In what is a rarity of sports games of the past several years, we have some choices when it comes to soccer titles. Unlike football, hockey and baseball, the consumer has a choice when it comes to picking their annual soccer game purchase (but honestly does NBA Live count as competition?). Having some good old fashion competition, in my opinion, really brings out the best of both products. It sometimes feels like this is the only way to avoid marginal game improvements on annual titles. FIFA 16 thankfully steps up its game to compete with Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (PES 2016).
As I stated in my PES 2016 review, I am not a huge soccer fan. I absolutely enjoy playing the games, but they aren't titles I need to necessarily pick up every year. So as someone that plays soccer titles a bit more casually, my review should be taken under that context.
Right after you load up FIFA 16 you are immediately thrust into a game. No menus, no picking sides, just go. As someone who plays most sports titles I wasn't very concerned that I could pick up the controls. Regardless of this, I was pleasantly surprised with a button layout overlay that comes up next to your player as you play the game. These overlays change based off of the situation you are currently in and are non-obstructive. After playing a bit with the overlay I couldn't help but think how PES 2016 could have benefited from a similar interface. Both games generally don't have difficult controls, but it is easy to confuse the two games' control schemes and this made it easier to remember which buttons did what.
Something I mentioned with PES 2016 that seems to have garnered some criticism was the licensing of teams in certain leagues. It appears that EA Sports made sure to line the right pockets (like they usually do) because they have the franchises that are not included in PES 2016. Not only that, but they also have the international women's teams for the first time. I really enjoyed playing some matches with the women. The games felt like they were kicked up a notch. The women are a lot faster than their male counterparts and the match-ups felt a lot more offensive and scoring heavy.
Another new feature added to this season's title is FIFA Ultimate Team Draft. I was expecting this mode to be nearly identical to the Draft Champions mode that was introduced in this year's Madden (which I really like) and it is...mostly. For those that aren't familiar with the mode, FIFA Ultimate Team Draft is essentially a sports fantasy draft mixed with Ultimate Team mode. Where the FIFA iteration differs from Madden, is that it requires you to use in game currency to play this mode (ohhhh no I can't escape the microtransactions). You play a series of four games or until you lose. Once you're finished you receive prizes depending on how you place within the four games. I played Draft, won all four games and received two gold packs to use for my Ultimate team. I like the concept of receiving rewards in Draft mode that can be utilized for my Ultimate Team.
The microtransaction portion of Ultimate Team mode has always bothered me, not only in FIFA but all of the EA Sports titles and this takes it to the next level. Outside of being given one free credit to Ultimate Team Draft, you will need to spend 15,000 Fut 16 coins or 300 FIFA Points.
The coins can be earned in game (as well as with real currency) but will definitely take some time, while the FIFA Points can only be obtained with real cash. So if you would like to play this mode frequently you most likely will have to pony up. Based off of my play with Ultimate Team Draft, I earned two different gold level packs of cards. The cost of which would not equal the cost of 15,000 Fifa 16 coins to enter the draft had I just purchased them separately.
One of the biggest problems I had with FIFA 16 I eluded to in my PES 2016 review. The A.I. controlling my teammates never felt like they were trying as hard as I was to win. I changed strategy settings to make them more attack heavy or more defensive and they all still seemed to act the same. If I wanted to get a steal or stop a shot, I had to take control of the closest player and do it myself. I enjoy being in control over the whole team, but I would still like the A.I. players to do their jobs. If the other team is moving downfield with the ball, don't just stand there, make a play on the ball!
Another shortcoming was in the commentary department. I did notice some commentary adjustments depending on how many goals a particular player scored and if the game was a blowout. Outside of those and a couple other stand outs, the commentary was mostly forgettable, repetitive and boring. I would put the commentary in FIFA 16 on equal footing with PES 2016. Sports titles across the board still have a long way to go in getting commentary right.
FIFA 16 might take second place to PES 2016 this season, but that doesn't mean it's not a great game. EA Sports usually sticks with the “if it's not broke, don't fix it,” but with the soccer genre they have some serious competition. They're challenged with tweaking and enhancing the game to keep up with PES 2016. While the game plays very well, it's just not as true of a simulation as PES 2016 felt, in my opinion. If you're a fan of the franchise I still think FIFA 16 is a solid purchase, especially with the addition of the women's international teams which it has the exclusive on this season.