Fifa 16: Fantasy dialled down but a slow-poke Ronaldo? Women's mode proves bittersweet

Watch Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Alex Morgan, Kobe Bryant and Pele play beautiful football in the official FIFA 16 TV commercial.EA SPORTS FIFA

A huge aspect of video gaming is allowing one to do things that would get you killed in reality.

We drive at top speeds and weave dangerously through traffic in racing simulators. Gun down soldiers, aliens and assorted enemies in first-person shooters.

Choose from a variety of alternate lives, from modern day assassin to medieval mage, on any number of role-playing games out there. Want a mix of everything? The Grand Theft Auto series is just the thing for you.

But what is the draw of sports video games like Fifa?

There's really nothing stopping a bunch of people from kicking an actual ball around an actual field for an actual game (except for the prolonged spell of haze enveloping Singapore and the South-east Asia region now).

The answer, of course, is fantasy.

Football fans want to lead their favourite teams they watch regularly on television, to win league and European titles under their charge.

They want to control football stars and score breathtaking goals boasting finesse and athleticism that they could never hope to perform at a Sunday kick-about.

But Fifa 16 has made it much more difficult for the casual gamer to pick up the controller and immediately feel like he's a footballing god.


The effectiveness of pace has been dialled down drastically from its predecessor Fifa 15.

This renders the most basic tactic of using a fast striker to outrun a flat-footed defence almost impossible to pull off.

Instead, Fifa 16 rewards patient, possession football.

Stringing endless safe passes and even retreating from the attacking third back to your own penalty box is not out of order, which come to think of it, resembles actual football these days.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against tiki-taka play and admire the well-worked execution of a passing game.

If anything, goals are more satisfying as they take immense build-ups to score now.

The days of me using Real Madrid in Fifa 15, playing a through-ball to the wings for either Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale to gallop onto and then slam into the net, are over.


But it is one thing for the game to de-emphasise pace. It is another if Ronaldo, Bale, Arjen Robben, or any other grease-lightning player you can think of has trouble out-sprinting even the most ordinary of defenders.

I suspect the developers were trying for a more realistic representation of the game, but in doing so, they ironically created an unrealistic world where Memphis Depay can be caught by Per Mertesacker even when the winger has more than a yard of a headstart.


However, Fifa 16 continues to excel in presenting an immersive environment for those who want to imagine they are in charge of teams like Manchester United, Juventus, or Bayern Munich, just to name a few of the countless clubs available to choose from.

The stadiums, kitwear, player likeness, and even the unique ways big names such as Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas dribble are all impeccably replicated.

It continues to hold an overwhelming edge over its competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer, in this aspect and so will continue to draw those who find such presentation a key part of their enjoyment of the game.

The game has also added the option of selecting pre-season warm-up competitions in campaign mode. Taking part and winning those adds cash to your transfer kitty, another nice touch to up the realism of the experience.

In-game commentary, however, is still a slight disappointment.

Tired phrases that have been overly used in past renditions of the game continue to ring out in Fifa 16.

I would probably be able to buy a new PlayStation if I got a dollar every time I heard that my team "has the lead, but is not quite believing" in itself. But this is just a minor irritant that only dulls the slickness of the game slightly.


Much has also been made about the addition of women's international teams in this year's version right after the Women's World Cup was held.

It is certainly a breath of fresh air to be playing as the world champion US team, instead of a relative minnow in the international game.

The move has been hailed as a huge step forward in terms of recognition for the women's game, but I wonder if it has also been an own goal in terms of how the women footballers have been represented.

While their appearances have been as accurately rendered as their male counterparts, they have an awfully heavy first touch, wildly inaccurate shooting, and generally seem to lack the ability to play exciting football.

ST's Tech deputy editor Trevor Tan gives his quick verdict:

"The perennial complaint about Fifa's football simulation series has always been its so-called lack of realism. In last year's version, Fifa 15, all you needed were speedy players to outrun the opposition and score.

"Try that on Fifa 16, and you find your speedy players being either dispossessed or tackled before they can even sprint. You will find yourself having trouble trying to get past a midfield flooded with opposition god-like accurate tackles and interceptions.

"Yet the opposition cuts your defence like a hot knife through butter, with a simple through pass, or will avoid your tackles as if your defenders are not there.

"You also need to string more precise passes, find pockets of space to exploit and take advantage of the few chances you have to score.

"In short, Fifa 16 has become more like Pro Evolution Soccer."