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FIFA 16 Impressions: Reworking The Beautiful Game

The FIFA series has had a long standing reputation for being one of the best soccer games around, featuring realistic physics and lifelike recreations of international players. FIFA 16 looks to step things up to another level this year by reworking nearly all aspects of the game. The developers looked at every system to find ways to innovate across the board.

One of the biggest additions include the Women's National Teams. Twelve international women's teams will be added to the roster, with players like Alex Morgan taking to the field. The inclusion of women's teams required all new animations, body types, and hair physics, but it's worth it for a feature that has been long overdue.

As for the rest of the game, this year's primary focus is on ensuring that the game is more balanced. Last year's release put too much emphasis on attacking, so FIFA 16 will round things out with improved defensive moves and midfield play. More importantly, novice players won't be left in the cold. Practically all the EA Sports games this year appear to be dispensing with the generic tutorial in favor of an in-game trainer. With so much to learn in sports like soccer, it's far better to learn through playing than to sit through some lengthy tutorial.

Actions will appear over the character's heads teaching you basic move like passing, crossing, and shooting. The main problem I've seen with the trainer so far is that sometimes the sport moves faster than the trainer can teach. For example, an icon will pop up for a passing opportunity, but by the time it fully registered in my brain, the moment was gone. Still, an in-game trainer feels like a nice, organic, way to learn. I would just need more time to get used to reacting to the prompts.

The characters themselves are also getting major upgrades, from their animations to their AI. On field players used to be slow to react to threats and fast characters. Now, they're more agile and can respond better to a game's changing dynamics. One example is with the slide tackle. In previous games, there was no breaking out of a slide tackle once a player committed to it, even if it missed. A precious second was wasted watching the animation play out, which isn't natural. Now, hitting the slide tackle button again will make the player pop back up again to stay in the game.

Player AI has also been reworked to respond better to incoming threats. In previous games, marking an opponent meant all the focus was fixated on him, even when another player threatened to break through the defenses. The new AI will do a better job in recognizing and prioritizing threats, and will take better initiative for breaking away from marked players. That goes for controlled player's focus too. Midfield players will also work more aggressively to try to take the ball.
Other improvements include work on interception and passing. FIFA 16 will feature "passing with purpose," which allows players to ping a ball fast enough to bypass nearby opponents. Even the dribbling is getting some new moves. The game will introduce "no touch" dribbling, which is essentially a means of faking out opponents with a light tap, skip, and a sudden attack in a different direction.

Lastly, shooting is getting some significant attention. There's a lot more focus on how the foot makes contact with the ball for more dynamic movement. In last year's game, the ball ended up being kind of floaty and unnatural. Now, it's going to be a much more driven ball. Players can really get their foot wrapped around the ball for a nice curve or to add more spin.

Changes to the core dynamics should make for a smoother, more natural feeling game. It should also, hopefully, decrease some of the rage felt against AI teammates. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try out the recently announce Fut Draft fantasy soccer mode, but that's ok, since I'm still in the rookie training phase of my virtual soccer career.

Players will be able to enjoy The Beautiful Game more than ever with FIFA 16 releases on September 22nd for PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 3.

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