Considering the amount of flack FIFA 16 received from the gaming community worldwide, it is of little surprise that EA appear, thankfully, to have upped their game for the latest instalment of the popular football-playing and simulation franchise. I have something of an unfair advantage when it comes to the demo, as this is actually my second experience of the game, having already taken part in the closed-beta testing. But despite this, the demo still itself features the usual bugs, glitches and freezes that plague every single demo, regardless of franchise. That is where the criticism ends however.
FIFA 17 looks to be the most promising EA football game for years. The new Frostbite engine, already successfully utilised in NBA 2k16 and Battlefield, helps the matches run so much smoother, opposed to the previously clunky gameplay which troubled Ignite and Impact. The whole experience seems much more immersive and real, partly helped by EA’s increased licensing of official Premier League logos and match-day elements, but also in minor things- the graphics of the grass, the sprites of the spectators, the authentic match-day announcements. All of these things culminate together to make an altogether more realistic mode.
But Frostbite’s real triumph is gameplay. AI stupidity, a trope which so often appeared in FIFA 16, is a lot less frequent. This not only helps you by ensuring your teams players are making appropriate runs, not conceding fouls and helping you keep possession more effectively, but also ensures that playing against the CPU is more of a challenge. Thankfully, we have moved away from the sideways passing mechanism that bored players to death last year, with teams now trying to intelligently and actively move up the pitch to create chances and score goals. The new strength mechanic also relies heavily on Frostbite allowing for more intense one-on-one battles between attackers and defenders. It seemed silly that a player like Lionel Messi for example, whom although is short is actually surprisingly strong with the ball, could get pushed off of it easily last year, especially when you factor in his world-class dribbling and ball control. The addition of new attacking mechanics now evens up these battles immensely- skilful moves and intelligent attacking is now richly rewarded.
FIFA 17’s biggest gamble into the unknown, however, is The Journey. A unique first-person perspective story-mode which has you actively make decisions to dictate and shape what path your player Marcus Rashford- sorry Alex Hunter takes. You can only play a very small portion of this mode in the demo, and unsurprisingly it’s very stacked in your favour to succeed. It seems unfair to harshly critique this mode yet having seen so little of it, but the main question that hangs over it is why do we have to play as Hunter? NBA has already successfully implemented customised characters into their story-mode and FIFA have already had Gameface and Be a Pro which had mass customisation as well. One has to think EA is using The Journey as a trial to see if it is popular, and perhaps using it as a template or basis for a much bigger, and potentially better story-mode in FIFA 18; this mode may finally feature the holy grail of customisation.
To conclude, on this evidence FIFA 17 looks much better gameplay-wise than its recent predecessor, which rightly is accused of going backwards and regressing the series. Although not every mode is accessible, and can’t be judged, key new additions to Pro Clubs and Career Mode also look to be adding a greater depth for players to explore and immerse themselves in and ultimately give them a better experience. On this demo alone, FIFA’s future does look brighter.