FIFA 16 pales in comparison to PES 2016. The impossible has happened: the king of football games has been dethroned.
Three magic revolutions
Leaving behind PES comparisons for a moment, FIFA 16 is a revolution in the series. Most notable of these changes is that you can now select and play as one of 12 women’s international teams. EA Sports’s implementation of female squads has not been limited to slightly changing the male teams, with women animating and behaving totally differently. This results in matches that are slightly slower and less physical, but also more dynamic, unpredictable, and exciting.
FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) has seen improvements through FUT Draft: a great way to enjoy this mode without having to spending hours in front of a computer creating your team. It provides a random selection of players for each position, helping train newcomers to FUT and offering a more accessible version of the mode for those less interested in the management aspects. You can compete in four increasing difficulties to win gold. Here the micro transactions of FUT become a lesser evil, letting you enjoy its systems without paying real cash.
All of the other modes have also been enhanced with small improvements. For example - in career mode - you can put your created player through training mini-games to improve their stats.
The "Magic Moments" of FIFA 16 are the result of some canny calculations by the developers at EA Sports to adjust the animations, shooting, and physics. When one of these moments occur they replicate the feel of a real game, making you want to stand up clutching your head in amazement. These spectacles are the true strength of FIFA – and the one area where it still feels superior to PES 2016.
With so many improvements, why hasn’t FIFA 16 retained the soccer top-spot? The problems are in the gameplay itself. One key example of this is the pure frustration of trying to retake the ball. Despite all mechanical and tinkering, your best tactic is still just to wait for the attacker to make a mistake on a pass and intercept, rather than trying to make a tackle.
The discomforts accumulate: the automatic selection of players on the pitch is more random than ever, sometimes the players do not take advantage of the plays you create, and the ball seems magnetized to the goalkeepers’ hands.
PES 2016 forces you to use tactics and teamwork, and rewards you for your efforts. FIFA 16 is happy to sacrifice these elements in favor of spectacle and magic. When the magic happens, it feels fantastic. But when the same system results in you losing, seemingly randomly, your joy quickly turns to anger and despair.
What is the result if we compare both games? Well, we prefer PES 2016 (at least on console – currently the PC port of Konami’s offering is awful). It feels better, and your effort equates to success. FIFA 16, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of control because it prioritizes style over skill.
So is FIFA bad? No, not at all. The immersion it creates is excellent, with some amazing player behaviors feeling really natural – like the goalkeeper punching the ball away. When these little flourishes happen they are truly surprising, making you feel like you are playing a real game.
Magic, variety, and immediacy
FIFA 16 is still a great soccer game: women’s teams add variety, FIFA Ultimate Team Draft provides easy access, and the "Magic Moments" are spectacular. So, if variety, immediacy, and spectacle are your priority, FIFA is perfect for you. Now it’s up to EA Sports to once again up their game if they want to stop the gap between FIFA and PES growing further. And I have every faith that they will.