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FIFA games are like an iconic team’s soccer jersey. They’re ubiquitous. They have trademark styling. Supporters wear them as a statement of unwavering loyalty.
And every year, we see a new version of it. Some new touches here. A splash of color there. Maybe a couple of high-tech features to keep things fresh.
But, just like the 2015-2016 Arsenal home kit, the new FIFA is pretty much what you know. And if what you know is what you love, FIFA 16 is pretty great (as reviewed on the Xbox One).
If that’s not the case, then maybe 16 doesn’t have enough to earn a spot in your starting lineup this year.
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What you’ll like
Women deservedly get the spotlight
Finally, women’s teams have made it to FIFA. You can now play as 12 of the most prominent international squads, recreating some of the best matchups from the recent Women’s World Cup.
Playing with Alex Morgan, Marta, and their respective colleagues brings a new dynamic to the typical FIFA experience. Matches feel a little different, primarily in their pacing, which adds a unique twist to the action.
Unfortunately, the women’s involvement is somewhat thin. You can only play with the aforementioned 12 national teams, so that means no clubs. You can set up exhibition matches, along with a mini-tournament, but that’s about it.
Regardless, this is an important and necessary step for the franchise. Let’s hope next year’s release will incorporate an even bigger female presence.
Off-the-ball controls that help the gameplay stay on the ball
FIFA 16 introduces “no touch” dribbling, which adds an extra layer of depth to its already intricate controls. Now, players can move and juke without touching the ball, similar to stars like Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The idea is to fake opponents into thinking you’re going one way while you go in another direction. All you need to do is tap a bumper and nudge the stick where you want to feint.
No touch is cool, and it adds more depth to the gameplay. It’s another useful tool to get past defenders, and I couldn’t help but smirk after pulling off my first few fakes. While the mechanic can be immensely satisfying, I can see it ending up as another interesting concept that EA will simplify and downplay in future FIFAs.
A career of cultivation
Career mode is one of the most enjoyable aspects of FIFA, but it hasn’t changed much in the last few versions. While 16’s new wrinkles are far from revolutionary, having the ability to train every week is a great development.
If you’re following the manager route, you’ll pick five regulars from your team to work out — each doing a different drill. People going for the player career can pick five activities for their lone footballer. You can focus on things like passing, defensive awareness, and so forth. The exercises incorporate the skill-based minigames that have become commonplace in recent FIFA titles.
If you manage your training wisely, you’ll be able to increase the ratings and monetary value of the individuals on your roster (or your single player).
Drafting isn’t just for American football
FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is one of the most popular features in EA’s soccer game. The mode lets players build teams using card packs containing randomized personnel and upgrades. Up to this point, the traditional FUT experience has consisted of starting with a mediocre roster and bolstering it with new packs as you play.
This year’s release introduces the FUT Draft, which gives you the chance to draft a team of soccer all-stars for a series of special matches. You’ll begin by choosing a captain from a group of million-dollar maestros. And for the rest of the positions in your lineup, you’ll have a pretty stellar set of options to choose from.
Just to give you an idea, my first draft resulted in a team that included the likes of Ronaldo, David Luiz, Alexis Sánchez, and Thomas Müller.
I like this mode, but it just feels like a streamlined way to play FUT. Also, I’m not a fan of the high price to play. I had an entry token to start with, but each subsequent draft will cost 15,000 coins or 300 FIFA points to enter. To be clear, you can grind your way to enough coins without having to use any real-world money, but I’d rather not have to spend all that time and currency to enjoy this mode.
It’s worth noting, though, that if you do well with your FUT Draft team, you’ll earn some pretty decent rewards. So, you do get some return for the cost of entry — along with the fun of roleplaying as a wealthy, wildly irresponsible owner.