The hardest thing for a champion to do is repeat on the biggest stage. Whether from a lack of motivation or some other cosmic force at work, there is a reason why so few champions are able to replicate their form year after year. With FIFA16, EA Sports shrugs off the haze that prevents most from sustaining continued dominance. Here's our verdict for what it's worth...

What are some of the bigger features that have been added?

Fans of Ultimate Team that tend to find frustration more than enjoyment when opening hundreds of packs merely results in one or two decent players will absolutely love the new FUT Draft. With the world’s best at your fingertips and the ability to build a super-squad available, the new feature will drag the still reticent few into one of the most popular play-types on FIFA. The agony of a slow build-up and countless hours spent creating an amazing Ultimate Team squad is still available to the more patient players among us, but it's always great to create a mode that will draw new players into FUT and that will appease players that just didn’t have the desire to spend that much time in FUT.

Another feature that has gotten tons of press is the addition of 12 women’s national teams to the game. While it seemed like this would be an easy move and that EA would just change the build of the players, the changes are much more extensive than we had anticipated. The players on the women’s side of the game play closer to the female counterparts, which shows just how much time EA spent with the players that they scanned in for this game. Despite only being able to use these squads for kick-off games and a tournament mode involving only the women’s teams, it is definitely a great move by FIFA16 to acknowledge a rapidly growing and important side of the world’s game.

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Enough about features, hit us with the gameplay...

For anybody that loved the frantic attack/attack/attack of FIFA15 and players that have no desire to actually build up the play, FIFA16 will be a harsh change. EA Sports has deliberately made the game feel much slower, bringing it ever closer to being the ultimate simulation for top-level football. Speed still kills, but only if used properly with intricate passing and methodical build-up. If you aren’t willing to put in four or five passes in midfield before even pushing into the attacking third, then your attack will not be very strong. EA is continuing to make the game more dependent on well thought out and executed passing, which will frustrate many players for the first few sessions with the game.

Goalkeepers have received a massive upgrade in FIFA16, and it certainly shows. While the keepers catch a few shots that have us wondering if they have glue on their gloves, the majority of their movements and shot-stopping felt more like something we would actually see in real-life. The only thing that will really be tough for some fans will be that deflections now seem to occur much more often. In earlier FIFA iterations, most deflections resulted in the ball just being blocked and stopping cold. FIFA16 has only been in our hands for a few weeks, but we have already seen the keeper get stranded by a harsh deflection on multiple occasions.

For defending, the game has made some major changes. Simply holding the boost and running towards and opposition player will result in you looking like a fool, or just getting called for a foul. You now have to decide when to make your move with precision, being prepared to not just start tapping the standing tackle button, and learn to use the jockey mechanics to your advantage. Slide tackling has been upgraded a bit, but we still felt that we kept sliding a bit further than we wanted to on a few missed tackles. It also wouldn’t hurt to add a bit of aggressiveness to the feature used when you call a second defender to help as those players seem reticent to do much more than jog in your direction.

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To go along with the defending, the passing is now going to require more than just zipping passes around the pitch and waiting for fast break. AI players will intercept any loose or slow pass with ease, and opposition AI has no problem building the play out of the back four for as long as it takes before they can break you down. The addition of a driven pass feature aids you in your ability to break through the stingiest defense, but EA makes sure to keep the driven pass from being 100% effective...if your player isn’t turned in the right direction to control the ball or the pass was made before your player is actually set, the ball will bounce harmlessly to a defender.

As we have seen over the FIFA games since we made the jump to the current generation of consoles, shooting continues to be tweaked so that we see more real-life ball movement. FIFA16 is no different, with more looping shots on display and further tweaking to finesse shots (to ensure that there are fewer “cheap” shot spots on the pitch). It is always awesome to see a ball truly knuckle on its way towards the goal, and it adds another layer of realism to the game.

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What about Pro Clubs?

The first thing that you need to know about Pro Clubs is that the two biggest “cheats” from last year have been (mostly) fixed. No longer can players just head down the sideline and then dance their way into the box with ease. While dribblers will still have more success than people afraid of the trick stick, defenders seem much more prepared for you to try and cut inside than they were in FIFA15. Also, for those of you that either took advantage or just hated people that used this, the ridiculously long-range finesse shot and looping power shots are much harder to execute. They also are not nearly as consistent or predictable, which will come as a relief to players that hate seeing opposition players taking advantage of small “cracks” in the realistic gameplay.

Clubs will also need to find decent midfielders for this year’s campaign, as the most important part is the build up in the middle of the park...if you don’t have a midfielder in your squad, you might end up having a hard time.

Career mode? Can I bring Yeovil Town up to Premier League glory?

Long-time fans of Career mode know all too well the struggle of wanting a perfect blend of Football Manager and FIFA’s manager mode. It seems like FIFA16 has definitely taken a few further steps to make this closer to a reality. Player pricing has been helped (not totally fixed, but certainly helped), making transfer wizards much happier. Player growth is not only predicated on preset formulas in FIFA16, as you can now take training into your own hands. Skill games provide opportunities to raise your player stats in any way that you see fit, while players will still grow naturally as well. This adds a great way to finally make those youth products grow into serviceable players instead of just loan/transfer fodder.

Pre-season is FINALLY set to feel just like a real club’s pre-season. You can go play in a tournament, but be prepared for most of your best players to be involved in some type of international craziness. Substitutions during pre-season are also unlimited, so you can finally see how your whole squad looks during the build-up to the season.

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Anything else?

With every passing version, EA tries to get us as close as possible to what we all see and hear on the TV on Saturday and Sunday. In FIFA16, the match-day graphics, storylines, and commentary all give us the feel that we could be watching this game in a pub somewhere. Martin Tyler talks about transfer activity that is going on, issues at the club, and you only start to really experience repeated commentary after many/many/many games with the same club (if we had a pound last year for every time the commentary pair talked about Alan Smith’s goal for Arsenal against Liverpool).

What’s the final verdict here? Insta-buy?

FIFA16 does not have any mind-blowing new additions that could stand on its own and drag PES fans or new fans into the fold. Instead, EA has brought on small tweaks, changes, and improvements to nearly every aspect to continue shaping FIFA into the ultimate homage to the game. While those looking for an extremely arcade style feel and the ball constantly being shot/played into the attacking third should stick with FIFA15, FIFA16 will be a welcome move for anyone hoping for a realistic experience or the ability to alter reality.

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