First impressions after playing FIFA 17 in the general vicinity of David Alaba and Javi Martinez

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I got an early look at FIFA 17 at an event in New York marking the partnership between EA Sports and Bayern Munich. This only partially explains why Javi Martinez and NBA player JR Smith faced David Alaba and Zedd (a person who does music) as the culmination of the evening. The team of Alaba and Zedd won both matches they played. Javi Martinez was not pleased.

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More importantly than that, I got to play the game, too. Here are some initial thoughts on my brief experience with it two months out from release.

Gameplay

Maybe this is just in my head, but it seems like the game always rotates between being defensively focused on year to more of an attacking focus the next. In the two matches I played, it felt like this is definitely more of an attacking year. Spectacular goals seemed easier to score than in FIFA 16 (but not ridiculously so), which I think is a good thing.

Corner kicks are different this year, as there is now a marker that shows where you’re aiming, so taking a corner is no longer wholly reliant on feel. On direct free kicks a penalties, you control your run-up with the stick, which is a significant change, but quickly felt intuitive. This video provides a glimpse:

As for realism, I played as Real Madrid in the first match and had Sergio Ramos sent off, then played as Bayern in the second and had Jerome Boateng sent off. So take that for what you will.

The Journey

This is what I was most curious about and luckily the demo version of the game made available to us included a taste of the new story mode where you play as young footballer Alex Hunter. The demo was set up with him at Man United (though you can select the club of your choice in the full version of the game) and began in the dressing room before an early season Premier League match.

The sound was off on the game, so I could only guess what was happening in the cut scene as Hunter talked to a teammate (who appeared to be another fictional player). During the conversation, the game gave me a choice between two things to say. The teammate didn’t seem to appreciate my choice.

These conversational options seem to boil down to deciding whether you want Hunter to be cocky or humble and it seems those decisions are reflected in the game world. How deeply, I cannot say — again, I didn’t have any sound and the demo version was brief.

After the dressing room bit, it was match time and Hunter started on the bench. But late in the match, with Man United needing a goal, Jose Mourinho (yep, he’s in the game this year) gave Hunter his chance. Before entering the match, you’re given a set of objectives (score the winning goal, etc.) You have the option to control just Hunter or the whole team. As you play, Hunter’s player rating is displayed in the top right corner and you can see it go up or down in real time based on what he does. Miss a tackle or make a bad pass? It drops a few points. Score a goal or make a good nice? It goes up.

Once the final whistle blew, there was a post-match interview that again gave an A or B option as to how you’d like to answer one of the questions. That’s where the demo ended.

The trailer for The Journey shows far more depth of story than the demo provided, so it seems like a cross between FIFA’s player career mode and LA Noire or something. Which, could be cool.

On the whole, it was a good first taste of the game. In all honesty, I didn’t like FIFA 16, but this gave me hope that FIFA 17 will be far more enjoyable. I’d like to play it a bit more to see if that’s the case, but, again, it showed promise in my time with it.

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