FIFA 17 is another strong iteration of the iconic series. Fueled by the all mighty Frostbite engine, it features hyper-realistic graphics with real facial expressions, gorgeous stadiums with the dynamic lighting and The Journey, the new story mode.
Publisher: EA Sports
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (tested), Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Video game sequels are expected to constantly outperform their previous efforts. Unfortunately, things rarely work out that way. New ideas come and go, some of them will make a huge and positive impact, while others not so much, slowly and painfully hurting the franchise.
FIFA 17 is rocking the all mighty Frostbite engine for the very first time this year. Originally developed by DICE for first person shooters like Battlefield, the engine turned out to be so good that it slowly became the standard for EA titles. Need for Speed, Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge and even Plants vs. Zombies used it, and from now on the FIFA franchise will use it.
It not only allowed to improve the graphics, but also made it easier to create a single-player story campaign named The Journey. You will play as a young Alex Hunter, in his journey to become a star. You will be given specific challenges during matches, tutorial style training sequences, and adventure game style choices about what you do behind the scenes and at press conferences. As long as you can remember this is optional, it is actually a really good story. The game won’t shove it down your throat, so you will be able to appreciate the emotional and touching moments if you don’t force yourself to rush it. While missing from the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions, it is a more than recommended mode for gamers who are already in the current gen.
In terms of graphics, the game looks excellent. You can zoom as much as you want trying to find imperfections and may not be able to find any. I’m pretty sure The Journey was tinkered around the idea of showing off what the engine could do, and I get it. Recorded player animations, perfectly recreated stadiums, pitches, kits, and everything in between all look better than ever. Most of the story is told through a number of polished and well-acted cutscenes. You even have Mass Effect style conversation options to create a star with the attitude of your choice. You can be either a team player or someone with maybe too much ego. It is your decision. It is your journey. It also functions as a good tutorial. You will be tasked with covering all facets of the game, making you a better player along with Hunter.
But The Journey is not without flaws. For instance, your performance will determine your progression. And as such, you are given the ability to play either as Hunter or as the whole team. Unfortunately, there isn’t a best choice. Playing as Hunter will only mean headaches, since you will need to rely on AI driven players, and I can’t define them as smart or even consistent. On the other side, playing as the whole team will only force you to do your best to score as Hunter for the sake of progression.
The gameplay changes in FIFA 17 are all relatively minor, but important. The pace of play is faster, but responsiveness is still an issue. There is also a new mechanic that makes it easier to shield the ball from defenders. It seems trivial, but it is not. The shielding mechanic makes you play around that and maybe only that, since not using it puts you in a huge disadvantage. It ultimately denies diversity, which is one of the greatest things the game has. The AI has also been somewhat improved, but there is still a lot to work on. I can notice there is a wider variety in tactics and a willingness to start a run from almost anywhere on the pitch, but passing for instance is less accurate, making the game frequently pass the ball to the wrong player. Don’t expect the game to imitate real teams either, but there is at least an intention. Some teams take more risks, will move the ball quicker, and ultimately be more direct, making the game much more entertaining. There is also more variety in how you can approach a free kick and some fresh ways to shoot, mostly thanks to the new engine.
Game modes is where FIFA 17 and the franchise in general shines. FIFA Ultimate Team has a new competitive mode featuring in-game prizes, and the standard career mode, which was not replaced by They Journey, offers more control over your chosen club and its business.
FIFA 17 offers something to every football fan. It doesn’t care if you are a casual observer or a fanatic. The use of Frostbite makes the game a pleasure to look at, and in terms of licensing and authenticity there is no match. The Journey is also my preferred addition, it is something new that shakes the ancient formula, giving you something unique and rewarding that also serves as a break between matches.