There are two things about the FIFA 16 demo which, if the release build doesn’t screw up and revert them, might be enough to make this a no-questions-asked upgrade over FIFA 15. They’re not even new features, just a pair of idiotic things that should never have infested 15 and (appear) to no longer be present.
First, it seems like you can once again skip all the mid-game cut-scenes with button presses. No more having to watch all the shitty ‘build up’ animations of a guy putting the ball on the spot before a penalty without being able to just hammer through to the actual kick. I could not be happier about this.
Second, sticking the PC version to a locked 60fps actually keeps it at a locked 60fps (except during replays and free kicks/goal kicks, which again remain at 30 for some reason). FIFA 15’s demo and (worse) the full game were plagued by weird stutters unless you messed around with Nvidia software or Radeon Pro and found the secret magical settings to alleviate them.
Seems like you’ll still need to do that stuff to get the goal kicks and so on at 60 (or above), but hey, that’s progress over last year. Weird stutters at the default 60 lock are, apparently, no more. Rejoice.
It’ll still stutter in multiplayer of course, but that’ll be down to EA’s rubbish servers and tendency to connect you to people still using dial-up internet.
The rest of FIFA 16‘s native PC options are easy to explain. They’re identical (in this demo, anyway) to the options in FIFA 15. Resolution (full screen or windowed), a couple of MSAA options, and a high/low graphics render toggle. Plus the 30/60/Unlimited frame-rate options. The ability to disable the Windows Aero Theme is still knocking about, too.
For reference, I’ve been running the demo on an i3-2100 / 8GB / 2GB 7870 machine; at the minimum listed spec for a CPU, but well within recommended for the GPU. Aside from a weird “Bex64“ error that appeared the first time I tried to load it, but then vanished after a restart, performance has been smooth.
Those familiar with the standard FIFA demo process will know it’s futile to read too much into how the game plays at this stage. Like all previous demos, FIFA 16‘s will be an older build than the eventual release version. This is the public release of the demonstration version that’s been knocking around trade shows since at least June. What we end up with in two weeks time will be slightly different, as it was with FIFA 15 (whose demo I actually enjoyed more than the finished version).
In addition to that, the demo is single player only. The more significant problems with FIFA only tend to emerge once players start going head to head.
Still, some things (like the aforementioned ability to skip cut-scenes, and the general PC performance) should stay consistent. Though I’m more confident about the former than the latter of those two examples.
For the four hours or so that I’ve played the demo, I’ve bounced around between Professional and World Class difficulties. I’m in that awkward single player skill-gap where Professional is much too easy, but World Class tends to kick my arse. Assist-wise, I generally use a mixture of manual and semi-assisted. I’ve not yet played around with the sliders, but eagerly await a decent tweaked set appearing for FIFA 16 once enough people have their hands on the full version.
With all those caveats out of the way, my impressions of the demo are generally pretty positive. Pacey strikers have been reined in, which should help prevent people just burning past defenders, but does make them seem a bit ‘leggy’ and heavy. It’s not the battleships turning circles of FIFA 14; more like the feeling that an invisible leash is holding them back.
That pace reduction means (against the AI at least) having to work harder for space around the edge of the box. You can still outfox the CPU players with dummy shots and stuff, but that’s all to be expected. Especially on Professional.
The left-shoulder button ‘precise dribbling’ ability seems to have vanished (at least, I couldn’t find it mapped elsewhere), now replaced by the ‘no touch’ dribbling. This is where your player is no longer actually touching the ball and just pulling a bunch of body feints to try to get an opponent off-balance. It still feels a bit strange, but there’s potential there for playing various mind-games against other real life players.
While I’m not yet compelled by no touch dribbling, the new driven pass (RB and A on your basic Xbox controller) is fantastic. Possibly too good, to be honest. It’s a prime candidate for abuse and over-use online. Similar to the rapid, low cross into the box (the X, X, X one), it can hammer a hard pass into those wonderful areas of confusion between defender and keeper. Unlike the cross, it tends to be at a player rather than slightly ahead of them. You can also use the driven pass all over the pitch, pinging quick balls through midfield or down the wings.
Speaking of crosses, they feel more reliably dangerous in FIFA 16. I’ve seen more balls played properly ahead of the striker (who actually seems to make an effort to get in position rather than just standing behind the tallest defender he can find, as in 15). Appropriately for this change, goalkeepers now seem much more inclined to leave their line and try to punch the ball away. I wouldn’t say the keepers have universally improved for the better (they still seem dodgy on low, near-post shots), but there are encouraging signs.
Whether this was just chance, I don’t know, but I also didn’t have any instances of players standing gormlessly around and watching a more distant opposing player steal a pass that was trickling towards them. That’s something which started to infuriate me in 15. The interceptions I saw here seemed fair and pretty reasonable (mostly when I’d tried to play a wildly stupid pass).
I spent a little bit of time playing some US-vs-Germany games with the new women’s teams too. Aside from the obviously different mo-capped animations, the game seemed to play pretty much identically. There was some weirdness with some celebration animations where players would appear to still be trying to hug a larger body type and have their arms hovering in the air (see above), but otherwise the women’s matches exhibited the same FIFA 16 improvements found elsewhere in the demo.
Since a large part of FIFA’s appeal is being able to play as ‘your’ team (I say this as someone who spends most of his time in the game getting Oldham Athletic to the Champions League), having the beloved-by-millions US Women’s National Team included in the game makes perfect sense to me.
Oh, and I should also mention that the ref now uses that little can of spray foam to mark out certain free kicks. The markings even remain on the pitch for a bit. Not exactly a marquee feature, but it’s honestly a nice touch.
So here’s the difficult concluding paragraph where I say that FIFA 16‘s demo seems pretty good, but remind everybody that I thought FIFA 15‘s demo was great too. And then the final game turned out pretty differently. If the release build of FIFA 16 is close to this demo version, I’ll wind up pretty happy. For single player, at least, it seems like a small but significant jump from the last version (which is about all you can expect for these annual efforts). PC performance seems fine, so hopefully that doesn’t go south; and aspects like the return of skippable cut-scenes (get in), an actual offside line (baffling how this disappeared in the first place), driven passes, and less pacey forwards all appear to be positive measures. I’m quietly confident, but prepared for things to change for the worse.