FIFA 17 uses the Frostbite Engine which is best known for use in the Battlefield games. I didn’t notice a huge difference in general gameplay, with FIFA looking just about as good as it possibly can be, but obviously the engine significantly benefits FIFA’s new story mode ‘The Journey’. The cut scenes and environments as well as the new stadium intros look absolutely fantastic. These elements don’t add a whole lot to the core gameplay, but it just adds another notch to the already incredible presentation of FIFA.
FIFA 17’s The Journey is arguably the biggest addition to the game and it’s really good. Leading up to the launch, I was incredibly sceptical, failing to understand how a story mode could feel natural to a FIFA game, but boy was I wrong.Without spoiling too much, The Journey has you starting out as a young Alex Hunter, who is playing an under 11’s match in front of your father and grandfather, both who are professional soccer players in their own right. You’re then tasked with working your way through a number of skill sessions as well as a practise match in order to get the notice of a number of key managers and soccer scouts.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that there was a story here that I actually cared about. I felt like I was in the shoes of Alex Hunter and actually cared whether results went his way or not. I not only wanted him to succeed, but I genuinely believe that I became a better FIFA player, due to the fact that I wanted to do well for him and didn’t just constantly rush forward in order to score the fanciest goal. You’re also to able to dictate both where Alex plays as well as what personality he takes on both on and off the field.You’re able to choose your own responses to a number of interactions based on a Fiery, Cool or Balanced response, which affects your journey in the form of fans and manager offers. This is honestly the one area where the mode let me down. The emotional experiences on-field were enough for me to get invested in the character, while the terrible acting and over-the-top, almost unbelievable story arcs took me out of the experience. I’m sure that this could improve next year.
After you choose your EPL club of choice, the crux of the mode is built up playing matches, initially as a substitute in which you’ll get put in a variety of different match scenarios. You’ll also be tasked with hitting bonus challenges, such as finishing the match with a player rating of 7.0 or more, or scoring at least one goal. These add to the intensity and intrigue of the mode.
When participating in matches, you’re able to play as the entire team as normal or just take charge of Alex Hunter. Whilst playing as one player sounds incredibly boring, trust me, it isn’t. I was able to learn a new appreciation for staying onside and knowing when to call for a pass or through-ball. It has enhanced my FIFA vision and taken my overall game to a new level.Honestly, outside of The Journey, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in FIFA 17 as opposed to last year’s iteration. The game plays quite a bit faster which means that there’s more back and fourth from end to end. I found that you can pull off a through-passed lob more often, but then you also risk the defender pushing the ball back into their attacking third. I actually enjoyed this quite a lot, as it made for a more unpredictable match, but I suspect that a lot of people won’t enjoy the mid-field slog of yesteryear.
There’s also an added complexity to a number of aspects on the field including dribbling and being able to defend your ball and quite a bit of difference in how collision detection responds. I also noticed that the AI has been reworked quite a bit in the sense that players don’t just constantly run forward. They’ll actually stop and run in behind a defender. It makes you change the way that you play slightly, but it’s well worth it.
Set pieces have also seen quite a change up with an inclusion of a reticle which allows you to easily identify where you need to be in order to pull off a set shot. Another huge example of this is when taking penalty shots. You now have to choose your position, time your run up and aim separately. It adds a new level of complexity which probably won’t be kind to newcomers, but it ultimately does add another dimension which I enjoyed.
In terms of other modes, you’re going to get exactly what you’d expect and it’s still far ahead of what Pro Evolution Soccer has to offer. Online has also not seen much in the way of advancements. It’s a very familiar experience and that’s not a bad thing.
In all honesty, people are going to rate FIFA 17 very differently and it’ll largely come down to how much you value the single player experience and just how much you enjoy it. To me, it adds another dimension to FIFA and is well worth playing through. Outside of this mode, there’s not a whole lot that you’ll immediately recognise as being better or new and that might be an issue for some people.
FIFA 17 is another solid entry, with improved presentation, even better graphics and improved AI, but it’s definitely not a revolutionary experience and I’m interested to see how EA can keep pushing the series forward on a yearly basis.