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As another edition of the all too popular FIFA rolls out this fall, a sort of ritualistic routine has evolved each fall. The new FIFA is hyped up until it’s released, you buy the game and then play until your fingers bleed and you break your console or disk out of frustration.  

The gameplay and rosters receive a slight tweak each year until EA decide that a patch is released and proceeds to ruin the fun.  

This year’s FIFA is different though.  Coming off a frustrating last edition in gameplay in FIFA 16, FIFA 17 definitely hits the mark.   A week after its release, I finally got my hands on the much anticipated release of this year’s copy of FIFA.  Let’s take a look at why many are calling this FIFA’s best edition yet.

Each year, FIFA only receives a minor upgrade in terms of actual gameplay.  A few tweaks here and there, with a new dribble mechanic, a few shooting upgrades etc.  FIFA 16 felt bland and uninspired.  Passing was maddeningly inconsistent, goalkeepers felt massively overpowered and dribbling was way out of sync.

This year, FIFA 17 feels the exact opposite.  The gameplay itself is smooth and elegant yet direct to the point where it feels like you are lacing your boots up and powering home a volley from 30 yards away yourself.

The passing, the shooting, the dribbling all feel like a constructive and successful replications of the real thing.  The new penalty and corner taking system is a welcome addition and improvement on a stale gameplay mechanic.

For those not familiar with the game too much, it won’t feel like a massive difference from previous installments.  However, for those hardcore fans year in and year out, taking a penalty will put some grey hairs on your head as you send the ball skyrocketing further than Sergio Ramos in the Champions League.

The new Frostbite engine provides a much needed lift on graphics and appearance.  Every blade of grass, each shirt ripple and player face is meticulously detailed and updated.  Each stadium and player looks beautifully realistic and adds to the overall genuine quality of depth to the game.

The addition of player managers on the sideline is a welcome touch as well.  The option to see Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola pump their fists in ecstasy as you score the winning goal is a nice little feature.  

For all the aesthetic appeal and grandeur that comes with every installment of FIFA, the gameplay is genuinely enjoyable. Perhaps not perfect as you will still be pounding your head against the wall in frustration at some player intelligence and lack of attacking runs but the fluidity of the dribbling and improvement on passing makes up for any little setback here and there.  

There are quite a number of new additions to the game as well.

The all too popular and revenue grossing Ultimate Team gets some fantastic additions.

Squad building challenges make the game more competitive and finally gives you something to do with all those thousands of players in your club taking up space.  FIFA’s version of the Madden Collection Book.   The addition of new “Ones To Watch” cards that you invest in for future upgrades spices up the market and trading mechanics and new animations for high rated players in packs builds the excitement even more.

Career mode makes its triumphant return with some new features.  The ability to select your manager’s appearance is nice touch but it lacks the creative control gamers crave.  Having to pick from a pre-selected list of old English men and the odd younger looking manager seems to detract from another addition that seems to come up short.  It would be better if players could create their own lookalike version of a manger but it’s a step in the right direction.

The mechanics of career mode received a new addition as well.  No longer are the goals and objectives of a manager to win just games and titles.  The board places a huge emphasis on growing the club’s brand through shirt sales, brand exposure and youth development.  It is a welcome addition for players looking to take on a more club director role and adds a new element to the game.

(Players are now judged on shirt sales, brand exposure and club revenue)

(Players are now judged on shirt sales, brand exposure and club revenue)

However, it seems rather fruitless for bigger clubs when they already have those key areas on cruise control.  It seems that as long as you win with clubs like Real Madrid or Manchester United, that will be good enough to drive shirt sales and youth development, provided that you don’t tank the season playing against the computer.

For players looking for a massive career mode overhaul, then you will be sadly disappointed.  While the new features add to the content, there are no real quality additions that a big career mode fan, such as myself, look for each year in a FIFA installment.

The transfers, the scouting and general linear structure are the same apart from a few aesthetic updates here and there.

The biggest new addition to FIFA is the inclusion of an all new gameplay mode called “The Journey”.  This is FIFA’s biggest and most ambitious mode yet and is the closest shout to most of us will get at experience a young player’s rags to riches rise to fame story line.

Complete with cut-scenes, story elements and original characters, it adds an RPG element to FIFA by having Alex Hunter, the main character in “The Journey” choose different outcomes on dialogue based on the situation.

(Alex Hunter earmarks the best new addition to FIFA in years)

(Alex Hunter earmarks the best new addition to FIFA in years)

However, the end result seems the same regardless of the road travelled to get there.  Whether you are fiery or cool in your responses, the end of the game is a rise to fame as Alex goes on to emulate football legends from across the world.

Overall, FIFA 17 is a massive improvement on previous installments.  Maybe it’s not much to go on considering how poorly FIFA 16 was received but the gameplay and new game engine make the game fun to play.  And it’s been a long time since I have really wanted to play FIFA for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Career mode has some nice additions but lacks genuine quality and depth to fulfill the mode’s real potential.

The Journey is by far, FIFA’s best addition in years apart from Ultimate Team.  Both of which I will be playing for hours to come.

This year’s fall FIFA ritual feels a little different than before.  It’s fun and full of excitement.  A perfect way to emulate the start of the soccer season.  It is EA’s most complete representation of the beautiful game yet.