As with all football games, developers add a whole bunch of new features to their annual titles and every year you probably forget about them after an hour. Can the same be said for FIFA 17? Yes, but that’s not really a bad thing. FIFA 16 is currently the best football game out right now, so it would be silly for EA to start completely fresh with a brand new formula. A lot of people were expecting bad things once they heard about FIFA switching to the Frostbite engine. FIFA 13 was a great game, but EA switched to the Ignite engine for FIFA 14 which seemed to make the gameplay worse. Switching from the Ignite engine to the Frostbite engine hasn’t made the game worse, in fact, it feels very similar to FIFA 16.
I got to spend about an hour with FIFA 17, playing the same match-up for that entire time. Unfortunately, the best team in world football did not appear to be in the demo (Arsenal FC for those that don’t keep up to date with the sport), so I decided to pick the only team that isn’t despicable – Borussia Dortmund. My opponent lacked dignity, hence his decision to pick Manchester City. One of the first things I noticed was that the team selection menu is still incredibly laggy on Xbox One. I don’t know if this was because the game was running on an early build, but I do know team selection since FIFA 14 has been slow on the Xbox One version of the game.
Upon loading into the match, players are treated with a training game to pass the time. Unlike previous iterations of the game, you can now play this training game with a second player. This was usually quite awkward before as only player one was able to mess around before playing the game - it’s a small addition but I appreciate the effort. Another really small detail is that the cursors above the player’s heads are back to being solid colours! FIFA 16 made it difficult to see who you were in control of thanks to the cursors fading as your stamina depletes, now it remains visible just as it used to be. Again, this isn’t a massive change but it’s the small things that end up making a big difference.
Now, I don’t know about everyone reading this but I thought the move to the Frostbite engine was going to be a big deal… from what I could tell, everything seems basically the same. I think some player’s faces (Aguero, for example) looked slightly more detailed than usual, but I probably wouldn’t have guessed the game was on a completely different engine unless I was told beforehand. This could’ve been because the game was running on an Xbox One, the weakest of the two current generation consoles. Perhaps FIFA 17 will look a lot nicer on PC, but for now all I’ve seen is this and frankly I’m not impressed.
FIFA 17 felt slower than any other iteration of the game. You’ll need to bear in mind that I play FIFA with manual controls which typically results in a slower game anyway, but my opponent (who was playing on assisted) also confirmed the game felt slower. Personally, I prefer the slower tempo of the game as it gives you a lot more time to think on the ball. I also noticed my players didn’t seem to have an awful first touch when near the edge of the box, a constant problem I seem to have in FIFA 16. For a moment I thought this could lead to ping-pong passing like in the older games, though the passes themselves (combined with the game speed) felt slow enough to intercept without any problems.
The game’s slower speed gave me the opportunity to really appreciate the AI in the game. Playing a high-tempo passing game is usually quite difficult in FIFA (especially for manual players). It’s still not very easy to string passes together, but you’ll notice more and more that your players don’t go off on stupid runs. I felt like Aubameyang was waiting for me to play a ball to him, as opposed to the striker just sticking to the other team’s defense because that’s what he is supposed to do. It’s easy to play football near the opponent’s box thanks to the AI in the game
It wouldn’t be a true FIFA sequel without some new animations to add some variety to the game. Some of the pass animations look a lot nicer, and I witnessed Iheanacho score with a shot that I definitely haven’t seen before in FIFA 16. Again, these are small things but they help make the game a lot less repetitive in the long run. Speaking of shots, the goal keepers seem acceptable in this version of the game. Aside from that one goal by Iheanacho, every other goal was a spill goal (a spill goal is where the keeper saves the first shot, only for another striker to hit the ‘spilled’ ball into the back of the net). For the most part the keepers did their job, with the games ending with realistic score-lines (2-1, 1-1, 1-0). Of course, depending on how good you are at finishing will determine the final result, but I was happy enough with what I saw from the goal keepers. I did score a proper screamer with Reus from about 30+ yards out, but surely that’s down to my shot being amazing and the keeper deeming it as unsaveable… at least I’d like to think so anyway.
Defending felt a lot easier, though I was having a few problems with the cursor switching. Like I said before, I play on manual controls and that includes manual cursor switching. All manual players will know the cursor switching isn’t actually manual, it does automatically change depending on the range you pass to. In FIFA 17, I felt like this wasn’t the case. There were a few times where I was passing the ball to players, but the game wouldn’t give me their cursor. I asked the person I was playing against if he was having any issues, he didn’t know what I was talking about. Maybe manual auto switching actually means manual this year? Hopefully this can be investigated closer to the game’s launch.
Every set-piece in FIFA 17 seemed to behave differently to the way they were in FIFA 16. Corners now have a targeting system which shows you where the ball will go. If you aren’t a fan of this system, you can use the old method of swinging the ball in. The targeting system didn’t seem all that useful, especially when you are playing with someone locally who can see exactly what you are doing. This will probably work great for online play, but there’s arguably no point using it locally. Throw-ins now allow you to move your player around the touchline slightly, I’m talking maybe five or six steps at most. I’m almost certain you can’t actually do that in real football, but it’s a nice option when you feel you are being surrounded by the other team.
I couldn’t actually tell what the developers have done to the free-kick system aside from two things: the first change is that you can switch the perspective from any free-kick, allowing you to switch from a direct free-kick to an indirect free-kick; the second change keeps the perspective on the free-kick taker when shooting directly at the goal (instead of zooming out). I’m not entirely sure why the second change is in the game, there’s most likely something new you can do that I clearly haven’t heard of. Finally, the penalty system has been completely revamped making it even more awkward to score. Players now have to run up to the ball with the left stick before shooting with their penalty kick taker. The changes to the penalty system seem needless - I don’t know what it adds to the game aside from being another system for players to learn.
When we finished playing the first game, I noticed a new option in the menu: play a second leg. When you play a second leg, the game shows your aggregate score below the HUD in the top left-hand corner. I love this feature and I’m so glad it’s in the game. There’s nothing worse than losing 3-2 and not being able to run it back. The only thing I’m unsure about is whether or not away goals count, it would be interesting if they did but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they didn’t. It’s a shame the aforementioned option is technically broken, as the team you set at the beginning of a match reverts to the default squad when you play the second leg. I really hope this is fixed in time for the game’s launch because this feature is brilliant. EA have ignored the local FIFA players for a while now, shifting their focus on the Ultimate Team modes instead. It’s great to see what happens when the developers think about the local multiplayer side of things.
That just about wraps up my experience with the game. I wasn’t told what any of the new features to the game were (aside from the switch to the Frostbite engine), so if I missed any key additions it’s because they probably weren’t made apparent. After writing this preview I quickly looked at what EA were touting as being the new features, and I think I covered most of them in this preview. I didn’t get to try out the new Story mode in FIFA 17, nor did I see any changes to the career mode. If we see anything relating to new features/modes we will be sure to publish a news article about it, so stay tuned to GameWatcher!
If you have any questions about FIFA 17, let me know in the comment section below and I’ll try to get back to you.
FIFA 17 is scheduled for release on September 29th for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Most Anticipated Feature
Seeing the in-game Mourinho’s stupid face as his team lose 10-0 to the mighty Arsenal.