A new FIFA is big news, but does 17 deliver the goods? Find out as we dissect the demo ten days before its full release.
The FIFA 17 demo landed online last night and promptly crashed the PSN servers, such was the demand for the new stud in EA’s shiny crown.Â Clearly, a new entry in the series is big news, but after putting in my time with demo, is it shaping up to be worth the wait?
In short, I’m happy.Â I seem to say this every year, but 17 is the slowest FIFA yet – and the most realistic. Compared to the arcade thrills of PES 2017, it feels positivelyÂ like a football simulator. Drifting past players by blindly tapping the sprint button no longer gets the job done, and players wonâ€™t simply drop a shoulder on a whim. Beating your man is more taxing, and itâ€™s often necessary to use L2 + R2 (PS4) in concert, or the triggers on Xbox.
There are also the medley of tricks and flicks that bona-fide rabona showboats like Ronaldo can use to ghost past defenders, but the wings are tight, congested areas now.
More exciting still is the revamped passing system, which feels altogether more refined – and subtle. In short, the default pass has a lot less power behind it and itâ€™s suddenly possible to play small dinks to the feet in the middle of the park without seeing the ball rocket off your foot, bypassing the player you intended to receive the ball.
Suddenly, the idea of playing intricate 1-2 passes as Barcelona seems not only possible, but exciting too.
This sense of slow build-up play in the middle of the park has a consequence:Â to ping the ball, youâ€™ll need to rely on the R1 + X (RB + A) pass, a move that was introduced in FIFA 16 but almost completely ignored. Why? Because simply depressing the standard pass achieved much the same effect.
Players also arenâ€™t the machines they used to be. They donâ€™tâ€™ simply bomb forward all the time, and conserve their energy in the middle of the park instead. Judicious use of the â€˜make-a-runâ€™ mechanic (L1) is a must.
As for other alterations: You no longer hit corners yourself, and instead dictate where the ball will land with a marker, before jostling to get your head on the ball as one of the outfield players. Freekick run-ups can be adjusted, though I havenâ€™t hit many yet. Sweat builds up on playerâ€™s faces, and they even looker redder and hotter as time goes on, which is a fantastic touch.
The visual touch
Visually, itâ€™s stunning. Faces are more realistic than ever, every blade of grass looks lush, shadows are exceptional: itâ€™s an upgrade on FIFA 16 in every sense of the word, and every bit as good as PES 17, if not better.
So, what of The Journey, the new story mode, and a first for the series? The demo gives you a twenty-minute taste of whatâ€™s to come, situating you in the boots of one Alex Hunter, arising star in the game. There are a few dialogue trees to play with, some impressive cutscenes, and plenty of rousing pre-match talk. On the whole, I suspect the majority of the story will be determined by your actions on the pitch: as it should be.
Time will tell whetherÂ The JourneyÂ offers replay value, but as a package, it’s an exciting addition to the core game.
All I nall, the FIFA 17 demo has me excited. Itâ€™s the most realistic iteration yet (as I say every year), and by overhauling the passing system, offers up a fair subtler experience. Cleverly, EA has released the demo the day their great rival, Konami, sendsÂ PESÂ to store shelves.
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Which is better? PES is fun, frenetic but arcadey. Between the two, I prefer FIFA 17 so far; its presentation is spot on, and though some of its animation aren’t as good as its rival,Â it looks like it’ll offer up the deep, intricate experience all footy fans crave.