EA Sports Splits the Sticks
EA Sports has really stepped up their game these past few months by answering to the laundry list of game-specific requests players have demanded from the video game giant. The final quarter of 2015 has been perhaps one of EA’s most innovative and impressive performance in a long time. They’ve managed to take full advantage of the next-generation consoles by delivering both original and inventive games across their entire portfolio. They have also managed to right the ship from last year’s debacle of sport games that felt more like expansion packs rather than completed games. The upward climb started with Madden 16, and recently made it’s way to NHL 16, as they’ve provided more of what gamers wanted and less of what they thought could turn a profit. The good news is that EA Sports has delivered much more value this year than in previous years. The even better news, FIFA 16 is no exception and provides a great title that will have football fans yelling Olé, Olé, Olé from sunup to sundown.
My football fandom most certainly lies in between World Cup seeding and World Cup Final – any other time, I’m just not interested. It’s not that the game isn’t exciting or entertaining, it’s just never been my cup of tea since my sporting landscape has been dominated by just about every classic American sport since I was old enough to walk. With that being said, I’ve always enjoyed playing the FIFA franchise when it pops up every now and again, which essentially makes me a de facto causal fan. However, this year’s version has really captivated my attention and definitely pushed me in the direction of full-on FIFA fan.
After bonding with EA’s newest football title like it was a brand-new puppy, I have to say I’m rather impressed with the game as a whole. I had a blast with my first match, even after two red cards and scrubbing the post nearly half a dozen times. The one touch dribbling was really nice and allowed me to string together a multitude of moves to blow by the defender while the responsive and dynamic passing was a perfect compliment for transitioning the ball into the offensive zone. I wasn’t too fond of the shooting mechanics since I couldn’t help myself from letting the power-bar get too full before unload on the goaltender. Eventually I evened out and managed to hammer home a handful of nice goals from a few different sports on the field.
The intuitive features that EA Sports has been raving about are clearly present with impressive responsive accuracy. A perfectly timed slide tackle is both highly rewarding and can lead to a quick fast break down the other end. AI players transition very well after a turnover and no lag was experienced during my time with the game. This made the match feel much more authentic while providing an opportunity to keep the excitement and momentum going without disrupting the overall flow that’s present within the game of football.
The defensive controls were a bit stagnant for me initially, like the shooting was, but they soon became second nature once I learned how to track the offender and strike with a perfect tackle. If I got beat by the dribbler, which happened more than I would have liked during the first half of my initial game, the defensive set would shift over and the cover the gap left by my broken ankles. I also like that the defense would fall back from the recovery once I scooped up my jock and got back into the defensive play. This took me by total surprise, that the AI is so advanced that the players would shift based on my movements, or lack there of. I felt much more comfortable relying on the computer generated maneuvers of my teammates after my first initial dusting by none other than the cover boy, Lionel Messi. The good news, I found that the more I played the game, the better I become and the more confidence I found myself exhibiting.
The presentation of the game is rather impressive and I was really blown away by the opening sequence of my first match. Everything from the shadows cast by the players from the lights breaking through the night sky, to the fluid movements of the character models, and even the perfectly trimmed grass, made me feel as if I just stepped onto the field of a profession football game. The one aspect that really grabbed my attention was the sheer size and beauty of the over 50 detailed stadiums – EA really got this aspect right in this year’s version. This is clearly conveyed when the camera zooms in on the goalkeeper just before you deliver a strike to your teammates.
After logging a few games, I experience EA’s new attention to detail in the weather patterns offered within the game. The rain simulator made the players and the ball actually feel like we were playing in the rain while the winter flurries gave me the sluggish sense one would expect if they were playing during these conditions. I like that the game provides players with nine separate weather conditions that uniquely impact the player’s ability, and inability, to play. The only issue I had regarding the weather was the lack of detailed contained within the snowfall. For whatever reason the snow flurries looked like they were pulled right out Madden 97 rather than FIFA 16. However, the attention to detail paid to the other 8 conditions, and the fact players might never experience snow within a game, clearly picked up the slack where the snowfall fell short.
The Commentary by Martin Tyler and Alan Smith was surprisingly spot-on and didn’t feel choppy or awkward as it typically does with traditional sports simulators. The duo never annoyed me nor did I feel like their comments were ever out of place. To be honest, the commentary blended perfectly within the background of the gameplay and I only noticed it when sneaking one by the goaltender. Tyler got so pumped when I poked one past the wobbly goaltender that I thought he was going to lose it in the booth. For me, this is exactly how a sport simulator should be commentated – light remarks here and there and then explode into excitement when the goalie gives up a score.
The one disappointing aspect related to the presentation came in the form of the fans surrounding the excellent stadiums. I would have liked to see the fans get a little more rowdy than they did. I tried numerous teams in order to see if one was more or less drunk and crazy than the other, but I was sadly mistaken – they were all about the same temper during the matches, regardless of the action. Yes, some celebrated and even did the wave occasionally, but this is football and I’m looking for some overly inebriated folks, looking to fight at the drop of a hat. I wanted pants-pee, yelling at the top of their lungs-type of fanatics because after all, this is the most wild fan base in all of professional sports.
The goal celebrations are one of the more underrated and satisfying gems found within this year’s title. The manner in which you can gloat after sailing one between the sticks is just plain awesome. Not only can you run around like you’ve just hit the lottery, as most professionals do, but you can actually string together a combination of celebrations. Yes, you can rip a wildly hilarious victory dance that is entirely customizable based on the button combinations you choose. To top it off, EA provides players with a full celebration move list within the pause menu so you can remember your epic performance for when the time is right.
A couple of cool features that I noticed after logging a few matches were the game’s ability to auto adjust the difficultly-level based on how good, or bad, my initial play was. This was really appealing for a guy who hasn’t been seasoned with the franchise and allowed me to start where the game felt I’d be most confortable. The other aspect that I really liked was the ability to practice a wide range of drills while the game was loading up. Rather than mindless wait for the match to boot up, players have the option to quickly sharpen their skills through a randomized set of drills. Players can choose to complete additional drills once the match fully loads or jump right in once their good and ready.
Another really awesome feature of the game was the implementation of the Women’s National Teams. For the first time in FIFA’s long storied history, players will now have the option to shred up the playing field with 12 of the top-ranked Women’s National Teams. EA Sport went all out with this new addition by using top players from the US Women’s National Team as models for their motion capture production. This brought an authentic look and feel to the women teams as I noticed they moved and played much differently than the traditional male characters. The awesome aspect about this offering is that EA allows players to use the Women’s National Teams not only in traditional friendly matches as one would expect, but also in Kick Off, Offline Tournament, and Online Friendly Matches as well.
With so some much more content left to cover in Be a Pro mode, Skills Games, Ultimate Team, and Online play, gamers are definitely going to need to check this one out for themselves. Bottom line, I’m not a huge soccer fan nor have I been following the FIFA franchise as closely as I have with some of EA’s other longstanding titles. However, I’m a knowledge sports fan and all sports seem to share a common bond or at least some common ground when compared with one another. When all was said and done, I truly enjoyed what FIFA 16 brought to the table. Yes, my soccer knowledge is about as good as my knowledge of cricket or astrophysics for that matter, but the game was fun, enjoyable, and provided much more value than the price tag suggest. If FIFA 16 can turn a hardcore fan of hockey into a newly minted fan of football, then you know the game has something special to offer gamers, regardless of their previous experience with the franchise.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.7 Graphics
The game looks awesome from the player models to the refined stadiums but the lack of crowd rendering keeps it from being a perfect 5.0. 5.0 Control
The controls are perfectly designed for newbies and seasoned players alike. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Commentary was spot-on and the overall compositional atmosphere created by the game was a perfect compliment to a solid title. 4.8 Play Value
Lots of replay value contained within this year’s version. If you typically skip out on a year or two of the FIFA franchise, don’t make this one apart of that absent list – you won’t be disappointed. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|