EA sports’ increasingly shiny Footballing Simulation hit shelves this week, much to the delirium of football-loving slackers worldwide. FIFA 17 is out and with it, the option of going outside for at least a week for its loyal fan base. This year’s big talking points in the build-up are the new Journey campaign, slight tweaks in gameplay, and Lionel Messi’s dethroning as the game’s best player and cover star. Those who spent hours on end both loving and hating FIFA 16 will spend similar hours on 17 whooping in their room one moment and smashing their controller on the wall the next. Yet as with every year, FIFA 17 brings just about enough change around the edges to justify spending another £45, but not so much as to lose familiarity.
The most important part of any sports game is the gameplay, despite much advertised new off-pitch features. It is hard to find any significant differences from last year’s instalment in this respect.Perhaps the shooting is harder, or perhaps the passing is easier, however these changes are easy for the player to adjust to within a matter of games. As ever EA do a good job of blending realism with arcade-like playability. As the next best thing to watching or playing a real game of football, FIFA does away with slow moments and poor matches. As with real football, the game’s fun is result dependent. When winning the gameplay will appear fluid, fun and dynamic, when losing it is much the opposite. Well-known blood boilers such as jet engine-like turning circles are still a thing, as are bizarre goalkeeper errors.
This year’s biggest selling point, flaunted on the adverts, is the highly exciting ‘The Journey.” In a fierce deviation from the classic sport game features, especially in FIFA, EA included a story mode. ‘T he Journey’ follows the story of the fictional Alex Hunter from childhood as he strives to rub shoulders with Ronaldo and become a world superstar. The idea is certainly different, and has its ups and downs. The experience is wonderful in a surreal way sometimes, as your Hunter character speaks what you command whilst Wayne Rooney grins in the background. Another example of this is scoring a hat trick against Real Madrid but getting little credit. Alex Hunters story acts as a fun novelty upon starting, however as with all novelties it wears off. It can get a little tedious, and lacks what is best about FIFA as it is single player. It pales in comparison to playing with friends, or plying your abilities online.
The staples of FIFA remain the main pull for returning and new players. Career mode and in particular Ultimate Team carry the bulk of the game as in previous years. A brand new Ultimate Team database and its competitions are enough distraction itself for an entire year of FIFA. This year it has become much more competitive, with the new weekend league feature finally giving players a chance to find some form of world ranking. FIFA 17 is a must for any football fan who counts themselves a keen gamer, even if just to follow the crowd and veer away from the now desolate FIFA 16 servers. It remains the clear leader in bringing the world’s most popular sport to living rooms and bedrooms.