It isn’t football season until FIFA arrives. The yearly franchise gains some stick for being iterative and even though that may be true, FIFA 17 has taken the biggest strides that it ever has. Not only has the game got a brand new graphics engine but the team behind the game has for the first time ever attempted a story mode that honestly is surprisingly good.
FIFA 17 is visually a much nicer looking game over last year’s counterpart. This is largely down to the much improved graphics engine: Frostbite. The engine the drive the Battlefield series has excellent realistic lighting and shadowing. The realistic lighting can be definitely seen by how light reflects off player’s skin. On top of that, stadiums have much of a visual atmosphere to them, especially under the floodlights.
On the pitch, there have been some changes to the gameplay. Defenders feel like reliable and are a challenge to break. To counteract this though both in defence and attack, the new team mate AI feels smarter and more adaptive to your play. Players will move into space to allow variety both in an attack move or if there is a hole at the back. Often you will see player covering other positions if its needed and it overall allows for a much more dynamics and authentic play on the pitch.
Throw-ins have been changed to allow more options like dummy throws. Corners have been changed to better choose where you want the ball to go as well as choose players to run onto the ball. Free kicks and penalties have been revamped to allow the kick taker to change their angle and approach to the ball. The results are a bit of a mixed bag however as free kicks look and feel more impressive but the penalties feel almost broken. You can very slowly tap the ball and as the ball moves at a few feet a second, the keeper dives as though an actual rocket was sent in his direction.
In terms of modes, the focus this year is on The Journey: a single-player story mode that sees you play as Alex Hunter as he works through the trials and tribulations of becoming a first team player at his dream club. Despite being given choices, they don’t really impact the main story points and no matter what you say or how you perform, these things will happen no matter what meaning the impact of everything you do is lessened greatly. Still, there are some moments that genuinely nail it in terms of emotion an atmosphere.
The Journey is not the real selling point to FIFA 17. It’s a fun alternative to spending some time in the game but you will be spending a bulk of it in FIFA Ultimate Team. FUT has grown year after year and this year’s edition just adds more flavour to the overall experience. The biggest addition to FUT is the Squad Building Challenges. It feels like this is based solely on fan feedback as this asks you to build certain squads while meeting the criteria given. This could be one of all bronze players or with just a set number of nationalities in the entire team. It gives a great incentive to utilise all the cards you get over the course of playing as well as mixing things up – it’s not just about the chase to build the strongest team possible.
The Career Mode now has a better understanding of a team’s objective. Depending on the team you pick, you’ll be given a goal that will be acceptable for the team you have chosen. This means that picking West Ham or Burnley won’t only give the “Win The League” expectation. It feels more manageable and true to the real sport.
While FIFA 17 boats massive changes in the form of a new graphics engine and The Journey mode, it is in the smaller things that’s made a bigger difference this year. FIFA Ultimate Team is still enough alone to indulge in for 12 months but all modes warrant play and even though Pro Evolution Soccer may have raised its game this year, FIFA may be still taking the crown this year.