E3 2015 | Electronic Entertainment Expo Preview

FIFA 16 vs. Pro Evolution Soccer 16 – hands-on with two sporting heavyweights

It’s that time of the year again, folks. The football (soccer) season’s gone into hibernation and with that comes the formal reveal of the two video game reproductions vying for your attention later on this year. In the one corner, we’ve got the latest iteration in the FIFA series; the current title holder and all-around juggernaut that’s sure to sell copies by the boat load regardless of critical opinion. In the other, we have Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, the one-time champion who’s making rumbles once more on the back of a successful resurgence at the tail end of last year. Thankfully, we got the chance to play both at this year’s E3 and are primed and ready to discuss how things are currently shaping up on the points card.


On first appearance, FIFA 16 feels like a stark departure from the pinball-esque tendencies found housed in recent years past. Possibly taking its cues from the slightly surprising success of Pro Evolution Soccer’s next-generation debut last year, the game feels decidedly slower and more methodical. Even with the in-game option ramped up to ‘fast’ – anything slower just feels borderline sacrilegious – FIFA 16 seems to focus almost exclusively on ball contestation within midfield. It’s a welcome change of pace, specifically after we noted in our review of last year’s entry that the battle for midfield supremacy – and thus the game, effectively – was sorely lacking. FIFA 15’s midfield was bypassable most of the time; a conduit to getting the play up to the final third as quickly as possible. In this edition, however, everything just feels more weighted and thought-out; the possibility of mislaying a pass or losing the ball after only one or two touches is glaringly apparent. The experience takes a little while to get used to but it’s all the better for it because it makes you think. It makes you wary of paths to potential interceptions and mindful of how all the players are responding to the specific actions at hand.

Your controlled players also seem to take a little longer to perform what you ask of them. It’s not simply a matter of button input lag, mind, more so that the game is now much more conscious and mindful of how weight-shifting and turning can affect how a player moves, just like in real life. Gone are the days of using overpowered pace and a small bit of sleight to gleefully glide past your opponents; in FIFA 16 you’ll have use a bit more cunning than just putting the opposition defenders on the back foot with bursts speed that’d make Usain Bolt green with envy. That said, the likes of the precociously-talented Lionel Messi can still employ ample trickery to slip past opponents but it now isn’t the case that passing the ball to an on-rushing Cristiano Ronaldo will result in four-or-five defenders being taken out of the game with ease.

Graphically, the iterative improvements are what we’ve come to expect from a franchise that’s released a new edition every single year since 1994. Players look that little bit sharper, react to their environment a little more realistically, and the general animation during matches has once again been improved upon. It doesn’t look much different to that of its predecessor, of course, but it’s still at least a noticeable upgrade in line with what we’ve come to expect. During our time at EA’s bulging E3 exposé we also got to try our hand at the much-touted inclusion of women’s teams into the scheme of things. Our experience with that particular aspect of game – a match between the U.S. and Germany no less – was wholly positive, although it didn’t feel as though it deviated that significantly from the gameplay found in a match involving that of their male counterparts. For the moment that doesn’t really matter, though, we’re just glad that women’s teams have finally made it into the game. It took long enough.

From a gameplay standpoint, Pro Evolution Soccer’s reinvigorated success has seemingly given EA Sports Canada the jolt necessary to enact some significant changes to what’s become a damn-near cultural touchstone for football and video game fans over the years. Every other aspect – barring the inclusion of women’s teams – currently feels like simply an iterative upgrade, void of any real game-altering difference. Granted, we didn’t get to explore the entire game itself, but we’d hazard a guess and say that it’s presumably business as usual for FIFA 16 and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


Pro Evolution Soccer 2016

Hot on the heels of the FIFA franchise ever since its successful next-generation debut last October, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is looking to further cement its cause as a viable contender to FIFA’s long-held footballing crown. While it enjoyed immense success during the early-to-late 2000s, Pro Evolution Soccer fell off the deep end as EA Sports Canada’s stranglehold on the market grew larger and larger. But fast forward to 2015 and that looks as if it’s set to change, thankfully.

Unlike FIFA 16’s rather drastic changes on the gameplay front, it seems as though it’s finesse and fine-tuning rather than wholesale changes for Pro Evo this year. Building upon the frankly excellent foundation put forth in last year’s offering seems like the sensible thing to do for Konami (we didn’t think we’d be saying ‘sensible’ and ‘Konami’ in the same sentence any time soon). That said, matches are now decidedly more fluid than previously known, yet they still retain that distinct pick-up-and-play quality that’s been intrinsic to the series for some time now. It’s got that infamous level of depth and space for perfection that we so appreciate, naturally, but it’s fast and fun enough that anyone could pick up a controller and experience instant gratification.

Little tweaks such as panning the camera out a little more so that more of the pitch is instantly surveyable and less-scripted intelligence to your computer-controlled opponents are what elevate Pro Evo beyond what we’ve previously seen. Bar the improvements to graphical fidelity and a more dynamic weather system, it’s actually a little tough to immediately appreciate the subtle differences in the gameplay mechanics this time around. A few matches in, however, and it becomes readily apparent that the game’s more immersive and less situational than its immediate counterpart – but not by much. Each 90-minute match contains a myriad of surprises and unexpected outcomes, much more in tandem with the real-world game that it’s trying to convey.

Sometimes that can feel unfair, obviously, when you concede a 25-yard screamer through no fault of your own but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Just like its real-life equivalent, goals of that nature are a thing of beauty in their unpredictability and to see that replicated so faithfully in a video game is praiseworthy in itself. Just as long as we’re the ones doing the scoring.

The game also includes Francesco Totti’s ‘selfie’ celebration. So there’s that.

In all honesty, after a short hiatus it’s once again an interesting time to be a fan of footballing video games as we’ve now got two highly-accomplished renditions of the sport to contend with. While it’s commendable that this year’s FIFA has rewritten its mechanics significantly, it’s still hard to look past Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 from a purely gameplay-centric standpoint. Of course, the former scores points as usual for its impeccable presentation and the much-applauded inclusion of women’s teams, but if you’re looking for the most faithful representation of The Beautiful Game yet then as it stands you may have to go for Konami’s latest.

Are you looking forward to both FIFA 16 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 this year? Which one will you be purchasing? Give us your opinions in the comments section below.