EA takes numerous risks with this year's FIFA and scores on all of them.
Electronic Arts' FIFA franchise isn't one that's particularly high on innovation. Each year sees improved visuals, updated rosters and slight changes to the gameplay. FIFA 17 is different. This year's edition features a brand new mode called The Journey, introducing a single-player story to FIFA for the first time. Is it any good and can it compete with Pro Evolution Soccer 2017?
The Journey mode follows Alex Hunter, an amateur footballer who works his way up to the Premier League. The initial few matches function as skill games to decide Hunter's placement and it's up to you which position he opts for. Players can also decide what attitude Hunter takes throughout the campaign with different results - being rebellious, for instance, is appealing to fans but may not make the authorities happy. FIFA 17 also marks the shift to Frostbite engine and it presents more realistic looking players, cleaner animations and a striking visual experience overall.
Unlike past iterations, FIFA 17 makes quite a few changes to its gameplay. Travelling with the ball is now more important than before and provides more incentive for different attackers. The AI will now adapt to your routines, causing you to change things on the fly. Though the free kick system could still use a bit of work, especially when it comes to set pieces, the action feels much more evenly paced than before. Along with The Journey, there are Ultimate Team, Career, International and Be A Pro modes to get involved with.
Honestly, being able to influence Alex Hunter's journey is pretty fun and provides some actual direction beyond just random matches. The decision making actually has an impact and the attention to detail, be it with managers or of the players on the field, is incredible. Tweaks to the gameplay have also instilled a much needed sense of variety even if veterans need to make some readjustments here and there. Ultimate Team will likely consume most of your time in the foreseeable months and FUT Champions is a decent enough time sink in that regard.
Even with the looming threat of Pro Evolution Soccer 2017, EA has pulled out all the stops to ensure FIFA 17 is different, well-made and an altogether entertaining new entry in the hallowed franchise. If you're not a fan of multiplayer, then there's still a compelling single-player to explore on top of Be A Pro and Ultimate Team. Hopefully, we see more such experimentation from EA in the future.
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