FIFA 17 has arrived on multiple consoles and this release is the latest football video game in the FIFA series to date. The game was released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (via download), Xbox 360 and finally the PlayStation 3, the game is available for purchase via retail and download on September 29, 2016 within the UK.
Not all that long ago, sports video games were a very predictable lot. You'd get quick play options, some sort of franchise mode, and if you were lucky, a career mode. Every year or two the developers would add a handful of new features, and that would be it. You were paying for roster updates and a small serving of new things to do.
But lately, there's been a trend away from that simple interpretation of the sports game. More and more games have been looking into adding narratives, new ways for people to learn the mechanics of the game without feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the other modes, and to often experience a story just as well written as most video game stories are.
Nonetheless, this has been the focal point for a lot of annual sports franchises lately, and this year’s FIFA incarnation, FIFA 17, is no exception. All the marketing money and attention has very clearly been poured into the game's story mode, called "The Journey". But this story mode also offers a lot more than most of them do. Even NBA 2K's oft-promoted story modes created by famous directors didn't have quite the same impact that The Journey had on me.
I think that's because The Journey is far less rigid than most of the career modes in sports games tend to be. It still has those checklists in individual matches, things you have to complete, but it's much less strict about requiring you to complete all of them. This is very important, because it never feels like it is forcing you to follow their exact narrative to the letter. Now, you're not going to see different cut scenes or find hidden branching paths, but the relatively minimal freedom that the mode offers you is just enough to keep it from becoming stale.
The problem that FIFA 17 will have for a lot of people is that it seems like almost all of the focus this year went into making The Journey the best it can be, and while it definitely seems to have paid off, it's also not for everyone. There have been marginal improvements made to the other modes, and people that have been playing these games every year for as long as they've been pushing them out the door will definitely take notice. Games feel slightly more physically involved thanks to some slight mechanical changes, and there have been some other very small tweaks to the core gameplay elsewhere, but they're all pretty detailed minutia.
If you want a more traditional career mode, that's still here too, and here again we see the same approach of making a handful of minor changes. You'll be given club goals now that set specific, weird goals for you to achieve, like selling a certain amount of merchandise or growing your brand. It's an interesting addition that makes the world feel a bit more realistic, but at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you keep winning. If you can do that, pretty much nothing else matters, no matter what the game might be telling you.
The only other mode that's really seen any serious revision is Ultimate Team, which is not all that surprising given how much money that EA makes from it. The biggest change here is the addition of a new mode, Squad Challenges. These modes allow you to take cards you don't particularly want, but meet some pre-set arbitrary requirements and commit them to a team. Once you've met all the arbitrary requirements for said team, you'll trade in those cards you didn't want for a smaller number of higher quality ones. It's a good way to get new cards without having to buy packs, but it also feels more like EA is throwing players a bone more than anything else.
Ultimately, whether or not this version of FIFA is for you comes down to how you feel about the fact that they even added a story mode to begin with. That is almost the entire focus here, not new mechanics, not new graphical improvements. If you wanted a surprisingly well crafted story to play through, and you already liked the core FIFA gameplay, this latest installment of the franchise will absolutely give you both of those things. If, however, you are even remotely on the fence about buying this because you don't particularly care for the idea of a story mode in your sports game, you should probably skip this one. Don't get me wrong, this is a very well made FIFA game, and if you've taken a few years off from the franchise, this is a great one to come back to, but it is extremely focused on a single thing, often to the detriment of everything else.