FIFA 17 Review: The Journey Forward
Ryan Bloom / Feb 3rd, 2017 No Comments
The best annualized sports games, including EA’s FIFA series, are difficult to improve because they’ve already reached consistently high quality and the short turnaround time makes it nearly impossible to undergo large revamps. For this reason, sports gamers have come to accept that titles like Madden and MLB The Show will only boast minor improvements each year.
FIFA 17, EA Sports’ latest iteration of the footy franchise, walks this line in a smart way. The game adds the Frostbite Engine to its arsenal, but it doesn’t result in a drastic reinvention or reconfiguration. There is a new RPG-like mode, The Journey, but gameplay never strays too far from where its gone in the past.
The result is familiar: another solid year of FIFA.
The Journey Begins
The biggest addition to FIFA 17 is “The Journey,” EA Sports’ football equivalent to NBA 2K17’s RPG-like MyCareer mode. Rather than creating a player, you step into the role of up-and-coming star Alex Hunter. Not only do you control him during matches, but you also live his life, starting with a critical childhood milestone.
Players experience some emotional and personal moments as Hunter, but most of The Journey feels forced and cliché. Poignant plot points are hinted at, but they are never fully explored as the story focuses on Hunter’s career goals and relationships with teammates. Decisions made by players as Hunter seem to have little impact on the world around him, and players are even forced to restart the week if they don’t achieve certain goals. All of this makes The Journey feel overly scripted and directed.
Still, it’s exciting to play FIFA in a different way when it comes to being on the pitch. Users can choose to control only Hunter during matches or his entire team, but regardless, they must try to make Alex successful on the field. This introduces a new layer of complexity to gameplay.
However, Hunter’s abilities on the pitch are not easy to tune with your own playstyle. The Journey includes a bare bones skill tree system and training exercises that will increase Hunter’s attributes, but players have little control over how those stats improve. These features take a back seat to the story, but the plot isn’t engaging enough.
FIFA 17 brings the Frostbite engine into the game for the first time, and the results are solid. Frostbite allows for some minor graphical enhancements and the ability to produce sets like locker rooms and offices for The Journey. However, the on-field product is not much different from its predecessors.
Gameplay mostly feels the same, but there is a noticeable difference when it comes to physicality. Players fighting for position on the pitch feel more weighty and lifelike, and you can almost feel it while holding the controller. Ball physics also feel more true to life.
Overall, the game is more physical and methodical, moving at a slower, more realistic pace than in previous iterations. Defensive AI is smarter, although the poor offensive AI of your teammates can grow frustrating while controlling Hunter in The Journey. Making perfect passes and touches, and learning how to pull off skill moves is more necessary than ever. It all leads to a footy experience that feels like its real-life counterpart, but it can be complicated to master.
EA went for a big splash by introducing the Frostbite engine and a new cinematic experience into FIFA 17. These new additions result in a more physical, realistic title with even more replay value. However, as you might expect from a blockbuster franchise with tons of success, FIFA 17 doesn’t let these new additions completely revamp the series.
FIFA 17 is more FIFA. Its massive success is probably the reason why EA is reluctant to make major revisions to the game. Ultimate Team is still the game’s most engaging mode. Gameplay is slightly improved and prettier, and there are more opportunities for the developers to show off the game’s capabilities. But that doesn’t make it exceedingly better than previous versions of FIFA. The best thing about that though is the previous FIFA titles have been great. FIFA 17 is just the latest to continue that legacy.
FIFA 17 was reviewed on Xbox One using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
tags: ea sports , FIFA 17 , FIFA 17 Review , FIFA 17 The Journey , review