Review: EA Sports FIFA 17
Every year it’s the same ritual, especially when it comes to sports game. With every new season and championships start, EA Sports showers us with American Football, Hockey and as most of you guessed it, it’s time now to check out FIFA 17. Long awaited ever since the reveal of a new engine and gameplay features, as well as brand new modes, is EA Sports FIFA 17 the ultimate football (or soccer for you Americans) simulation game ever made? Let’s find out.
One of the greatest fears that most players have when talking about EA Sports FIFA (more than any other annual franchise) is that the title is just a simple paid upgrade. Rest assured, EA Sports FIFA 17 is not that this year, and while of course they updated a bunch of typical stuff like team rosters, it also brings a lot of novelties including a brand new engine: Frostbite. Created by DICE back in 2006 and used for the first time with Battlefield Bad Company (2008), this award-winning game engine is becoming the centerpiece of a lot of other EA Franchises including Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge, Dragon Age, Need for Speed and even Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare. By using Frostbite, the EA Sports developers managed to bring more realism to the overall mood of the game, with insane player facial scans (even coaches), crowd and weather rendering. In any case, we will look more into the technical part of the game in this review.
The big Novelty (with a capital N) for EA Sports FIFA 17 is “The Story” mode, which will put us in the shoes of a certain Alex Hunter, a young player who wants to break into the world of professional football. A story mode in FIFA? While some may find it a grotesque idea, or an attempt at mimicking what 2K Sports do with the NBA 2K franchise, but in the end curiosity often prevails and I was naturally plunged into the adventure.
The big Novelty (with a capital N) for EA Sports FIFA 17 is “The Story” mode
You begin this story by watching a bit of cinematic and discover that this young player has been dreaming to become a professional footballer, with a legacy to carry including his dad and grandfather both being ex-pros. Soon enough, after a series of practice drills, as well as the testing phase, you’ll work your way to make a strong impression to scouts, and finally end up picking a contract in a Premier League club. While it’s always tempting to start big, the amount you’ll be playing if you start with a big league team like Manchester United is less than if you were playing for a smaller team.
The adventure mode is almost reminiscent of the movie Goal! (the 2006 flick starting Kuno Becker). There are many similarities but i’d rather let you discover which ones. While this is all great and entertaining, there’s a bit of limitation in this mode considering the very scripted path you’ll be following, even with the illusion of options from time to time. I just wished that I wasn’t constrained to play the story of Alex Hunter, but instead create a story around a player I created (probably that looks more like me) like it is the case in NBA 2K17 (and the previous one as well). On top of that, while the story mode will mostly see you playing as a team in the Premier League, it would’ve been great to be able to transfer to another league, such as the Spanish La Liga or Ligue 1 in France. This limits the gaming fun since after ten hours spent on this mode, our player slowly starts to become a star, and I honestly I would’ve loved having transfer to PSG (my hometown team).
Nevertheless, “the Story” is still a good time because everything is well done, including managing the player performance with a hint of RPG elements (you get skill points you can assign to “perks” to boost your stats) the opportunity to increase your performance through practice drills and games, and last but not least see Hunter get friendly with legendary and famous footballers of our time like the cover star Reus, but also Martial, Ibrahamovic and even Mourino if you pick Mancherster United like I did. Also note that you will be able to choose between playing as the whole team or simply Hunter, which is a really good idea found in previous career modes of the EA Sports franchise.
The other two main modes, namely Career and FIFA Ultimate Team (AKA EA Sports cash machine), are there as well and as enjoyable to play as you would remember from last year’s edition. Career got several interesting additions including an objective system for your coach that you will need to watch carefully to prevent any nasty surprises at the end of the season, and the workforce management, the budget and the transfer window has also been redesigned to enable us to be more proactive managers.
On the FIFA Ultimate Team side, the interface was shuffled to be more ergonomic and easier to get used to, thus allowing newcomers to learn quickly this game mode. FIFA 16’s FUT Draft mode comes back as well, which will allow players to participate in interesting online tournaments in exchange for 15’000 points. The great novelty though this year is both the FUT Squad Building Challenge which are a sort of weekly and monthly trials which will test your skills in building the best team, but also FUT Champions. This section of FIFA Ultimate Team will put your squad building and playing skills to the test, as you compete in daily knockout tournaments, to then qualify for the weekend league and win prizes based on your ranking that can range from gold packs to FIFA FUT coins, and as you continue through the year, your FUT Champion rank will rise (or fall) and might get you into the the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series, an international 32 player eSports tournament set to happen next year, as well as the FIFA Interactive World Cup. While i’m not much of a FUT player as i’m not that great to make enough points to open new FUT packs, nor I want to spend my own money for it, but I liked a lot the FIFA Ultimate Team Kits designed by music artists and bands such Kygo, Kasabian, Zedd, Major Lazer and Damian Marley, as well as the 3 Middle East FUT kits which are greatly designed with Arabic writing all over stating “Football is my life”.
On the point of view of gameplay, the game kind of feel a little bit heavy, especially in your ability to cut through defenders. Forget the simple “hook-acceleration” technique which allowed us to easily cover ground after eliminating our defenders. The artificial intelligence has been revised, particularly on the defensive front, as we note that the movements of the players are more aligned with our attacks, and they are developing aggressive strategies to take the ball from us and counter attack effectively. On the con side, the goalkeepers, while probably more intelligent, tend to stop improbable shots.
Several changes are also very noticeable in this 2017 release, with the most important one being the new free-kick and corner system. A small circle now appears and allows you to gauge the direction that you want your ball to land around, which is weird in some way as the aim system almost remind me of a virtual archery or dart game.
Technically speaking, the Frostbite engine, which he briefly talked about in the beginning of this review, greatly improves the overall quality of the game. More beautiful and crisp, EA Sports FIFA 17 truly takes advantage of the engine with close to perfect models of players, realistic stadiums and even representation of famous coaches (wait until you see Arsene Wenger react to one of your misses when playing with Arsenal). The field as well was also retouched and with more realistic and detailed textures, which are affected by the lighting and weather. In general, the game looks way better than the previous versions powered by EA SPORTS IGNITE engine, especially when it comes to player faces, with more precised details such as pores, blemishes but also sweating, but there’s a bit of preferential treatment in terms of player rendering. While Rooney, Martial and Ibrahamovic (as you can see in the image bellow) have a faithful rendition of their real-life counterpart, other lesser known players or stars like Dimitri Payet to name a few.
Finally when it comes to the music and commentary, things are close to the previous version. The soundtrack has some big names of hip-hop, RnB and European dance floor hits, but also tracks produced exclusively for FIFA 17 by Paul Kalkbrenner and Zedd & Grey. Not much of my kind of jam to be honest, but for those used to the kind of tunes in previous games shouldn’t be surprised with the catalogue in FIFA 17. On the point of view of commentary, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith are back as they were for the English language (they’ve been there since 2008 now), and Essam El Shawaly for Arabic which is as exciting as you would think from his iconic work on real-life TV, but the lines are still the same, and get boring over couple of matches.
EA Sports FIFA 17 was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by EA Sports. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC via retail and digital stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• The Story
• Upgraded graphics thanks to Frostbite Engine
• Solid physics engine
• A bigger upgrade in terms of new modes and leagues
• Better AI whether on the offensive or defensive
• FUT Champions
• Still some weird collision bugs
• Not a fan of the new free kicks and corners
• Lesser known player 3D model don't look as realistic as the big stars