‘FIFA 17’ Review: EA Sports Takes The Next Step In Its Quest To Have The Best Soccer Game On Earth

The biggest soccer game on earth drops in a week. FIFA 17, EA Sports’ latest edition of its popular footy series, comes out in North America on September 27 and worldwide on September 29. This year’s edition of the game was highly anticipated thanks to the addition of a new game engine and the first-ever narrative mode in an EA Sports game. There was so much hype that living up to that standard was going to be tough.

Fortunately for FIFA fans, EA Sports managed to do just that. Get ready to say goodbye to your free time, because you’re going to dedicate all of it to playing FIFA 17 for the next few months.
Artistic Achievement

The big news with FIFA 17 was that Frostbite was going to be the new game engine, the same game engine that EA uses for games like the Need for Speed and Battlefield series. FIFA has always prided itself on being a “realistic” soccer game, and it accomplishes that with the incredible visuals in FIFA 17.

Prior to the release of the game, EA Sports revealed some of the ways that the presentation for FIFA 17 would be new. Some ways included manager reactions to big moments within matches, more than 500 new chants (including the Icelandic Huh chant that gave sports fans chills during Euro 2016, which is interesting considering Iceland is not in the game), an expanded range of player emotions, and a number of additions like pyrotechnics and home team corner flags that are meant to give the game a more authentic feel.

On the “authentic feel” thing, my favorite “improving the in-game experience” addition to the game are the performance analytics that pop up mid-match. In the past, FIFA games have featured graphics that will pop up during matches, but nothing as in depth as the new performance analytics that appear in FIFA 17.

Long story short, if you made each half 45 minutes long and just let the two computers play one another, you’d almost feel like you were actually watching soccer (not 100 percent, but almost).

The great thing about FIFA 17 is it lets you personalize elements of the in-game experience. If you got the demo, you saw the new gameplay features – new attacking techniques, set piece re-write, physical play overhaul, and an active intelligence system. Basically, EA wanted you to go from feeling like you were playing a video game about soccer to making it feel like you were playing a soccer simulation. It manages to achieve this.

The most innovative part of the game, though, is the brand new THE JOURNEY mode. FIFA has long had the CAREER MODES – it still has both of those (player and manager), and manager mode got a spiffy new upgrade in which you don’t just control your team, but you must reach objectives for your club like youth development, brand exposure, and financial goals – but this wanted to make the player mode feel like an experience (it’s the first time that EA has included a narrative mode in a game). It’s similar to NBA2k’s MyCareer mode: you control a young, up-and-coming athlete who is trying to make it in the English Premier League. It’s the most compelling feature that FIFA has included in years, and if you thought the series was getting a bit old and repetitive, you need to try out this mode.

Also new is the addition of FUT CHAMPIONSHIPS, which is the newest mode in ULTIMATE TEAM. It’s a unique twist on what is, quite possibly, the most popular aspect of the game. The truncated explanation is that you try to qualify for the Weekend League by playing Daily Knockout Tournaments. Win prizes, build up your ULTIMATE TEAM, and wreck everyone. Oh, and one more fun ULTIMATE TEAM feature: you can download a friend’s FUT squad and play offline, so get ready to test your friendships over a game of FIFA like never before.

Going from Ignite to Frostbite is a bit jarring. EA has used Ignite on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 ever since FIFA 14, so getting used to something new is, obviously, going to be a serious adjustment, especially considering how one of FIFA 17‘s biggest changes is the physical play overhaul that tries to make interactions on the pitch in a game more realistic (we’ll get to this in a second). The first few times you play the Frostbitten version of FIFA 17, it’s kind of difficult. You need to get by more on tactics than by having any kind of advantage with, say, speed or strength (unless, of course, you’re using Barcelona or Real Madrid or another dominant club against a team that’s not good, then go to town).

But once it clicks and you get used to the new engine, it’s as fun as any FIFA game. The biggest difference is the way that opposing players interact with one another. Basically, EA Sports wanted to make a game that is similar to real soccer in that physical interactions between players are crucial to the way that a game is played.

For me, the most maddening aspect of older FIFA games is that, when you attack, your teammates are sometimes prone to just standing around or running without purpose. In FIFA 17, thanks to FIFA’s Active Intelligence System, players on your team are more active off of the ball. If there is space for a player to exploit, he or she will find that space and try to exploit it.
Staying Power

This is a bit of a cop out, but like any FIFA game, the staying power will be decided by each individual person. I play a ton of FIFA, so I’m going to play this over and over and over, both online and with friends and on my own. It’s addicting, because every FIFA game is addicting, especially if you play online/ULTIMATE TEAM/for hours on end with your friends.

If you don’t like FIFA, odds are you’re not going to enjoy this game. While the game engine is different and the actual playing of footy feels different, it’s still, at its core, a FIFA game. However, you should give THE JOURNEY a whirl. While it’s still a soccer game, this is a new take on FIFA (and, really, all EA Sports games) that you’ve never seen before, one that introduces a story mode so that you’re doing something other than just playing. I love it. You may not. Both opinions are fine.
Bullsh*t Factor

The best news is that nothing happened which led to me throwing my controller on the ground in rage (like a goal that should have gone in but inexplicably did not or my keeper forgetting to make a save when the ball was softly kicked into their chest), so while I can’t promise that you won’t experience anything terrible, I didn’t get super mad because of a glitch, which is great.

Some of the changes aren’t necessarily positive. For example, the new penalty taking system seems like changing something for the sake of changing it. It’s a more awkward system that places a heavier emphasis on your left joystick, and while you get used to it, it’s still tough. The new free kick system also makes it more difficult to accurately put a ball on goal. In general, FIFA 17 really tried to change up its dead ball system, which you can learn about here:

(For the record, I like these tweaks, but the PK system really didn’t need to be changed and the free kick system is hard to get down.)

And of course, if you are an ULTIMATE TEAM fan, you know that this is the place where you’re going to spend your money: the price for FIFA Points is the same as it was last year, ranging from $0.99 for 100 to $99.99 for 12,000. For regular/premium packs, Bronze will cost you 400/750 coins, Silver will cost you 2,500/3,750 coins or 50/75 FIFA Points, and Gold will cost you 5,000/7,500 coins or 100/150 FIFA Points.

Also, the EAS FC Catalogue is still here and includes things like ULTIMATE TEAM upgrades, celebrations, kits, balls, and bundles. This means you have to unlock classic kits instead of just getting them, which like always, is lame. GIVE US THE COOL OLD KITS FOR FREE, FIFA.
Final Thoughts

Like every FIFA game, the first few days/weeks after FIFA 17 drops are dedicated to learning the newest version game, mastering ULTIMATE TEAM, and playing rage-inducing games with your friends online. The enjoyment of the game can sometimes fade away after a few months if it gets too repetitive, but with the new game engine, FIFA 17 presents a new look on a pillar of the sports gaming world. Oh, and thanks to THE JOURNEY, EA added something unique and cool to this version of FIFA that will hook you and make you want to spend all your free time playing the game.

Verdict: Clear Your Calendar

This review was based on an Xbox One copy of FIFA 17 provided by EA Sports.