Like Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas, the FIFA video games series has become somewhat of a permanent fixture on the calendar. Each year, the football simulator is released with a series of minor updates and improvements to make the beautiful game … well, more beautiful. Keeping with tradition, FIFA 16 has hit the shelves, with the main draw for the latest iteration being improved gameplay, FIFA Ultimate Team Draft and women’s football teams.

Those who played last year’s instalment will remember the particularly heavy emphasis on pace and lofted through balls, which dominated online matches. EA has ironed out these flaws in FIFA 16, with the slower pacing opening up different styles of play and requiring players to think more tactically than ever before.

A major new addition to the gameplay is driven passes, which allow players to ping a ground ball across the turf. These are activated by holding the right shoulder button while passing, driven passes come with the element of risk, as a high amount of precision and skill is required to pull them off successfully. Their inclusion makes possession play a lot more satisfying, as players attempt to benefit from the gaps in the defence.

Another new inclusion is “no touch dribbling”, which adds an extra layer to the game’s skill system by giving players the freedom to decide how and when to touch the ball, whether it be a skill move, feint or changing direction. The concept adds a further sense of realism to the title and, if timed and executed correctly, can have some impressive results (although you’ll be left red-faced if the defender manages to pinch the ball from you with ease).

Defenders are also better equipped, with improved tackling and the added ability to “feint” in order to throw off opposing attackers. The latter is especially useful as FIFA 16 has an increased emphasis on forcing errors upon your opponents, as opposed to straight up tackles. As a result, matches are scrappy affairs and the midfield is more of a battlefield than ever before.

To get to grips with the gameplay modifications, EA Sports has introduced FIFA Trainer – a real-time tutorial which has been built directly into the gameplay. Activated by pressing in the right thumbstick, FIFA Trainer gives on-screen instructions tailored to the situation you are currently in. Not only does it provide a platform for newcomers to get to grips with the series, but it also allows veteran players to refine their game.

Off the pitch, FIFA 16 boasts the rich range of game modes that have continued to draw gamers in over the past few years, with FIFA Ultimate Team remaining the cream of the crop. For this latest outing, the team-builder has seen the introduction of Draft mode, which adds another dimension to the franchise’s flagship game mode.

FIFA Ultimate Team Draft challenges gamers to pick the best fit for each position in the squad from a five-player draw (including Legends). Once the team selection and default formation have been confirmed, players are challenged with a series of up to four matches, with hefty rewards on offer for being crowned victorious.

Draft is a very welcome addition to the series, although one that many players will not reap the benefits of on a regular basis. This is largely down to the fact a Draft Token is priced at 15,000 in-game coins – a fee which requires a substantial amount of grinding in regular Ultimate Team. The alternative is for players to purchase a Draft Token through microtransactions (in this case, 300 FIFA Points – approximately £2.50).

The final major addition in FIFA 16 is the introduction of twelve national women’s squads – a first for the franchise. Refreshingly, their implementation isn’t just a reskinning of the men; the women have a different play style, with a heavier focus on intricate passing and curled shots and less emphasis on the physical side of things. It’s just a shame their inclusion is limited to friendlies and tournaments, although it’s a promising leap forward for the series.

In terms of graphics, FIFA 16 isn’t a major improvement on its predecessor, although there are some noticeable differences, primarily in the lighting. As ever, all the teams featured have fully licensed kits; the player likenesses closely resemble their real-life counterparts thanks to full-face scanning and there is an astounding amount of detail in each of the stadiums (which includes all twenty Premier League grounds).

The match presentation has also seen some minor facelifts with stats about players being displayed via on-screen graphics and additional fact and figures being provided through Martin Tyler and Alan Smith’s commentary. Veteran players will be delighted to hear that the commentary has been vastly improved, with the commentators having an increased awareness of the action on the pitch.

However, despite the major improvements, FIFA 16 still has one major issue; one that has continued to plague the franchise over the last few years: it’s not a massive leap over the recent instalments. It’s still an exceptional football simulator that you will get hours and hours’ worth of replayability from, but there’s still that nagging feeling that you’ve forked out £50 for what is essentially the same game. Nevertheless, with Konami immensely upping their game with Pro Evolution Soccer 16, a major overhaul can’t be too far around the corner.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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