The common knock against sports franchises is that they’re glorified roster updates with some minor feature changes. Electronic Arts FIFA franchise has been on an impressive run, putting out high quality football games year after year. This year though, FIFA 17 brought the most substantial changes to the franchises in recent memory. Not only did EA take FIFA to their coveted Frostbite engine (used in games like Battlefield & Star Wars Battlefront) but they made their first ever story mode. With all these big changes, was EA able to keep the franchise rolling?
First things first: the move to Frostbite is a huge deal. I don’t usually spend the beginning of a review talking about an engine change or graphics, but the upgrade to Frostbite in FIFA 17 is really spectacular. To start with, the character models are the most lifelike of any sports game on the market today. From their movement to the smaller details, they flourish in FIFA 17. Even the crowds have been made more lifelike with the new engine. Their reaction to the action on the pitch continues to push the realism forward.
One of the changes to FIFA 17 alongside the new engine is the speed of the match. Things move just slightly faster in FIFA 17 then they did in FIFA 16 and previous games. Part of that is that there’s more fluidity in the pace of the game, resulting in you stringing together passes and dribbles far easier then before. It’s a little unnerving at first to get used to the slightly faster pace, but after a couple of matches, I had forgotten about it. In return for this fluid movement, you get more lifelike plays and replays of the action, making for a more exciting overall experience.
The other big change for FIFA 17 is The Journey, the game's new career mode, and a first for any of the EA Sports titles from my recollection. In this you play as Alex Hunter, an upcoming footballer who is trying to make it into the Premiere League. He has some setbacks and it’s your job to push him forward. The Journey is not an over-the-top in your face story like the one Spike Lee directed in NBA 2K16, but is more subdued and more a way to string games together rather than force a narrative down your throat. There’s still some drama to be had but the stakes don’t seem dire.
It actually feels quite similar to the career mode in this year’s NBA 2K17 game. In between matches, you have practice drills to complete that help build XP. Before each game, you are given a set of objectives and scored in real-time during the match. It’s just the right level of interactivity between the story and playing the game, and it keeps you wanting to progress. That’s not to say the mode is without its faults. The story, although minimal, still has some cringe worthy segments. The dialogue feels at times forced to increase drama where there really isn’t any. You also have dialogue options as Alex on how you respond to individuals with good, bad and neutral responses. Those have slight impacts on how your team, coach, and fans respond to you. Not the most elegant system but it works nonetheless.
There’s just a ton of content packed into FIFA 17 including an updated Ultimate Team that makes this an extremely compelling package. I’ve sunk nearly thirty hours into FIFA 17 already and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. The new engine increases the spectacle of the sport while still keeping true to the franchise. This is a great looking game and easily one of the best sports games of the year.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.