FIFA 17 – Full Preview

How will FIFA's new engine and new game mode help the franchise move forward?

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What’s new in FIFA 17?

This year marks probably the biggest changes for a number of years for FIFA. EA’s famed Frostbite engine, which is used on many of its other titles including Battlefield, Need for Speed and Mirror’s Edge, will replace the Ignite engine this year. This will provide quite a significant change to gameplay, making FIFA feel quite different. The Journey, a new game mode, will offer players something new, and there are the regular updates to game modes such as Ultimate Team, Career Mode, and Pro Clubs.

Tell me more about the Frostbite engine…

It was revealed in a developer interview recently that the team at EA have been working on FIFA 17 using the Frostbite engine for over two years. It will have a positive impact on graphics, particularly for the new mode, The Journey. It will improve realism and make players look more life-like than ever before. Stadiums will now feel more authentic with the improvements of the Frostbite engine.

Marco Reus in the Frostbite engine, new to FIFA 17.
Marco Reus in the Frostbite engine, new to FIFA 17.

 So it’s more about graphics than gameplay?

Fundamentally, yes. FIFA has come a long way over the years in terms of making the gameplay feel more realistic. Changing the game engine is not enough to improve it all on its own. There are, however, two features that have been vastly improved using the new engine.

Set pieces have been radically changed: this includes free kicks, penalties, corner kicks, and throw-ins. You now have much more control over how you run up to the ball for free kicks and penalties. A longer run up will give you more speed and power in the shot, but will make it more difficult to be accurate. Corner kicks (and free kicks from a position you wouldn’t shoot from) will allow you to aim where you are kicking the ball, using a reticle, and pressing the cross button will decide how hard you hit the ball. You can then switch to a receiving player to get them into a better position for when the ball comes in. Taking a throw-in is now much more advanced as you can move up and down the touchline, fake throw, as well as throw with more power. This gives you a much better chance of being creative with throw-ins, and will mean less time spent standing still, waiting for a player to get in a position to receive the ball.

The other feature is physical play. Players can back into the opposition to shield the ball and hold up the play, something that is not always easy, or even possible, in FIFA 16. It will also help with a player’s first touch, as they can try to control the ball away from the opposition players, giving them a chance to keep the ball and then distribute or dribble away, without losing the ball straight away. They are also calling it an ‘Active Intelligence System’, which will constantly analyse space around the player, increase off-the-ball activity, and change the way the players move, read and react to the play.

That sounds like some significant improvements, tell me about ‘The Journey’…

The Journey is a new game mode for FIFA 17 that focuses on an in-depth story of a young footballer and his journey in the Premier League. Players will control a footballer called Alex Hunter both on and off the pitch. The game mode will take advantage of the new Frostbite engine to provide realistic scenes in the dressing room and manager’s office. Your career as Alex will be impacted by your performance on the pitch, and how you handle situations off the pitch. This will include choosing dialogue options in post match interviews and speaking with your agent.

Interact with your manager in The Journey
Interact with your manager in The Journey

The new mode is heavily influenced by real life experiences. Particularly, the fast growing talent of Marcus Rashford, who burst onto the scene with Manchester United. EA consulted several footballers: Harry Kane was the story consultant, with Marco Reus, Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial, Dele Alli, Reece Oxford and Marcus Rashford consulting on the authenticity of the story. It has been written by Tom Watt, who was the ghost-writer for the successful autobiography of David Beckham, My Side.

Awesome, so what about the crowd favourite, Ultimate Team?

Of course, FIFA’s biggest draw, Ultimate Team returns with more new features. This year, they are focusing on competition and challenges. FUT Champions will be a new feature that will let players play against each other in an attempt to qualify for the Weekend League. Weekly success in the highest leagues of Ultimate Team will also get you in the Weekend League.

At the weekend, you will have a set number of games and you simply need to win as many of them as you can. There are different tiers of rewards, which will give you in-game rewards such as packs and coins. Playing well in the Weekend League will get you higher up on the Monthly Leaderboards, which can unlock the best rewards in Ultimate Team.

There is also the FUT Championship series, which you can sign up for, or gain access through FUT Champions. The Championship will narrow down players to the best 32 players in the world, who will go to the live World Championships to crown the Ultimate Champion.

Very exciting! So what about the classic Career Mode?

Career Mode will return yet again, with more of an emphasis on Total Club Management. This will focus on the board’s expectations which will be split into five categories. Domestic success and Continental success are the first two. These are self-explanatory, with the board perhaps asking you to gain promotion or win a continental title. Next up is Brand Exposure. This will seem new, and will focus on how you can increase the reputation of the club in other markets, such as selling merchandise in another region.

For the fourth category, there will be a focus on Finances. You will be responsible for maintaining the finances of the club, which will include the value of the club, and it will give you a breakdown of money spent on transfers and loans. Youth Development is the final category. In previous years, getting a youth academy and scouting was an option but not a necessity. Some clubs will now ask that you scout for the academy and bring through young players into the first team.

Career mode has needed more depth for a while, that’s great! Do any of the other modes have improvements?

Sure, Pro Clubs has been given a bit of an overhaul in terms of how your player progresses. Player growth will now be determined by Match Rating, and your traits will also improve in the same way. You will be able to see at the end of each match how much each trait has increased. Another feature is that you can now customize your kits and crests for your Pro Club.

That’s cool. EA seem to have put a lot into FIFA this year!

It would certainly seem so. A lot remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see how the fan base reacts to The Journey, as EA have put a lot of time and resources into that game mode. There almost certainly wouldn’t have been a change in game engine if it hadn’t been for The Journey, so it could be seen as a risk for EA.

Ultimate Team, Career Mode and Pro Clubs continue to receive minor improvements that keep them fresh and keep players coming back year on year. FUT Champions and the FUT Championship Series should bring FIFA even more into the eSports limelight.

Overall, it should be a successful year for FIFA, but it all relies on the reception to The Journey.

 

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