After Pro Evolution Soccer 2017
fired a decent shot
in the war of the yearly football games a couple of weeks ago, it's now time for FIFA 17
to return fire. Beaten critically last year by the competition, EA has made a few new additions and changes. Will it be enough to draw level with PES, or even stand alone as the king of the pitch?
Oh, hi Marco.
The game opens by placing the player in a match where Chelsea is playing against Manchester United in the FA Cup final and what is immediately noticeable is the presentation. Thanks to the wide ranges of licenses that are available to EA, FIFA 17
looks and sounds like the real deal. From Wembley Stadium to the trophy itself, this looks exactly how an FA Cup final should do. However, while this opener is a great showcase of what the game can do visually, it does seem a little ill-placed in this instance. New players are probably going to want to familiarise themselves with the controls first, and fans of the franchise will just want to get into the meat of the game.
Pretty much every possible controller input is used in the game with the more complicated actions like chip shots and lofted through balls requiring a combination of those inputs. While this may sound daunting to a newcomer, EA has made sure that there are plenty of options to guide you if you need it. There's an on-screen trainer that will tell you pertinent controls during a match and a practice arena that allows you to practice freely away from the intensities of a match. There are also skill games that will teach the player pretty much every aspect of the game from the basics to the more advanced levels of passing, dribbling, defending and shooting. No matter what level of help that you need to play, whether you're new to the series or someone who needs to familiarise themselves again, EA has a decent way to help.
Women's football returns this year after debuting in FIFA 16
On the whole, playing a match feels fine but there is nothing special that stands out. That's not to say that there hasn't been tweaks. There's a new set-piece system, but it screams of change for change's sake instead of being any form of improvement. You won't think about the gameplay too much in the moment aside from the feeling that it occasionally doesn't respond to your interactions quite when you want it to do so. There'll be moments that feel great, like a thirty-yard thunderbolt or dinking the ball over the keeper, but it doesn't quite compare to PES
where virtually every goal feels satisfying.
Many of the modes that are on offer are the same as last year. The Career mode allows you to play as either a player or manager at a club of your choosing. Normal exhibition matches and tournaments both allow you to play as women's teams, albeit only a pre-made tournament in the latter case. Of course, there's also series favourite Ultimate Team. For those who are new to the series, Ultimate Team tasks you with building the best possible team, including elements such as team chemistry, via card packs that can be bought either through coins that are earned in-game or the externally purchased "FIFA Points". For most yearsm this set of modes would be fine if a little lacking in innovation. However EA has an ace up their sleeve, at least for this year.
Soon after you start, you'll have a choice of Premier League clubs from which to choose.
The biggest addition to the FIFA
franchise this year is the headline-grabbing "The Journey". After consulting four of England's brightest young players - Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Reece Oxford - EA has crafted a story showing main character Alex Hunter's journey to become one of the best footballers in the English Premier League. As Alex, you'll not only deal with improving yourself in training and proving yourself on the pitch, but also with interacting with your team-mates, the coach and even the media via neat adventure game style dialogue choices.
The mode is not without issues; the story itself is the rather cliched "local lad done good" tale. At times where there are gaps in the story, it can feel no different from the series' long-running player career mode. However, thanks to a diverse cast of characters with whom to regularly interact, including family, friends and team-mates, the freshness of the concept itself (at least in football games) and the earnestness with which the story is told, the mode is definitely a feather in EA's cap. It is an honest first attempt to try something new and my mind is full of potential "Journeys" that EA could include in the future. Continue with Alex's story? Add an all-new story to do with the trials and tribulations of management? Maybe the journey of a female footballer? I've not been this excited about a sports game mode in years.
Wake up, Mario, you've got a game to play
With the change of engine to the Frostbite engine, the Journey isn't the only thing that's new in FIFA 17
and it is something that has come with its own set of troubles. While players can look as wonderful as you'd expect from an engine that's been used for the likes of Star Wars Battlefront
amongst others, there are times where the game falls sharply into the uncanny valley, particularly when the camera goes close-up. To add to that point, some of the animations can feel rather robotic. These are all things that can and should be improved in later instalments as EA Canada has more time and experience with the Frostbite engine.
Finally, we have the achievements. While some gamerscore will be on offer for performing certain actions in a match, most of the achievements are spread across FIFA 17
's various modes. Surprisingly (and a little disappointingly) the new Journey mode only has four achievements assigned to it. Instead, most of the mode-based achievements are to do with Ultimate Team -- taking into account the potential pay-to-improve elements, this feels a little underhanded on EA's part. Despite that, most of the achievements should be earned through casual play time.
If this year's PES
is the old hand that is quietly improving incrementally, FIFA 17
feels like a hot prospect that's burst onto the scene with a new engine and a new mode in tow. The game is exciting and full of potential, but it has issues on which to improve in future instalments if the franchise wants to stand alone as the best. While it doesn't stack up to PES
on the pitch, everything else away from it makes FIFA 17
a worthwhile purchase for fans of the beautiful game.
- Looks and sounds the part thanks to a wide range of licenses
- Journey mode is a breath of fresh air
- Gameplay a let down compared to competitor
- Player models can hit the Uncanny Valley at times
This reviewer played for just over 16 hours, earning 30 of the game's 44 achievements. A Xbox One physical copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.