Review: FIFA 17 (PS4)

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Other Formats:

  • PS3
  • Xbox One
  • Xbox 360

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
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Title: FIFA 17
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (36.3 GB)
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Original MSRP: $59.99 / $79.99 (Deluxe Edition)
ESRB Rating: E
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Frostbite stole the headlines in pre-season, with EA Sports now utilising a third different engine within the last five years. While Ignite was not bad, it also failed to provide a future-proof platform for the current generation of consoles, while the gameplay of FIFA was hardly stellar over the past three seasons.

The new Battlefield-powering engine is certainly a worthwhile upgrade in regards to the visuals behind The Journey (more on that later), but its impact on gameplay is negligible.

Indeed, FIFA’s core on-field action is far inferior to its rival, Pro Evolution Soccer. The gap in quality is the biggest in Konami’s favour since the heyday of the PlayStation 2 era.

FIFA 17 is certainly not a poor game, but smacks of complacency. Incredible sales figures are guaranteed, seemingly relieving any pressure on refining the gameplay. Indeed, on the pitch, FIFA is merely good, while PES is almost perfect.

Passing is still rather laborious, as possession-based philosophies suffer through the slow ball movement. The touch, or lack thereof, displayed by the world’s best players is also alarmingly poor, while they often have the turning circle of the Titanic.

FIFA 17 The Journey 0-0 ROT V NEW, 1st Half

The nuances in the gameplay become more apparent over time, with a lengthy learning period required before mastering numerous button combos and general flow. It lacks the immediacy of PES, but can become satisfying to play, eventually. Offline play can also be tailored well through the settings, but a developer’s vision really ought to be evident in the default gameplay.

Physical play has been improved, which is very useful when holding off opponents. Whether in possession during a slow dribble or flying into a challenge at pace, the collisions certainly seem more realistic. Defending, though, is fairly tough against dribblers, as the game rewards perfect tackle timing over intelligent positioning.

… comedic failures, both for takers and goalkeepers …
Another of the enhancements that works well is the fresh set of options for certain passes and shots – for instance, a low driven effort. This addition is invaluable in mimicking the variety of shots in real-life football. In fact, it now seems farcical that FIFA players put up with power (i.e. holding down the Circle button) equalling height for so long.

The supposed AI changes are nothing more than a bullet point for the box-art, as the game suffers with a rather predictable set of CPU teams, completely put to shame by the excellent Active AI in PES 2017.

FIFA 17 Kick Off (In Menus)

The most apparent alteration is the ‘Set-Piece Rewrite’, which is hit-and-miss. The penalty system did not need fixing, but EA Sports elected to use a complex set-up using the Left Stick to initiate a run, direct the ball and control height. It often makes for comedic failures, both for takers and goalkeepers.

Free-kicks and corners are better, though. Custom run-ups and shot selection are satisfying for long-range dead balls, while the latter now uses a reticule to choose the position of each delivery.

Aside from those few tweaks, the gameplay will be of comfort to casual gamers, with a familiarity and inviting veneer of quality. In a way this is impressive, given the switch to a new engine, but there remains a feeling of a missed opportunity.

… high attention to detail and tight narrative …
Meanwhile, The Journey is, of course, the most notable addition to FIFA 17. I was fully prepared to dislike what looked to be a pale imitation of the sensational, genre-leading MyCareer from NBA 2K. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that The Journey is impressive.

It’s important to note that this attempt at a cinematic career mode is a long way from matching its basketball contemporary, but this is a commendable first effort which is well worth a playthrough. Taking on the role of a fictional character, Alex Hunter, this mode is centred on carving out a career at your favourite Premier League club.

Those who are not a fan of England’s top division will be fairly disappointed with the lack of choice, but it was necessary to keep the high attention to detail and tight narrative. This at least ensures that the standard Player variant of Career mode is not redundant.

FIFA 17 The Journey 0-0 ARS V RMA, 1st Half

Starting out as a failed academy prospect, Hunter is tasked with sealing his final shot at glory by impressing in an ‘exit trial’. From there, a contract with a Premier League side of your choice follows, while aiming to emulate Hunter’s grandfather by becoming a renowned player.

The storyline is fairly ‘vanilla’, while the dialogue and flow is predictable. Furthermore, the choices of speech seem to be completely irrelevant, with no discernible impact on the pre-determined narrative. In fact, some lines carry an L.A. Noire level of overreaction.

But, those limitations are far outweighed by the enjoyment of this mode, which provides an unprecedented feeling from a football game, when receiving instructions from your favourite real-world manager, or bumping into a world superstar in the back rooms of a stadium.

… the lack of nuance to styles of play does frustrate over time …
The actual gameplay in The Journey is frankly brilliant. The developers have smartly included the option of controlling the entire team or solely Hunter – a masterstroke which eliminates many gripes about the Be A Pro mode. Meanwhile, the objectives given by a manager are largely attainable and the match ratings rise and fall logically, eliminating any frustration.

FIFA’s excellent Skill Games are also key – they string together matches and cut-scenes as they comprise training sessions. Two drills per session, both focused on a specific skill (for instance, shooting), are not only enjoyable thanks to their supremely addictive score-chasing, but also contribute towards selection and improving Hunter’s attributes at a perfect pace.

There are a couple of deficiencies in the attention to detail, such as a loan move coming outside of the transfer window. Its limitations should not detract from a very worthwhile playthrough, however, which concludes with a very nice surprise relating to another of the game’s modes.

FIFA 17 The Journey (In Menus)

For US or casual fans, especially, The Journey also acts as an effective tutorial and provides a grounding in the way European football works, in a far cry from the North American college and draft system.

Once The Journey is completed, the manager portion of Career mode continues to provide the longevity behind the offline play. Granted, the lack of nuance to styles of play does frustrate over time, eventually removing any enjoyment or challenge. But, EA Sports has made some key changes in keeping the backroom tasks interesting.

New objectives from the board are key in achieving success, with your aims spread over categories like ‘brand exposure’ and ‘youth development’, which certainly amps up the realism. Some of these aims will see players veering from their standard approach – for instance, signing a marketable player just to boost shirt sales – which is a logical change to the predictable flow of Career mode.

The new financial menu, monitoring profit and loss more closely, is prominent, but almost seems a bit pointless as there’s very little management actually required. The transfer system also remains flawed in its ease, lack of emphasis on finding unknown talents, and unrealistic fees.

… where Frostbite shines brightest …
Visuals:
Frostbite has marginally improved the on-field visuals of FIFA, though this is not a spectacular upgrade in comparison to last year. The lighting is, however, incredible.

Even if the up-close player models never trick your mind into thinking an actual football game is on TV, the overall view of the stadium is superb, especially evident when playing matches in different seasons or times.

FIFA 17 Career (In Menus)

That brilliant lighting is also remarkable during cut-scenes in The Journey, which is where Frostbite shines brightest. Alex Hunter and the supporting cast have been rendered well, with great little touches such as the rippling of clothing.

The Premier League licensing has taken another step up with the inclusion of managers – a fan-pleasing level of authenticity which the development team has nailed, especially when combined with the TV graphics and meticulously-crafted stadia.

A generic manager can also be selected for Career mode, which will see your non-customisable avatar prowl the touchlines. Finally, FIFA’s tile-based UI is snappy, dynamic and well laid-out, generally providing the level of polish that separates it from the inherently Japanese feel of PES.

… the satisfying ripple of a net on the training ground …
Audio:
The previously-spectacular commentary of Martin Tyler and Alan Smith is finally beginning to wear thin in places, with certain lines now feeling repetitive. However, the smooth delivery and seamless stitching of separate words and phrases is wonderful – as are the contextual lines based on real-world form.

The voice acting behind The Journey is generally passable, though the post-match interviewer is grating. Alex Hunter and his family come across well, with a conviction that’s predictably in contrast to some of the cameo appearances from footballers.

There’s some beautiful sound design in other areas of the The Journey too, which are minute in isolation but help the immersion. For instance, the clacking of boots on the dressing room floor or the satisfying ripple of a net on the training ground.

FIFA 17 The Journey

Online/Multiplayer:
Ultimate Team is not only the core tenet of the online offering, but the single mode that guarantees EA a healthy profit each year.

It is still a ridiculously addictive mode, with such polish that it deserves its position as the key to countless FIFA fans’ annual purchase. The formula doesn’t grate, with a near-perfect mix of team-building, market-trawling, and playing.

Squad Building Challenges are the headline addition to Ultimate Team this season, which is another moreish time-sink. It involves spending hours on end sifting through menus and team layouts, buying specific players (for instance, an XI of one nationality, or a defence from one club) in return for a reward.

… The Journey is a must-play mode for any football fan …
Not only are these challenges enjoyable, but also provide a use for the masses of Bronze-level players often acquired. In a similarly useful, clever addition to extend the game’s lifespan, Ultimate Team now features weekday and weekend leagues for prizes, named FUT Champions.

Pro Clubs – the 11 vs 11 mode based on Be A Pro – is the best it’s ever been, especially when played well with friends. The ability to create a custom kit for a club, finally, is a seemingly-minor but all-important inclusion. The remainder of the online modes are as expected and run very smoothly.

FIFA 17 Kick Off 0-0 ARG V BRA, 1st Half

Conclusion:
This year, both FIFA 17 and PES 2017 warrant a purchase – though their relative merits have never been more polarising.

Though some of the authenticity is rather superficial, with its playing styles and individuality far inferior to PES, the depth of licensing is typically impressive. FIFA’s best qualities are taken for granted, with player updates and presentation incredibly well executed.

The gameplay has frankly been put to shame by its great rival, which is certainly the biggest problem for EA Sports at present. Poor passing, predictable AI and a general lack of fluidity mean the on-pitch action often lacks satisfaction.

However, The Journey is a must-play mode for any football fan, while the slew of online options and the quality of Ultimate Team have ensured its on-field deficiencies are overshadowed.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Raj Mahil

Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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