With Konami releasing Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 roughly a week earlier and competition heating up, EA Sports chose to retool its FIFA series before stepping back onto the virtual pitch. Based on what we learned, FIFA 16 will have the star power necessary to compete in the race to become the premier football game, with a variety of new features that go beyond the biggest news, the inclusion of 12 Women’s National Teams with players Steph Houghton, Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair appearing for the first time. 

Superior control on the pitch 

EA chose the theme, Play Beautiful, to describe this year’s FIFA. From a development standpoint, realizing this came down to imbuing players with unprecedented levels of control, particularly on defense with mobility and locomotion.  Defensive players will track the opposition, relying on swing steps in order to change direction while keeping their eyes locked on attackers.  Building off this, the back line now operates as a unit to shut down attacks and provide the offense with little to no angles on goal. 

Additionally, players have the option of determining the length of their slide tackles. Should a tackle appear unsuccessful, they’re able to stop midway through, stand up and resume running. Most intriguing, though, are fake tackles used to bait someone into making a bad decision. 

At midfield, revamped artificial intelligence will result in players seeking different passing chances. What ensues is a back and forth, with attacking and defensive players taking advantage of open areas on the field.  Enhanced interception intelligence matches up with the new Passing with Purpose mechanic, the latter of which lets users direct ground passes to teammates with little space to maneuver. 

While in possession, it’s possible to perform a series of moves without contacting the ball. EA’s Dribble Control System gives players a chance to pull off feints, change their direction and execute skill moves without putting cleat to ball. Should you decide to cross, Dynamic Crossing results in your player and the chosen target launching into unique animations, in the hopes of successfully connecting on the play. 

If learning all of these moves sounds intimidating, EA hopes to improve your skills with the all-new FIFA Trainer. The game comes with a heads-up display that will present you with different options depending on the situation and your current level of play.  This ties into the new Basic Level for newcomers, which gives them opportunities to complete challenges to grow more accustomed to the gameplay. Don’t worry, you’re able to switch on/off FIFA Trainer.

The deepest Career Mode yet 

In this year’s Career Mode, you will take part in a possible three out of nine pre-season tournaments from across the world, in such locations as Latin America, Europe, Asia and North America. You can use this time to test player lineups and overall strategy before the season kicks off. Meanwhile, prize money goes towards making transfers during the season. Speaking of which, unused money carries over to next season, with the amount affected by the number of season goals.  EA also increased short loans from three to six months, with the chance to go after two-year loans, and during friendlies, you’re able to take advantage of unlimited substitutions. 

Visual and audio delights

Presentation wise, EA improved over 450 star player models. There’s now a Bundesliga presentation, and the game has a total of nine different types of weather. If you prefer foggy or hazy conditions, have at it! 

On the audio side, FIFA 16 includes more than 900 brand-new chants recorded from all over. Among them, Liverpool’s “When The Reds Go Marching In” and PSG’s “Allez Paris.”  Then with commentary, you’ll find the following supported languages: Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, French, Arabic, Polish, German, Latin American Spanish, Japanese, Dutch and for the first time in FIFA history, Russian. 

All about FUT 

Hardcore and casual FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) players have much to look forward to. EA will add more legends to the current roster of 56, including George Best, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta; be sure to pair these players with others of the same nationality to improve Legend Chemistry. 

FUT even comes with a new Draft feature. In it, you attempt to create a quality squad using five players. Then you pit this group against another person’s in a four-match series for the chance to earn rewards like coins and FUT packs. A word of warning: make sure you give plenty of thought to team captain and the desired formation; you cannot change formation after selecting one. FUT Draft is available both offline and online. Keep in mind you’ll need to pay 300 FIFA Points, 1 Draft Token or 15,000 coins to enter a FUT Draft match series. 

Ladies take the field 

Finally, as previously mentioned, FIFA 16 includes the following 12 Women’s National Teams: England, Brazil, France, USA, Italy, Germany, Spain, China, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Mexico. Before you get any ideas, these teams only compete against each other (no men versus women), and you can make use of them in Offline Tournament and online matches.

Throw in new stadiums such as Carrow Road, Borussia-Park and King Abdullah Sports City (among others), and FIFA 16 should have more than enough features to compete against Pro Evolution when EA Sports brings it to shelves and digital stores on September 22. We’ll post in-depth strategy features shortly after release.