How to master the passing on FIFA 16: FourFourTwo's essential guide

Official game guide writer James Price offers 14 tips and nuggets of advice – including videos – on how to improve your game... imperative reading for your one-upmanship!

EA’s decision to overhaul the passing and first-touch mechanics in FIFA 16 is proving contentious in certain quarters, with passing purists, long-ball merchants and sweaty pace abusers alike bemoaning the current state of play.

Truth is, ball distribution in FIFA 16 isn’t the trainwreck that some people would have you believe. There are, granted, occasional passes that feel entirely arbitrary and at odds with what you asked for, not to mention glitches, idiosyncrasies and game balance issues that we’d like to see addressed. Take the time to really come to terms with the general pace and focus of this new edition, though, and you’ll find that every FIFA player archetype has the tools to play their favoured style of game – and enjoy it. 

The following tips, tactics and tricks have been written with online play in mind, but many of the techniques will translate into single-player sessions. If you’re struggling in general, we’d advise that you head to Seasons mode to practice in a realistic, live-fire environment: this way, there’s less chance that you’ll encounter the squads of human bulldozers that savvy Ultimate Team players are assembling. That said, stick to teams of a no more than a four-and-a-half star rating to avoid an interminable succession of Real Madrid fanboys. Those guys are arseholes, and you’ll learn little by filling the air with choice invective as they run Ronaldo in inexplicably effective straight lines.

1. Resist the urge to sprint

So important, it’s the first entry in the list. Sprinting reduces pass accuracy, and makes your players easier to tackle. Until there’s a specific opportunity to inject a burst of pace, it’s much, much easier to maintain possession if you walk with the ball.

Once you get into a rhythm, you can frustrate an opponent who favours a high-intensity pressure game (so: approximately 97.2% of all Ultimate Team adversaries) with a simple pass-and-move approach, largely because walking players aren’t tracked as aggressively by the AI assistance that can transform defending teams into swarms of homing missiles. 

With subtle turns and walking-pace football, slide tackles become less potent. You’ll know you’ve got the rhythm just right when your opponent’s defensive approach begins to look like a re-enactment of the iconic ice scene from Bambi.  

2. Hold the directional stick until a pass is played

This is a fundamental FIFA technique, and one that countless players forget or even fail to grasp, habitually releasing the left stick once they’ve set the strength of a pass. If the player under control then takes an extra touch, or receives a minor knock from an opponent, the delay will cause the pass to be played in the current direction that the left stick is held. In short: don’t switch off until the ball actually leaves a player’s feet. 

In a similar vein, note that heavy physical pressure from an opponent in close proximity can cause a pass to be cancelled. If you see your player stumble or otherwise react to a sliding opponent, shirt tug or barge, be ready to set up a replacement pass.

3. Watch that first touch

A good first touch is equally as important as the quality of the pass that came before it. Your initial contact with the ball should always set up the next part of a move, either creating space or establishing an angle for the next pass. Try not to sprint as you receive a pass to feet: this can lead to awkward bounces and extra touches, though it’s less of an issue if you’re running onto a pass into space. 

A natural instinct in this situation is to turn and attempt to beat the defender. But we also know that our opponent knows that…

…so we turn away from his anticipated lunge (which would probably have worked had we turned to face goal), and take the gift-wrapped penalty.