Another year goes by and you can be sure of a few things with football. The Premier League will be back and be the “best in the world” apart from when English teams play anyone remotely big in Europe. Jose Mourinho will annoy one of his big players and be ready to get rid of them. And the age old battle of the football (we don’t call it soccer around here!) games commences as I get myself warmed up for this FIFA 17 review.

With its big rival, PES 2017 going first and being hailed as one of the best football games ever. This year’s FIFA has some competition and some points to make up.

Below is my account of how the game plays, looks and overall delivers and FIFA once again takes to the pitch against PES.

Gameplay – “Mad Skills Bruv”

When Milner hit his volley and made it 2-0 in dying moments of the second half, I was spared a minor psychological blush. Playing against my step-son, who isn’t a FIFA player; this was a massive relief to secure the win.

fifa 17 review liv manHe was playing with Manchester United, powered by Zlatan and Wayne. I was playing as (and doing my best impression of) Liverpool. I had the majority of possession and the majority of chances, but De Gea was on his best form. He even managed to play a different formation to the real Man United’s 6-3-1 in the real clash of these two giants, and this was far more entertaining.

The game play is a really smooth experience to play, something not always the case with FIFA. As a PES (Pro Evo anyone?) fan I tend to see FIFA as more arcade than a true SIM. But this year they have got a lot more balance in the play. Being in possession is better, you no longer feel the need to hit the ball into the wide men and strikers as fast as possible. Move the ball, make nice passes into midfield and get that through ball just right.

And it feels very satisfying when you do.

I did find the default difficulty was too low for my mad skills (bruv) so I jumped it up a little very quickly. This does have the effect that certain goalkeepers, like De Gea, make some ridiculous saves. It all adds to the feel of the real game but sometimes it can get frustrating.

But overall, this is one of the best FIFA gameplay experiences to date.

Career Mode

Once again I picked Liverpool (can you detect a pattern here?), and decided to not unlock the mega bucks buy out in the EA catalogue, I did unlock a bunch of classic kits. I was met with a whole variety of tasks and targets.

Funding, brand awareness, youth scouting and a myriad of stuff had varying level of importance, the game also made reference to fans and shirt sales. This added a new layer of realism to the mode that was most welcome and made it feel more like I was in control.

fifa-17-review-careerI suddenly wanted to be stung by a national paper for taking bungs, because this task seems daunting. (thank you, I’m here all week).

So I jiggle my formation about and started with Firmino in a prominent attacking role, Sturridge and Origi (who I rate in real life) on the bench. I entered a pre-season tournament, and was grouped with Sevilla, Real Madrid and Brisbane Roar. I set the game to its professional setting, and was certain, 100% certain, that Real Madrid would be a whooping, FIFA games spam superstar stats right?

After a comfortable 4-0 win against Sevilla, I go to Real Madrid. I had to work hard, and concentrate. But I pulled out a 1-0 win. Maybe this wasn’t what I had expected, you could really bed in and play the game like a real match, where anyone on their day can win.

I really have enjoyed FIFA career mode and while not revolutionary changes, the new gameplay and the tweaks to what you can control is enough to eat your time away.

The Journey

You play as Alex Hunter, a Londoner who you get to pick the team he dreams about playing for. You then get a series of cut scenes and challenges to determine how you ‘place’ in an exit trial.

I placed in the top 10, and this is pretty much the extent of what I can say, these trials are trying. Which I guess is the point.

fifa-17-review-hunterSee I am not a big ‘be a pro’ or ‘online teams’ player, so I was worried about this mode, but it doesn’t require you to play as the individual in question. Instead it does give you the option to do it either way. So you could yes experience the mode as Alex, or as the team including Alex.

After some melodramatic stuff that I am sure was supposed to make me invest in Mr. Hunter, I chose to play my club football for Watford. I did this figuring that I might get game time. As Hunter I scored twice in my debut and immediately began to question something.

Here is the problem I have with this mode, as with the ‘be a pro’ career, Alex Hunter begins as a rating of around 60. He wouldn’t get picked, judging from the average ratings of the premier league. Obviously if you suspend that disbelief, during the game it’s all quite rewarding as you play well and try to keep your place.

The acting is a little awkward, but the overall presentation of this mode is very polished, the cameos from the various footballers who turn up, and the convenient buddy boys sub plot is cringey.

This mode is an interesting direction for EA to take FIFA games, and it does work, just won’t be for everyone. I personally felt an instant disconnect from Hunter and have barely invested further in the mode, after earning a few goals, I felt the gameplay and tone of the mode don’t coincide.

Overall

One thing I’ve not talked about so far is the presentation of the game, but I mean… this is what EA Sports always get right. It’s beautiful once again with some great animations and replication of that Sky Sports feel of a bit game on TV.

What’s more, this time I have also actually enjoyed the way the game plays. You play quick counter attacking, and with patience you can be a possession based team if you like. This instance of FIFA allows you to mix up play more than ever before although it’s still not quite as smooth as its rival.

Having played a significant amount of everything FIFA 17 has to offer I can say it is a very good, very well rounded and enjoyable football game. There are the usual bugs that they are sure to patch, and the penalty system takes some practice to get right.

But overall, this year’s FIFA is class and gets most of it’s features in the back of the net.

Can it live up to the standard of PES? In terms of presentation I would say yes, the licencing and sheer quantity of players, teams and leagues make it the case. But while the gameplay gets closer, it still doesn’t have the same flow to the game as its rival.

It’s certainly a tight race for the title this year.

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