Hands-On: FIFA 17 Demo
The FIFA 17 Demo has been out for a few days now and over the weekend I finally got a chance to play it. I have been excited to see what the new engine (Frostbite) will bring to the game, and to give The Journey, FIFA’s new Story Mode, a bash and see if it’s as good as everyone is claiming it to be.
In terms of the Demo there are quite a few teams to choose from including Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and a others (12 in total). It’s a great selection of teams to choose from with each offering something quite different in terms of setup. Apart from playing an exhibition match (against AI or vs.) you can also try out The Journey.
To get things going I mostly played exhibition matches, trying out the different teams to see how they play, and different opposition to see the same. I bumped up the difficulty immediately to Legendary (duh) to see how it has changed from last year (I had lots of issues with the AI last year) and to see how the opposition plays.
In general (and quite brief) the new engine definitely makes the gameplay feel a lot smoother than before. It’s clear that the Ignite engine had overstayed its welcome and that EA need to progress in that department. The Frostbite engine felt a lot less rigid and while there are now some new animation issues, they were largely better resulting in a free-flowing, fluid game. Player movement, when in control, feels excellent and a definite credit to the engine.
That said, the AI and gameplay still feels largely identical to me. Players react almost the same way in situations and the AI still plays the same type of football as FIFA 16. There are some ridiculous AI slide tackles being made, and when you try to slide tackle they just look very unnatural. The same goes for the general physicality. One thing the Ignite engine added was that tussling on the field, but it doesn’t seem to have translated across too well and it feels very imbalanced and looks slightly awkward at times. Other times it looks great and you can see where they are going with it.
Passing and shooting definitely feels much better this time around and the tweaking of the “stronger” pass adds a great dimension to the game. The same can be said to the dribbling which has a much more controlled pace and accuracy about it. Crossing still seems a bit off to me, but it could be a matter of practice.
As for The Journey… well apart from having to play as Man United it was an interesting take. I quite liked the little cutscenes as you meet your character on his debut for the club with one of his best friends making their debut on the same day. You get to make some decisions in terms of dialogue but what effect this has on anything was not clear in the demo. Your debut is a massive game against Chelsea (which feels odd, but anyway) where you are thrown into the game with the score at 1-1 and immediately given objectives including scoring a goal, ensuring a win and getting a rating over 7.5 (or thereabout).
I managed all three objectives, won the game and had the commentators heaping praise on me as if I had just won the club the champions league. Still, it was nice to get a bit of that atmosphere however slightly misplaced. The demo section of The Journey ends there, and while I am looking forward to more of it (and hoping the story is decent) I am not seeing much more to it than a Be a Pro mode with some slight additions. Nothing wrong with that of course, if the story holds up, otherwise it might be a little cheap.
That’s really all there is to the demo at this point and while there was an almost 600mb update I am not entirely sure what it changed. The visuals and production value in FIFA 17 are as good as ever and the gameplay is still on the fun side, but it just doesn’t feel all that different. Sure there are new “rewritten” free-kicks and supposed AI intelligence improvements, but I didn’t feel the difference in the demo. Perhaps it is something that will be a lot more apparent in the final game.
Do I think FIFA 17 will be good? Of course, it always is, but I am not convinced it will be a big improvement over last year at all. Time will tell.