary is the usual stuff – impressive for a while, thereafter the inconsistent and ill-timed comments become background noise. Finally, and most definitely not least, is the inclusion of women’s football. Although it only includes the bigger national women’s teams it is a step in the right direction for EA, and the football world generally. Football is the largest sport in the world and room needs to be made for everyone who finds passion in the beautiful game. Thanks to EA, FIFA just got a whole lot more beautiful (sorry I had to).

Overall then, I am impressed and I’m glad that I decided to play 16. The realism is most certainly there and although the fluidity is not as good as its predecessor, this often comes with practice and patience. The only worrying thing that may shed tears over at EA is that their only true competitor is back with a vengeance and has truly taken the fight by the scruff. That’s right – Pro Evolution Soccer seems to have turned a corner it has been hiding behind during recent times. For the first time in many years I wouldn’t mind which game I played and I think that both are stunning, but the worry for EA will be how to invigorate the series to stand atop the podium once more as the true number one football simulator in the world. Now though, I couldn’t tell you which I prefer but I can tell you that 16 is awesome and quite probably the more widely favoured given a choice. This game will take up many hours in the build up to watching live games and I can happily place 15 away knowing that it did itself justice, something that 16 will do too.

FIFA 16 Rating: 8/10

Check out the FIFA 16 website: FIFA 16

Nicholas Holt – PS3 Games Writer | About me – Scared of Batman, Parktown Prawns and Vanilla Ice-cream. Dream Wingman: Mahatma Gandhi. Studying: Bcom Law at WITS.