Speaking bluntly, FIFA 15 was a disappointment, and in many respects. EA Sports introduced many changes after FIFA 14, and the transition was harder than expected, hampering crucial gameplay elements, and ultimately forming an inconsistent football experience. It was a game that quickly swung between being very good and then really bad, mostly due to a selection of bugs and some hastily implemented mechanics.
FIFA 16 promises to be better. In fact, if EA wants to keep competing with the much improved PES 2016, it has no choice but to up its game. Early on EA Sports made it clear that this year's goal was to improve the game that they created last year, and the new playable demo has made that even clearer. A few games were enough to realise that all gaming areas have evolved, and that the football experience it provides is much more solid and cohesive than last year - even if we're still not sure how this will feel after extended play.
The big news regarding FIFA 16, at least in terms of marketing, is the introduction of the long demanded (especially in the USA) women's game. Only twelve women's football national teams will be present in the final version, and they can only play each other, but the playable demo already includes two teams - Germany and USA - allowing us to get an idea of how it will be to play with female athletes. We liked what we played. EA Sports made a decent effort to represent this side of football, with individual modelling for the players and a mountain of specific new animations. In terms of actual gameplay, the flow seems a bit slower then the male counterpart, but it largely plays the same, albeit with different animations.
The overall pass system works better than last year, and it seems easier to deliver the ball to the desired player, but the big news is what EA calls "passing with purpose." This is an entirely new function which can be triggered with the R1 and X (PS4), and it basically allows you to execute stronger passes. It's a good way to try and pass through unwary opponents, or to change flanks with less chance of the ball being intercepted. You need to be careful though, as theses passes can be hard to control properly if they are done in close proximity.
One of the major complaints about FIFA in recent years, and specifically FIFA 15, is related to the defensive system. Defending in last year's edition was a nightmare, and many plays ended with cuts inside the box, wide shots, or actual goals, because it was just too difficult to take the ball. All the defensive systems have been refurbished in coins FIFA 16
, and defending is again a satisfactory and effective task. Players position themselves better, have greater reach when tackling, anticipate more effectively, and can even simulate a tackle. Defensive actions have improved a lot, not only in terms of controls, but also due to team behaviour.
The AI, particularly in the higher difficulties, is a hard nut to crack. The teams close up well, there is great mutual assistance between the midfield, and they effectively pressure the ball carrier. You will need a lot of patience, to pay close attention, and have a dash of luck if you're going to overcome a good defence in FIFA 16. This was also one of the main problems we found in the demo. It's just too difficult. Not in the sense that you will be thrashed by your opponents, or even lose games. What's difficult in FIFA 16 is actually playing good football.