Another year, another FIFA. Every year EA releases a “new and improved” FIFA title and this year is no different. FIFA 17 has however taken the leap on to EA’s Frostbite 3 engine which has been used for Star Wars: Battlefront and will also be the muscle behind Battlefield 1. The unexpected addition of a story mode called The Journey surprised everyone but with the rise of story based point and click games from developers such as Telltale Games does it makes perfect sense?
This review of FIFA 17 was carried out on Xbox One playing the following game modes: Career (Manager and player), FIFA Ultimate Team, Seasons and The Journey over 80 hours of gameplay.
Frostbite 3 is a big deal and should be a huge talking point for FIFA 17, if you didn’t experience the beauty of Star Wars: Battlefront then you will just need to take my word for it, Frostbite 3 is a powerful engine that has the ability to deliver some of the most stunning graphics and gameplay. Sadly though, while there are improvements in FIFA 17, the jump from FIFA 16 is not as big as EA would have us believe. The "Wow Factor" just isn't there like with Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefield 1. FIFA 17 is far from disappointing in the graphics department but it feels very much like FIFA 16 with a little make-up to spruce It up. On a positive note the atmosphere is again a good experience, licensed teams feature some more well known songs but for the lesser clubs you'll have to settle for standard songs such as "Shall we sing a song for you". This is a shame considering EA claim there are over 500 chants in-game but I might question if some of these chants included in that 500 are the more inaudible ones. In conclusion, the match atmosphere isn't at a level yet to influence the game and in fact is easy to completely blank out while you concentrate on the game. As for commentary not much has changed, some new phrases have been introduced but like most FIFA titles, it doesn't take long to get bored of the repetition. FIFA 17 also boasts another excellent sound track to enjoy in the menu's with over 50 tracks from Beck, Kasabian, Two Door Cinema Club, Bastille and much more.
Some changes have been made to the gameplay of this installment of the series with an increased tempo to matches and pace being a big factor in the outcome. FIFA 16 slowed down the pace of the game a little to focus more on passing moves to break down teams whereas FIFA 17 can be very much about hitting through balls to a pacey striker which can be the main difference in a match. In turn this has had an almost catastrophic effect on defending, especially for those of us who already had defensive issues in previous FIFA titles but it truly can be a nightmare whether you are facing off against a human player or the CPU and suck some of the enjoyment out of the game while you chase the opposing team around the pitch attempting to win the ball back. Another change comes in the effectiveness of the slide tackle. Timing is everything with slide tackling and with the pace of the matches now it makes it a whole lot harder, the standing tackle is now your friend probably best to leave the sliding tackle alone as much as possible or witness opponents rip your defence to pieces.
After my first 20 odd games I had experienced some desperately dodgy goalkeeping from some of the best keepers in the world, for example Buffon running completely past a loose ball that left an oncoming striker an open goal to shoot in to. Yet my experience with young Scottish goalkeeper Jack Hamilton from Heart of Midlothian has been that he is a remarkable goalkeeper with great shot stopping ability and has not put a foot wrong in a season and a half of football. In comparison Hamilton is level 63 while Buffon is 85, it doesn’t make much sense really.
It is still apparent though from over 80 hours put into FIFA 17 that FIFA is the Premier League of football games with all the glitz and glam to go with it. The menus are slick and stylish, easy to navigate and full of information and great content with FIFA still featuring all your favourite game modes plus the all new Journey mode. I have to admit, when EA revealed Journey mode I was very sceptical, my initial reaction was that a lot of time and money had been put into this new mode that would never be played instead of investing those resources into other areas of the game. I am delighted to say that I was wrong, FIFA 17’s Journey mode is a refreshing inclusion that adds a whole new type of game mode that adds to the already high replay-ability with FIFA games.
Journey mode follows the career of a young Alex Hunter who is a 3rd generation footballer looking to make his move in to the English Premiership using the Exit Trials after being released from his club. This story driven mode boasts some excellent voice acting and gripping cut scenes that give players the opportunity to pick different responses to situations which alters Alex Hunters personality which in turn changes the reactions and approach from other characters in-game but ultimately the story will also follow the same path. Players will still be expected to play football matches (this is still FIFA after all) which you can choose to play as just Alex or play as the whole team must like in the player career mode. Journey Mode is an excellent addition to FIFA titles that I expect is here to stay.
While much of the attention was on this Journey mode FUT and career mode have had the annual improvements as well. FUT has had a face lift with a new competitive mode called FUT Champions. FUT Champions allows players to qualify for weekend tournaments in which the competitors can play it out for real life prizes. It is a nice inclusion but I usually found myself facing off with players much more experienced than myself, maybe I will stick to the standard FUT online competitive matches for now but it is a nice option for those better players. Big kudos has to go to EA for the excellent servers which have been flawless thus far, I haven’t experienced any problems in finding an opponents and not even a tiny bit of lag! Credit where credit is due, well done EA. Career mode includes more detailed experience in running a football club with new objectives and a more in-depth experience that is unrivaled by competitors.
FIFA 17 is a tricky old game, in some areas it excels and shows why it dominates the football game market but the harsh reality is that gameplay has suffered some negative effects due to the increased speed of the game. As always a huge variety of game modes are on offer with the inclusion of the excellent Journey mode which adds a huge amount of replay-ability. While it might not be the best FIFA title to date, there is no denying that over all FIFA is still your best option for a footballing title.