We already knew FIFA 17 would be coming, in fact we could have probably predicted that a decade or so ago. But with EA giving a select few the chance to go hands-on with the game at their EA Play conference, it was the first time we were going to be able to get further details on the game and find out exactly how it plays. No-one in their right mind would turn down the opportunity.
So I didn’t. I played it and I pretty much loved it. But it didn’t wow me.
Now, my love affair with FIFA goes back many years. From someone who was ingrained in the PES way of life up until 2008, the year FIFA really took a big hold, I’ve watched lovingly as the series has been built on, year on year, with crisper visuals and overhauled gameplay being hyped with most new iterations.
2016 is no different and it is no exaggeration to say that FIFA 17 looks absolutely stunning. Or at least the cut scenes and match build ups do. Because you know what, the actual on-field visuals struggle to wow. With the Frostbite engine delivering authentic, true-to-life action and the likes of James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial, Eden Hazard and Marco Reus all detailed on promotional art with incredible detail, I guess I was looking for something else. Something that would amaze my eyes.
But it didn’t. It was just FIFA, albeit a fast flowing, very fluid FIFA that will quite easily take my money once more.
With a choice of 11 teams available to be checked out at the hands-on, quite obviously the likes of Manchester rivals City and United were present, as were the biggest clubs from Spain, Italy, Germany and France. Taking to the pitch with the latter’s premier club, with the unmistakable Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line, PSG vs Dortmund was, in my eyes, a fairly even match up. It proved that way as well as an initial tight 1-0 scoreline showed that FIFA 17 isn’t going to be giving up goals easily. That was followed up with a 0-0 draw to further highlight the skills which will be needed should you be wishing to top any FIFA league table. Skills that I don’t currently possess – no matter what my history with the franchise.
With the usual controls in place, and the option to feint dribble and show off a ton of Zlatan’s skills being utilised throughout, passing seemed crisp and precise with AI runners moving into well thought out positions throughout the matches. Tactical nous has never been a huge motivation behind my FIFA career but there are most definitely a ton of options available for those who wish to mess around with formations, pressing strategies and more throughout the course of the match. Do formations, tactics and skills really win a match though?
Nah, it’s all about being tough.
Pressing the ball is easy – but then that’s always been a large part of my game – and jumping in with delightful slide tackles are still the most obvious way to make your mark on the match. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m rather partial to the odd slide or two with numerous yellow and red cards having been accumulated over the years (apologies go out now to my FIFA Clubs team-mates who have had to frequently battle on with 10 men), but the refs do seem a little lenient in this latest version. In fact, no matter how hard I tried – and believe me, I tried – I struggled to achieve my ‘sending off’ goal over the course of a few matches. Perhaps it was down to the AI or my opponent skipping gleefully away from my sliding attempts, or perhaps I just need a bit more practice. Whatever it is though, I will ensure my ‘hard man’ attitude continues through into FIFA 17 because I feel that is going to be a key feature when it arrives on 27th Sept 2016.
I’ll also need to be working on my goalscoring exploits as the majority of shooting opportunities frequently fizzled out into nothing more than a grass cutter at best – even the single goal I scored in the first two matches should really have been grasped by the keeper. Does that mean the men between the sticks are a bit rubbish this time round? It’s all a bit early to say but they certainly didn’t seem to be world class, except when coming for crosses as they rarely missed a catch – even with the big Swede ready to drop his head onto my pinpoint crossing, they still managed to rise up and above even the biggest players.
One new addition that really did stand out though was that of the new dead ball routines. Whilst I didn’t get the opportunity to check out the penalty kick system (not through want of trying), corner kicks with a new cross hair are brilliant. No more will you find that your corner routines are solely in the hands of the gods, with instead a small cross hair allowing a bit more precision. It won’t be like dropping a ball onto a two pence piece, but should you be looking to hoof the ball out to the edge of the area for a volley into the top corner, or ping one under the bar in order to test the goalie, then the options are all there for abusing. I’m guessing, although am not sure, that the hardcore FIFA fans could quite easily switch this off, but for someone who needs/wants/demands a bit of help, then this seems a nice idea.
However, for all the fun I had with the game, I have to still admit to wanting to see more from the revamped FIFA 17. The game is apparently changing but it still plays damn well and should ensure any FIFA fan will embrace it for what it is. The visuals are at times utterly stunning, but that is mostly when away from the in-game action. Of course though, it’s the on-field action which is the most important in my eyes and unfortunately I was instead blown away visually by the impact of Madden NFL 17 in an neighbouring booth. Depending on who you are, the introduction of a Story Mode, putting you in the shoes of an up and coming youngster as he makes his way in the big time looks a nice addition to the usual FIFA goodies, but without that option being available for perusal, it would be wrong to speculate prior to further details dropping.
FIFA 17 will however still be taking my money come September. That is without a shadow of doubt.