EA Sports has been making a wide range of different sports titles for years, but there is none that has more worldwide popularity than their FIFA series. The sport of soccer, or football as it’s known throughout most of the world, has gained even more of a following in the US in recent years. This has also meant that the FIFA team has had to consistently step their game up each year and that is exactly what they have done once again in FIFA 17.
After using the Ignite engine for the last few years, developer EA Canada has shifted course in FIFA 17, instead utilizing DICE’s Frostbite engine. This engine is best known for being used in games like Battlefield, Battlefront, and the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. FIFA has always been known for offering just about as authentic an experience as possible, and now the game has taken that even further.
Through the use of the Frostbite engine, FIFA 17 has replicated all of the action on the pitch to make it feel even more true to life, from player movement to even facial expressions. The latter is even more important within one of FIFA 17’s new game modes, where player interaction plays a big role, including facescanning of all 20 Premier League managers. This new engine is not left strictly to the field of action either, as locker rooms and more have been created that all combine to enhance the entire experience even more. One cool little feature is that if you keep the game paused for too long throughout the various game modes, it will change to loading screens that show off these different environments, which is a nice touch.
The game of football is always a constant battle for the ball and new gameplay mechanics have made this feel even more realistic than ever. New pushback tech has really made fighting for the ball on the pitch a whole different ballgame, including much improved trapping and dribbling. New threaded through passes and shot finishers require more precision on the pitch, but it opens up new opportunities for scoring that were not present in the past.
Dead ball situations have also been overhauled, with players getting even more control over the situation than ever before. In the past, it was very difficult to aim when kicking from the corner, but now you have a marker that displays where you are aiming and then can choose how much power you want to put behind it. Throw-ins also have been altered a bit, with you able to now walk down the line or do fake throws to give you a better chance to get the ball to your player.
While the new engine and gameplay changes are important, the brand new game mode known as The Journey is the biggest selling point for FIFA 17 this year, which seems to have taken some notes from the recent NBA 2K games’ MyCareer mode. The Journey puts you in control of a 17 year old named Alex Hunter that signs with one of the 20 Premier League teams in what is essentially a story mode for the game. Being limited to the Premier League may be a little disappointing, but that comes with them doing such an in-depth story mode that it would be too hard to include so many teams.
Alex comes with a predetermined character design in The Journey, so there will not be any customization of his design at all. However, you will get to craft his personality through the game through Mass Effect like conversations that allow you to give responses that the game classifies as fiery, balanced, or cool. What is really neat is that this not only affects relationships with people in The Journey, but also how you perform on the pitch as well. Without spoiling anything, the story in The Journey can be a little predictable at times, but it’s a very enjoyable ride all the way through.
Like with many other “player modes” in sports titles, The Journey gives you an option to either control the entire team or just the one player, which offers two different ways to experience the game. As you continue through your career, you’ll take part in practice sessions, actual games, and more. You will even unlock skill points that can be used to upgrade your player, which almost feels somewhat RPG like. The Journey is really unlike anything that the FIFA series has ever done, and yet still feels like a completely natural fit with the story and gameplay meshing well together throughout.
For those that want to take control of a single player as they move up through the ranks, but do not want the story surrounding it, the regular Player Career mode is still included as well. It does not appear that EA GameFace was an option here anymore, but you do have a solid character creator to use instead. The Player Career mode is a little disappointing in that it really did not get any new features, but the Manager Career got more of a boost in FIFA 17 instead.
Manager Career does not let you create your character from scratch, but rather has 11 very detailed avatars to choose from instead. This allows the manager to be very involved during your matches, which will depend on how your team is performing. This is one of the best examples of how EA Canada is using the Frostbite engine to its fullest, with little nuances like this that make the overall experience all the better. Adding in the new ways of managing the club, both player wise and financially, help to improve a game mode that has remained rather stagnant in recent years.
The Journey is really unlike anything that the FIFA series has ever done
While Manager Career got out of a recent funk, FIFA Ultimate Team still feels like it’s coasting. Last year added in FUT Champions that ties in with Ultimate Team and a few other changes, but the incremental upgrades to this fan favorite game mode do not stand out much at all in FIFA 17. Rather than focusing on finding new way to innovate in FUT, they continue to play it way too safe, though it will still be serviceable for those that really enjoy this mode already.
What FIFA Ultimate Team has added this year though is the ability to take your own FUT teams offline to play against friends, but online play is still where Ultimate Team does best. In addition, FIFA 17 offers the staunch lineup of online modes, from single player or co-op Seasons and especially the Pro Clubs mode. Pro Clubs let you play online with friends in up to 11 v 11 matches, which has come with a few additions as well. Match ratings, which also play a big part in The Journey, decide how your player grows while participating in Pro Club matches. You also have more customization of your team as well, with the ability to design your own kit and badge for your online team.
FIFA 17 once again offers a very impressive lineup of different leagues and teams for you to choose from as well. This is where FIFA’s rival PES has always struggled in comparison and FIFA has bolstered that lineup even further this year, including bringing back the very popular women’s teams from FIFA 16. Newcomers this year are the Brazilian League and the J1 League from Japan, giving players more licensed choices than ever to choose from. Obviously, the game cannot have stadiums for each of these teams, but the level of detail put into the ones included more than makes up for that.
The sports game genre’s toughest task is to make consumers feel a need to buy each year, so an incremental upgrade can often not be quite enough. FIFA 17 was already coming off one of the series’ best outings in awhile, but with features like the The Journey mode and the even more realistic Frostbite engine, EA Canada has once again given players a reason to buy the game yet again with FIFA 17.
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, X360, PS3, PC
- Published By: EA Sports
- Developed By: EA Canada
- Genre: Sports
- US Release Date: September 27th, 2016
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "FIFA 17 was already coming off one of the series’ best outings in awhile, but with features like the The Journey mode and the even more realistic Frostbite engine, EA Canada has once again given players a reason to buy the game yet again with FIFA 17."
- The Journey
- Frostbite Engine usage
- More control than ever
- Giant roster of leagues and teams
- Lack of FUT upgrades