FIFA 16 Review: Defense Wins Championships and Annoys People
FIFA 16 might be the most realistic soccer experience the franchise has offered, but that might not be a good thing. FIFA 16 proves defense doesn't always win.
It’s hard to deny that soccer is becoming more and more popular in the United States. It has long been the king of sports in the rest of the world, but now Americans are finally starting to embrace the game that has kids around the world setting up empty garbage cans in the street to use as makeshift goals. The question is: What took so long?
One of the main complaints Americans have always lobbed at the sport of soccer also happens to be one of the main complaints with FIFA 16: It’s too defensive minded. Of the many things that soccer fans around the world love about their cherished game, perhaps the foremost is the suspense. Sure, many games end with a score of 1-0 or, even worse, 1-1, but it’s the constant back and forth struggle that makes every goal that much more satisfying. This style, while pleasing to many in a live sports format, may not translate as well to the video game world.
New Features – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
One of the key additions to FIFA 16 is the ability of talented players to handle the ball without actually handling the ball. Yes, no touch dribbling is a game mechanic that allows players to do what the greats often do and use their body as much as the ball to gain a positioning advantage on the opponent. Utilizing it is fairly simple, and for anyone familiar with deking in the NHL franchise, the concepts are very similar.
FIFA 16 has also introduced some changes to slide tackling. Longtime fans of FIFA are used to every slide tackle being successful. This time around, however, it is possible for the offensive player to evade a slide tackle with some slick maneuvering. This and the aforementioned no touch dribbling are nice weapons to have in one’s arsenal when trying to solve the game’s new defensive riddles.
The changes to the defense, as mentioned, really slow down the gameplay and give the game a more realistic feel. While a “realistic feel” would be considered a positive thing in a lot of sports games, there are just enough flaws with these changes to make them more of an irritant than a quality addition to the game. For example, the defensive AI now has the ability to anticipate a pass, cut into the passing lane, and intercept it with a competence never before seen in a FIFA game.
This wouldn’t be such a negative thing if the offensive AI, your teammates, shared that same competency. Instead, your teammate will sit there and watch as the ball is intercepted by the defense like Ryan Tannehill’s teammates do when he’s throwing against the practice squad (sorry, I’m more qualified to make NFL jokes than FIFA jokes). This can get pretty frustrating.
Another defensive-minded change is the ability the defenders have to find something deep within themselves that allows them to achieve superhuman speed and therefore interrupt me when I’m blazing down the field with Lionel Messi on my way to what should be an easy breakaway goal. In other words, having a step on your opponent is no longer the advantage it once was. Even controlling some of the fastest players in the game while breaking down the field does not guarantee that some Johnny-Come-Lately won’t swoop down and slide tackle the ball away from you. I understand EA’s desire to accentuate defense, but it often seems unnatural how quickly some of the defenders can close the distance.
If you were paying attention to the display image in this article, you may have noticed something that is unfortunately almost unheard of in the world of sports gaming. Yes, that is a woman (gasp!). And not just any woman, that is the supremely talented Alex Morgan who helped lead the U.S. Women’s National Team to a World Cup victory earlier this year. With the exception of my girl Ronda Rousey (I call her ‘my girl’, but there’s a decent chance she would see it differently) and the rest of the UFC female bantamweights in EA’s UFC game, we really haven’t seen any kind of female presence in sports games.
FIFA 16 has broken new ground with the addition of female national teams to the game. Despite the fact that the commentary can sometimes be construed as slightly condescending during the women’s matches, a kudos to EA is in order here. This is no small deal either. There are millions of young girls out there playing sports who look up to these female athletes. It’s nice that they can now play as them in FIFA 16. Let’s hope we see more of this from sports games in the future.
The Verdict – True to Life: Not Always a Good Thing
FIFA 16 is by no means a disaster. The game is absolutely stunning visually and even gameplay has moments of brilliance that harken back to previous installments of the franchise. That’s part of the problem, though. FIFA 15 was beloved by many due to its wide open style of gameplay. It was truly an offensive juggernaut. And while it may seem like an insult to the sport to say this, FIFA 16 is a more accurate reflection of what the sport of soccer really is.
It’s a strategic sport — a game of chess being played between 22 players on a huge grass field. FIFA 16 captures that feeling better than any installment in franchise history. The problem is, chess is not incredibly popular among today’s video game crowd. We see series such as Call of Duty becoming more high-flying every year and far less strategic. In the sports world, we see leagues like the NFL constantly tweaking the rules in favor of the offense so the fans will see more scoring. Perhaps this is a product of a generation’s constant overexposure to various stimuli.
Whatever the case, if you’re a soccer fan for the suspense and strategy, you better be prepared to play FIFA 16 for the same reason because while patience may be a virtue, even those of us who enjoy a slowed down, strategic experience will have a tough time sinking our teeth into this year’s installment.