Review: FIFA 17 is the start of a new era for EA Sports
Become Alex Hunter.
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
FIFA 17 is hands down the best FIFA game I have played in years. It nails the atmosphere and intensity of playing a match in a large arena with an energetic crowd, it introduces a great, new story mode with emotion and loads of character, and it has some of the best gameplay of the series. EA knocked it out of the park with this one (sorry, wrong sport) and has potentially changed all future EA Sports titles for the better.
This year’s FIFA has introduced a brand new single player campaign with a full blown cinematic story. This is a first for a FIFA, but not EA as a whole. During the Xbox 360 and PS3 era, a boxing game by the name of Fight Night Champion introduced storytelling into EA Sports titles. The story followed a man through his rise in the boxing world, going from fighting in prison to becoming a pro. It was absolutely excellent and received high praise, but EA chose to not continue making story based sports games. This year, EA has come back to telling an excellent story in a highly popular series and they absolutely nail it.
You are Alex Hunter, a 17-year-old boy whose only dream is to play soccer professionally and follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were seen as some of the best players of their time. You follow Hunter from his days as a young boy, playing at local soccer games in the park and working his way up to the day he goes and plays in front of scouts and trainers in hopes you can impress everyone and make a name for yourself. Hunter is motivated to become the best, no matter what obstacles are thrown in his way. He is such a great character with many layers and you can’t help but grow attached to him and some of the supporting cast.
Shortly after you complete the scouting session, you get invited to join the Premier league and you get to choose what team you want to play on. You choose your team based off of who is offering you the best amount of money while also giving you a good amount of playtime. You may think to yourself, “Well great, he made it into the Premier league. Game over, right?” but there is so much more to this story.
Since the Premier league is filled with the best players in soccer, you don’t start out as a starter. You’re a substitute and you don’t get much playing time, most of the time they put you in within the last 30 minutes of the match (which isn’t very long) and you have to work incredibly hard to score a goal or two in order to win the match for your team as well as impress your manager and coach so they will think you’re worthwhile. These moments create intense matches of stress like I imagine it would be for a real player in the shoes of Hunter. You feel so much pressure on your shoulders to impress and win the match, you’ve been working so hard throughout your life to get to this point and you can’t mess up now because all eyes are on you. It’s all quite daunting, but it brings an amazing of satisfaction when you see that white and black sphere fly into the net and your team goes wild along with the crowd and announcers.
Rumors begin to circulate via the game’s Twitter-esque social media that you can view in-between matches saying that a big transfer is going to happen for your team and you’ll be working with a big player from one of the other major teams. Eventually, this happens and you are replaced and are put out on loan (don’t worry, this happens pretty early on so it’s not much of a spoiler). You are then put in the Championship league (which is a significant downgrade) and you have to make a name for yourself there.
When I found out they put me in the Championship league, I won’t like my heart broke. I felt as if I had been putting in all this work for nothing and I wasn’t appreciated. You feel the pain Hunter does, it sucks and you want to work even harder to prove that you can be a major player in the Premier league.
It’s truly an inspiring story filled with many characters and other story arcs for Hunter, it’s really deep and it’s one of the best stories I have played this year. Out of games like Uncharted 4, Doom, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and more I would easily put FIFA 17 in my top ten games of 2016.
The game also does a great job of making you feel like a new player in the league by getting picked on by other players who don’t think you’re worthy of being a player or getting nasty messages via social media telling you that you’re only in the position you’re in because you’re related to the famous Hunter family. The story takes pages out of many different sports films like Creed, where the son of Adonis Creed from the Rocky films wants to become a boxer but he wants to make a name for himself and not be known for being related to a legendary fighter. Hunter doesn’t want to be known because of his family, hell, he doesn’t really care too much about the fame all that much, he just wants to play soccer for a living.
The illusion of choice:
There are times when the game gets to Hunter’s head though and his ego really shows. The game features a dialogue wheel at certain points in the game that allow you to pick what you want to say. The three choices are displayed as firey, cool, and balance. You know exactly what you’re picking based on these three choices because firey will come off as cocky or mean, cool will be respectful and kind, and balance will be somewhat of a mix. Depending on these choices you’re manager and fan ratings will increase or decrease. While I know why they did it to an extent, I kind of wish the dialogue options were a bit more ambiguous and you didn’t know exactly what their effects would be. I usually just end up responding with the same type of response every time because I want a certain effect when I think it would be much cooler if you didn’t know the direct consequences of your choices.
It also feels as if the game is giving you an illusion of choice by telling you that these responses will affect how your friends, family, and teammates treat you based on how you act. I never felt as if anyone would react differently towards me if I acted rude to them except maybe after I initially said it. I didn’t feel any long term consequences for it and it felt bizarre to have this. The game is set on a very strict, narrative path which is fine but the game tries to tell you there’s some RPG-like mechanics in which you can change your story based on choices you make. In reality, there’s really no choices that seem to change the story in drastic ways.
The best gameplay of the series.
FIFA 17 has hands down some of the best mechanics and gameplay in the series. The way you move across the pitch at high speeds, getting those heart racing moments of jockeying for control of the ball as you approach the opposing goal, and aim your shot with precision and hold your breath in hopes that you sink the goal, there’s nothing like it. FIFA has this way of giving you an incredible feeling of satisfaction with sound, visuals, and more. The crowd goes wild, your teammates pile on top of you in celebration, the announcers break down your play and compliment you on your playstyle, it’s the best feeling in the world!
The AI are extremely competent and will attack you and outsmart you in fantastic ways to truly keep you on your toes. I rarely felt I was scoring “easy goals”, every single one felt like it’s own, unique challenge. Not only is the opposing AI smart, but your team’s AI is great too. They know exactly where they should be in order to strategically move the ball down the pitch or steal the ball away from a player. If I was running the ball and the enemy team was closing in on me, I would often see a teammate run out in front of me and start pointing to the ground in front of me to signal a pass. It felt like I was playing with real people thanks to life-like AI and excellent, realistic animations.
The series already had some of the best gameplay out there, but FIFA 17 turns up a notch by tweaking things to give you better control of the ball, better AI, and much more. It all feels very well done and EA Sports did a fantastic and careful job of making the best gameplay in the whole series. It’s truly one of the best sports games on the market right now.
If you enjoy an inspiring story filled with emotion, twists, and great characters FIFA 17 is something you’ll want to pick up. Even if you don’t know much about the sport, it’s pretty easy to get into as the controls are pretty simple and mechanics are easy to understand. The game does allow more complicated and complex styles of gameplay for veterans of the series, but you won’t need to worry about that as a newcomer. If you are a fan of FIFA, you’ll feel right at home with FIFA 17 and will appreciate all the new changes, both major and minor. I have no doubt everyone will fall in love with the game’s excellent campaign and the character of Alex Hunter. While the story isn’t everything it could be due to things like the illusion of choice, it’s an excellent starting point for EA Sports and I hope they continue to bring more stories to not only FIFA but some of their other titles like NHL and Madden. This is the start of a new era for EA Sports, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.