I firmly believe that FIFA peaked with FIFA 14. Minor issues aside, it was more realistic to the style of real life football; the game is genuinely balanced between the glorious sport and what makes a good video game. Unfortunately in comparison, FIFA 15 and 16 are anything but. Some teams in the game will undoubtedly be better than others, and the game should reflect that. Instead, this year’s instalment has been particularly poor. From the general gameplay to Career Mode, how can you fix FIFA 16?
Passing in the game seems like a lottery; a simple five-yard pass to your teammate sideways to control possession seems impossible, but a fifty or sixty yard over the top ball to cut open a defence seems too easy. And then we move onto the CPU. They seem to be able to pass the ball like Spain 2012, and regardless of whether you are playing against Barcelona or Barnet, they monopolise possession like an angry hoarder. To an extent, this is realistic. However, watching them knock the ball around their defence when they are losing 2-1 in Career Mode is ridiculous – equally bizarre is the sudden last five minute switch to ‘All Out Attack’ if they are losing 2-0 or above, invariably meaning the score-line gets worse, instead of damage limitation. EA need to revamp the whole possession system, so it rewards you for controlling play in important areas such as the midfield, rather than just endlessly watching as the Centre-Back passes back to his goalkeeper for forty-five minutes.
The ability to make transfers in Career Mode is on paper a great way to trim your squad, to bring in genuine talents, and generally make your team better. The problem is the AI has what is called ‘scripted transfers’ – pretty much set before you start playing. You can ask any FIFA 16 player the transfer most likely to happen, and their response will likely be “David Alaba to Juventus for £45,000,000.” Not only do Juventus not need a Left Back in game (they already have the capable Alex Sandro and Martin Caceres), it basically renders the player impossible to sign for a while. What is even worse is that some transferred players never seem to play for their new team – Manchester City signed Karim Benzema to sit on their bench for two seasons in one of my careers! If a team signs a world class player, or a player better than what they already have, surely it isn’t too much for the AI to fit them into the system? Equally, the AI could be significantly improved with multiple tactical formations and team-sheets, so predicting line-ups becomes more difficult.
Finally, we come to youth players. For those who don’t know, you can have a youth academy in FIFA to develop your young stars up so they can become first team players. This was a great idea, and kudos to EA for listening to the fanbase on this one. However, in practice, the system is stunted. Youth players have scrambled attributes – you will get 5ft 5’ Centre Backs and 6ft 5’ Wingers who have 60 pace and low dribbling attributes. Players in your academy can now be trained, which can improve their initial ratings (usually between 50-70, which is not good enough for most teams), but this stunts their physical growth for absolutely no reason. For Youth Academies to truly be a key part of Career Mode, we need a realistic growth system which allows you to nurture players physically, technically and mentally to become a true well-rounded world class football star.
With the final few weeks of FIFA 16 among us, and the advent of FIFA 17, only time will tell as to whether we are having this same discussion this time next year.