What you won’t like

FIFA Trainer isn’t ready to leave the practice pitch

One of the first things you’ll notice when playing 16 is the new FIFA Trainer feature. With the click of a stick, you can now toggle a simple overlay next to your player, which gives contextual gameplay tips. These include button prompts for simple maneuvers like shooting, tackling, and performing clearances. The Trainer is supposed to automatically level up based on your performance, dishing out more complex tricks if you prove your ability.

The new FIFA Trainer is an interesting idea, but it needs more work.

Above: The new FIFA Trainer is an interesting idea, but it needs more work.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

This is a good idea in theory, but the execution needs significant improvement. The overlays were more distracting than helpful, and the auto-leveling doesn’t work well. I found myself having to manually set the Trainer’s levels to guarantee I’d get the advanced tips.

While I see the benefit for beginners, it could also make the game seem more daunting.

Ignite is losing its spark

EA touted its versatile new Ignite game engine when the current generation of consoles came out a couple of years ago. Even then, I was skeptical about the advancements it brought to FIFA’s visuals. Now, I’m just disappointed.

When compared to Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), FIFA is starting to look dated. The player models haven’t changed much. They still have a plastic patina that makes them less like flesh-and-blood humans and more like action figures. Hair is even worse, with most players sporting cuts from a vanilla catalog of styles.

While many stars received the fancy 3D-scan treatment, leading to realistic facial representations on their digital doppelgangers, the footballers who didn’t get that personalized care come across like generic create-a-players. Just take a gander at recent blockbuster Liverpool signing Roberto Firmino. Or don’t — because you won’t even recognize him.

FIFA’s crowd tech was decent a couple of years ago, but I want to see more — not just interchangeable templates. I’m tired of the flags and banners with logos and names. I want something authentic … something awe inspiring.

I want to see Dortmund’s Yellow Wall. Not a generic mosaic.

Gimmicks disguised as features

Every year, FIFA touts things that are “enhanced.” One year it was goalkeepers. The next year, it was ball physics. This year, we have defense. These enhancements come in the form of improved tackling, team support, and interception intelligence.

While I’m all for tirelessly tweaking to achieve that perfect balance, a lot of these adjustments end up going overboard. The aforementioned interception intelligence is a great example. I don’t remember players having an almost supernatural ability to predict ball trajectories in previous years. This time around, though, I’ve seen defenders turn into the Amazing Kreskin on a regular basis, magically predicting and preventing my through balls with scary regularity.

Yeah, soccer is like that. Many passes don’t find their intended recipients, but a lot of this stuff doesn’t feel organic or natural. And this is a common consequence of yearly releases. Sometimes, settings get dialed up a little too much, messing with the overall flow. It happened with the heroic goalies before (which never really got fixed). Now, we’re getting it with the precognitive defenders.

Conclusion

The inclusion of women’s soccer is a defining achievement for FIFA 16. And we should celebrate it.

But, I don’t understand how EA thinks a half-baked Trainer mechanic, no-touch dribbling, some Ultimate Team additions, fog (yes, fog), German Bundesliga graphics, and a few other gameplay tweaks are enough to counter what Konami is doing.

The German Bundesliga now has custom overlays, just like the English Premier League. But is that enough?

Above: The German Bundesliga now has custom overlays, just like the English Premier League. But is that enough?

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

Without a doubt, FIFA 16 provides countless hours of fun football. Any soccer fan will find tons to enjoy here. After all, this game is your mom’s mac and cheese. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable.

And that’s the problem.

If EA’s golden-booted goose keeps following this back-of-the-box approach, where it only cares about adding more bullet points to its tried-and-true core, PES might take back the throne as king of virtual football.

Like a war-weathered Snake on an operating table, Konami ripped PES apart and rebuilt it in the Fox Engine. It still has some demons, but it’s fighting them head-on. What matters is that the developers took risks to make their game better.

EA knows what it takes to do this — because that’s how it made FIFA great again just a few seasons ago.

It’s time to tap back into that innovation.

Score: 75/100

FIFA 16 is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC. The publisher provided GamesBeat with an Xbox One code of the game for review purposes.

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