Game Reviews

FIFA 16 Ultimate Team - The ultimate mobile football game?

Star onStar onStar onStar onStar off
| FIFA 16
FIFA 16 Ultimate Team - The ultimate mobile football game?
| FIFA 16

Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

FIFA 16 Ultimate Team is the latest mobile version of the world's most popular football simulator, and it arrives with a brand new engine and control scheme to boot.

You'd better like Ultimate Team though because that's all there is.

That's right - there's no career mode, no quick match, and no tournaments (outside of the Ultimate Team ones) so if you want to play as your favourite club, you're going to have to sign all those players yourself.

Is it a deal breaker though? Well, that's what you're reading this review for. Read on to find out.

Well played

The most important aspects of any football game are how it plays and how realistic a simulation it manages to be. It's safe to say that FIFA has never played better - at least on mobile.

And that's largely thanks to the vastly improved AI the new engine has brought with it. Players now actively try to win back the ball and mark other players when defending, and make forward runs or move into space for a pass when attacking.

The physics are also much better. Gone are the days when every player had the turning circle of a tank or the first touch of Messi.

You can now dribble round players at pace, but you'll also screw up your touch if a pass is too heavy - and the game is all the better for it.

Also, the player models now accurately reflect their real-life counterparts. It's about time.

The real star of the show is the controls. They're a hybrid mix of FIFA 14's excellent touch scheme and the buttons we've had all along.

Let go of the virtual joystick at any point and the player on the ball will move automatically, freeing you up to make all the tactical designs. The moment you touch the virtual joystick you're right back in control though and it feels perfect.

You can also forgo controlling your players entirely if you fancy taking on a more management-focused role. Simply hit simulate match and you'll experience the game Football Manager-style instead.

If there's one complaint it's that players are sometimes slow to do what you tell them. And sometimes they fire the ball into the stands when you actually asked them to pass to the player right in front.

Fluffed it

The problem with FIFA 16 is not its gameplay, then, but in pretty much every aspect that surrounds it.

First-off, you're forced to play Ultimate Team. That's the one that's basically a trading card game that sees you opening packs to (hopefully) unlock rare players.

You then make a team out of them, paying careful attention to their playing positions and chemistry with teammates.

The new function to trade your unwanted players for better ones is very welcome and allows you to progress without throwing down real cash.

But without a basic career mode, tournaments, quick match, or even a match of the week mode it just feels a little bone dry. If you don't like Ultimate Team you're just not going to stick around for long, despite how well it plays.

It seems like a bit of a cynical move on EA's part, and it's a shame because it's a lesser game for it.

Also, navigating the menus is a dreadful experience - which is surprising given how heavily Ultimate Team uses them. Not only is every action as slow and sluggish as dial-up internet, you have to tap so many buttons just to perform a simple action.

Why can't we just see a list of all the players in our inventory and drag them into the team? Why do we have to assign them to the squad first and then do it? It's archaic, it's dull, and it's frustrating.

At it's worst it actually puts you off wanting to make any changes to your team, which is the very definition of counter-productive.

Possibly even worse than that are the connectivity issues. During our tests we couldn't connect to an online game and play against another opponent after several attempts and the game regularly loses connection while playing, forfeiting the match.

Final score

FIFA has taken a huge leap forward with its excellent new engine, hybrid controls, and expanded Ultimate Team options. However, it's taken two lengthy steps backwards with its lack of game modes, poor menu navigation systems, and generally sluggish design.

If you're into Ultimate Team you'll likely find this an incredibly satisfying portable version of the real thing that you can play on the bus.

The rest of us will lament the lack of a career mode or the option to play as our favourite club and have a little kick about.

FIFA 16 Ultimate Team does play the best game of football on mobile - by a mile, as well - but in terms of features it is left in the dust by its competition and its predecessors.

FIFA 16 Ultimate Team - The ultimate mobile football game?

FIFA 16 plays an excellent game of football but the lack of modes outside of Ultimate Team and dreadful menu design hold it back from true greatness
Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, lively Chris is up for anything - including running Steel Media! (Madman!)