This is, for me at least, the best FIFA title for some time. I’ve been playing the game through EA Access for a few days now, and I’m loving it so far. And through the Frostbite engine, EA have made some great improvements. From being able to use a player’s body to hold up play, to selecting the area that you can drop the ball into from corners and free-kicks. But, there are still some improvements that need to be made – ones that have been glaringly obvious for some time.
‘FIFA’ and ‘intelligent’ are words that rarely mix. Which is most evident when you look at the passing mechanics. If I tried to count the number of times that FIFA’s decided to play a through-ball to a player who’s standing in an off-side position (rather than the guy making a blinding run) we’d be here all week. If you include the number of times that a player under-hits a pass, over-hits a pass, or completely misses the pass – well, you get the gist. Passing in FIFA 17 still lacks intelligence. The game will still pick the player in an offside position, over a team-mate in a decent patch of the park. It’ll still fizz a pass off the pitch, for no good reason, or dribble a pass into the feet of the opposition. And, it’ll still lead to you tugging at your hair, screaming at your TV and smashing your controllers.
There’s that word again, ‘intelligence’. Granted, goalkeepers are difficult to get right. Not only that, but they’re usually the focal point of your defense – the final guard standing between you and defeat. It would help if that guard was reliable, solid, predictable. But instead, with FIFA 17 and many iterations before, we’re left with haphazard, manic, poor decision making goalkeepers. Some of whom are about as believable as Joe Hart’s performances in the Head and Shoulders adverts… and his performances on pitch, to that matter. Yes, they’re slightly better than they were in FIFA 16. At least they don’t come rushing out in a straight line, hacking the man down if he moves an inch or two either side. But they still flap at corners, they still get beaten at their near post, and they still randomly come charging out of goal when there’s no hope of them reaching the ball.
They do have absolute cannons for arms now, though. So at least they could throw a football through a brick wall from 50 yards.
Random ‘off ball interactions’
Last year, the off ball interactions were frustrating as hell. Players would randomly trip over each other, or themselves. They’d get destroyed by their own team-mates, just by slowly jogging in front of them. Or they’d get inter-locked with other players, in some sort of Ancient Roman-esque orgy. Those sorts of interactions have died down a little, but they do still happen. Particularly now that players are able to use their bodies to get between the opposition and the ball. Players seem to lock and snap to each-other in all sorts of weird positions.
But that’s not the worst of it. Oh no. I’ve noticed in FIFA 17 that, for some strange reasons, your own team seems to pinch the ball without you passing it to them (as you run past). They’ll jog out in front of you as you shoot, or get in the way of passes and clearances. I’ve even had one player exactly mimic my run, about a foot in front of me, whilst he occasionally back-heeled the ball out of my path. Realism at its best. They’ve probably been watching West Ham.
Knowing when you want to clear it, and when you want to tackle
I understand that, on a controller, there are only a few buttons. So sometimes you have to have the same button for different actions. That being said, I wish that there was a way of indicating that what you want to do is clear the ball from your box, not slide in double footed and take out three opposition players in the process. Giving away a penalty for your troubles. Is that too much to ask?
Beards and tattoos. Am I right? EA have never been able to get them right on their FIFA titles. On NHL there’s a selection of fantastical beards of various lengths. On NBA you can deck your character out with an impressive selection of tattoos. Or, on UFC, you can have the best of both worlds, and make yourself resemble a tattooed wolf man. On FIFA 17, you’ll have no such luck. Tattoos don’t exist, and I’ve seen older ladies in Tesco who can grow a better beard than the ones on offer in this game. But I guess that’s just a small issue.
In general, this is probably the best FIFA title I’ve ever played. FIFA 15 and 16 were poor. It almost felt like EA were experimenting with what the new consoles could do, last year and the year before. Maybe they were, and maybe they’ve finally found FIFA’s groove. Either way, I’m pretty happy with this game.
That being said, there’s always room for improvement. Above is what I’d like to see changed in FIFA 18 (not that 17’s even technically been released yet). But how about you? Let me know in the comments below!