Games guru James Price provides some essential advice on EA's brilliant virtual recreation...
Those who refused to sacrifice their purist short-game principles in FIFA 15 have reason for cheer – and, potentially, no small measure of smugness over the coming weeks.
After a year of kick and rush being the default (and alarmingly effective) tactic for most online regulars, FIFA 16’s stand-out feature is a heightened emphasis on midfield play. Bypassing the middle of the park with preposterous lofted through-balls is out; patient probing and intelligent movement are in. After an unhealthy number of hours with the FIFA 16 demo in recent days, it’s fair to speculate that many players will need to completely rebuild their style of play from the ground up.
Before we continue, a caveat: in a game where minute adjustments to global variables that govern player pace, strength and agility can completely transform the way that the simulation plays, we can’t be entirely sure that the FIFA 16 that we play in the demo will be the same FIFA 16 we’ll play at launch on the 24th (22nd in North America), let alone what manner of fixes and fine-tuning we might find in future patches.
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We’ve witnessed at least one version of FIFA be transformed by a major post-release rebalancing update in recent years, and there’s no guarantee that the development team will keep their faith in this more intricate and involved style of play if it appears that the majority can’t get to grips with it.
For now, though, it certainly seems that FIFA 16 is shaping up to be a more methodical, measured simulation than its predecessor. With that in mind, we’ve put together a collection of tips that will help you hit the ground running once the full game is available...
1) Mix up your passing
Now that AI-controlled players work harder to maintain their shape, exclusive use of basic short passes (X button/A button) will lead to one-dimensional build-up play. To drag capable opponents out of position and create space, you’ll need to employ more varied styles of distribution.
Though it takes a bit of practice, use of short through-balls (triangle button/Y button) to roll the ball into space ahead of a nearby team-mate, rather than just knocking it into their feet, can enable you to open up new angles for subsequent passes. The through-ball isn’t just a method of playing slide-rule passes for strikers or wingers to chase – it adds texture to a passing move. You can also use it to draw players behind the ball into play without completely losing momentum. Another benefit is that the risk of a poor first touch is rarely an issue when a player is running onto a rolling ball, unlike passes made to feet.
The new drilled pass warrants a lot of practice, as it’s a potentially momentous addition
Pay close attention to the way that formations move in accordance with where the ball is. If you find that one side of the pitch is becoming congested, switch the play with a lofted crossfield pass (hold square button/X button until bar reaches required level – three-quarters usually suffices) or the new drilled pass (R1+X button/RB+A button) to quickly exploit the space that has opened up on the opposite touchline.
The latter move warrants a lot of practice, as it’s a potentially momentous addition. Passes played in this fashion are pinged into feet with far greater speed than the standard delivery, which makes it possible to vary the pace of your build-up play more than ever before. Be warned that even top players can struggle to trap these cleanly unless you quickly reorient them in advance. That said, we’re finding that poor first touches sometimes lead to beneficial bounces that completely fool a nearby marker. There may be more to this passing style than simply moving the ball from point A to point B at greater speed…
Expect to see this scenario frequently in online games: the new driven pass (R1/RB+X button/A button) pinged into strikers lurking in the box. They’re not easy to control, but bad touches can still lead to lucky breaks.