The only thing soccer fans look forward to more than a new season is the new "FIFA" game.
So many questions emerge. Does it look better? Did they fix the issues I had with last year's version? How's the soundtrack? Is it worth shelling out another $60 for this year's version?
In that order, the answers are yes, some, not great, yes if your budget allows it.
But let's dive into more detail, shall we?
"FIFA 16" is the most beautiful "FIFA" yet.
Player movements are as loose and varied as ever before, and it helps make this year's game look like the best "FIFA" game so far.
Most player faces look even more realistic and recognizable than ever. That said, EA may need to apologize to Memphis DePay and Anthony Martial for botching up their facsimiles in the game. (Who else looks nothing like they do in real life? Tell us in the comments section!)
EA also smoothed out most of last year's game's occasional, yet infuriating, stuttery performance during penalties and free kicks. These are moments when you need to kick the ball at exactly the right time (according to the moving arrow on the screen) by pushing a button, and stuttering animation often led to botched penalties and free kicks. I still saw some stutters during a free kick, though. Which is to say: it's not perfect just yet.
Huge improvements to gameplay
Gameplay is also improved over last year's game.
One of the best things EA added to this year's "FIFA" is the powerful, fast pass when you press controller's right shoulder button. Before "16," players passed like they were having a kickabout in the park. The ball rolled so slowly that making long passes to cut through the midfield was always a bad idea.
There are other nice additions, like getting back up quickly after a slide tackle by pressing the slide tackle button again. And there are new body feints and different types of dribbling that add some new variety in what you can do on the pitch.
EA has also dramatically improved player AI in "FIFA 16." For one, AI players haven't been colliding into each other and collapsing like utter idiots as often as they did in "15." Great!
They're also much smarter defensively all over the pitch. AI player positioning is far better, as they close down space like (most) actual players. Defending players on both sides can also stay more with an attacking player, and you get the slightest assistance from the CPU that keeps the defender you're controlling on an attacking player who slips past you so the gap isn't so wide when he breaks away.
Players also make efforts to intercept the ball, which is another huge improvement over previous generations where players would only intercept if the ball came directly to their feet. While playing "15," I often questioned (cursed at the TV spitting with rage) if players knew they were playing a game of soccer, as they wouldn't make any effort at all to intercept a ball.
Above, my intercepting AI player stays in good position and does a much better job identifying the passing channels.
The defensive AI improvements also apply to the opposing team — it's going to take some adaptation on your part, as getting through defenders is harder than ever.
For example, too often do one of my players autonomously sprint to try and keep a ball in play, even if it was last touched by an opponent's foot. And they often ignore my commands when I try to pull them back using the stick.
Check out the example in the video below — an opposing attacker crosses the ball towards the goal, but as you can see from the yellow X, it's going out of play, which would result in a goal kick for me. But instead of letting the ball go to buy Fifa 16 coins
, Jones rabidly sprints towards the ball to head it out even more than it already is. In the process, he becomes the last one to touch the ball, and the opposition end up with an opponent's threatening corner kick.
And notice Jones is supposedly under the control of the blue player, but despite pulling left on the stick, he's barreling right. It's exasperating. There are still times when EA decides it's best for the CPU to take over the controls entirely, and it's plain wrong.
There was an odd instance/glitch when one of my defensive players decided to stay in a forward position. He simply wouldn't get back to his defensive position, and I'm absolutely certain all my tactics and settings were set to the default settings. It only happened once, but it was odd.
It's a big update
EA's also made a ton of new additions to this year's "FIFA" game.
Of course, I tried out the new women's international teams, and it was every bit as fun, intense, and emotional as playing "FIFA" with the usual men's team. Fans of women's soccer will be utterly thrilled with this addition to "FIFA" games.
It's also added the "FIFA Trainer" option, where a large circle surrounds your player and suggestions for your next move floats above them. It's meant to help and ease beginners into the complexity of "FIFA" gameplay.
In career mode, you can play in new pre-season tournaments that let you break your new team into a new season. You can individually train up individual player attributes between matches to improve their performance, and it's also great for training up your youth team.
The franchise's most popular game mode, "FIFA Ultimate Team" (FUT), has a new Draft mode where you can fill out positions from a draft of five players. There are four matches in the Draft season, and you win better and better prizes the more you win.
Inevitably, some negatives still linger.
EA confusingly continues to leave out some practice features in the "FIFA" games that are crucial for learning and testing new tricks, tactics, formations, set-pieces, and general gameplay.
Instead, we can only practice one-on-one with a goal keeper in the third-person pro mode, which makes little sense. "FIFA" is mostly played from a television broadcast's point of view, so it's inexplicable why anyone would practice from a third-person point of view.
It's only good for practicing skill moves. And even then, if you perfect the joystick movements for a skill move in the third-person practice arena, you have to adjust the direction the joystick movements when you play regular game in the broadcast point of view.