FIFA 17 Gameplay Changes: How Can Each Be a Success?
We’re still over two months away from FIFA 17’s official release but the developers over at EA Canada are slowly starting to build up momentum for what should be another solid game of footy. Sure the spoon-fed approach taken by EA’s marketing team can be tough in a genre that lives and breathes instant gratification, but realistically speaking, we cannot expect EA to spill all of the beans this early in the release cycle. It’s with that in mind that we’ll take a look at the gameplay changes we can expect to see in FIFA 17.
The most recent EA blog piggybacks off an earlier feature aimed at replicating the physicality that we see every match from our favorite leagues across the globe. After some fine tuning, the Ignite engine was able to take collisions, interactions with various body parts, and a level of physicality never seen before in the soccer genre. With some fine-tuning of the referee logic, EA was able to capture the basics but still left gamers with a sense that something was missing. “Pushback Technology” and the new “360 degree shielding” hope to fill in this gray area as players can now utilize their strength to hold the play up by, in essence, holding players off as they formulate their next move.
Key to Success for this Feature - Will ratings, in particular strength (both attacker and defender), affect the outcome? The trailer shows Chelsea’s Eden Hazard effectively holding up the play against players like United’s Chris Smalling. While Hazard is most certainly capable of using his insane lower body strength and balance to hold off defenders, there must be a balance of outcomes when paired against stronger defenders. Additionally, will the CPU attempt to “go through the back” of a human-controlled player in an effort to nick the ball away, risking the referee’s backlash.
Another buzzword feature from the kings of the industry, “Active Intelligence System,” hopes to build upon the players not on the ball as they work to create space, come for support, etc. Previous FIFA editions have been plagued by poor off-the-ball AI, as the user often has to initiate runs in order for space to be created. By providing more short options, the pace of the game could potentially slow down while also dragging defenders out of position, in theory opening up space further down the pitch. Another side effect from this newly touted AI system will be the fine tuning of difficulty settings. This is welcome news as the jump from Professional to World Class as well as from World Class to Legendary was often too steep for players, resulting in a cheap experience. Instead of an increase in tactical acumen following a jump in difficulty levels, gamers were plagued by lower-level sides pinging the ball around like Barcelona, forcing us to use sliders to lower pass percentages in an effort to create a more sim-like experience.
Key to Success for this Feature - This feature’s success hinges on the AI and how they react to changes by the defense (whether it be tactically or input-based). Distinct team styles have been missing since FIFA 14 (the last time Custom Tactics worked) and IF this feature delivers on its promise, we’ll all be enjoying varying gameplay (tactically and based upon the difficulty setting), which should lead to matches feeling authentic based upon the team we’re playing. Oddly, there was no mention of how this feature will impact the defensive side of the ball, as for every attacking move there needs to be a defensive game plan/philosophy suited to counter it based upon basic marking principles (man/zonal/combination) and fundamentals (understanding positioning, space, etc.).
“New Attacking Techniques” isn’t just focused on your performance in front of goal. New downward headers and low driven/finesse shots are balanced with an enhanced through ball and new keeper options, as they can now perform driven drop kicks or throws in an attempt to start a counter attack with furious intent. The addition of driven low shots seems to be taken straight from the community wishlist, as goals like Portugal’s Euro 2016 winner by Eder are now able to be imitated. Strong headers of the ball like Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud will be looking forward to being able to aim their headers down, a difficult technique to achieve but effective when it comes off.
Keys to Success for this Feature - Shooting and passing is all about balance. For too long the finesse shot and sweet spots reigned supreme in FIFA. Sliders and manual shooting can help to tone it down, but there’s no substitute for out-of-the-box tuning. Will the low driven shot be too effective, and do the keepers have the animations and wherewithal to deal with these new shooting techniques?
From free kicks to corners to throw-ins, set pieces in FIFA 17 appear to be overhauled with a greater sense of freedom. The biggest change appears to be on free kicks/penalties where you’re now in control of your starting position, whether that be side to side or how far your run up will be in an attempt to generate more power. Corners see the introduction of a reticule giving players the ability to precisely aim their ball with a trajectory of their choosing, as well as the ability to control players off the ball. Coupled with the new physicality, corners could finally see an increased sense of excitement, which would be great given their importance in real life. Throw-ins have also been touched upon, with the ability to move freely on the sideline now at the user’s disposal. Fake throws have also been added and could be helpful to pull defenders out of position.
Keys to Success for this Feature - I have a feeling the learning curve for penalty kicks and free kicks will be steep. While I didn’t feel like this was an area that needed an overhaul, I’m intrigued by the new freedom and support any change that attempts to achieve realism. Hopefully this learning curve won’t offend the masses, who could call for a return of the old system.
One of the biggest unknowns facing FIFA 17 is the impact the Frostbite Engine will have on gameplay. As we’ve learned before, expectations with an engine in its first year with a game should be tempered, but the change to Frostbite is a bit of a different animal as it has been in use for several years with EA’s Battlefield series. While the effects on gameplay are yet to be determined, we know areas such as lighting and player rendering should be improved. Marketed as a better way to share resources across the different teams, EA is possibly attempting to create uniformity among its platforms, but at what cost to gameplay? Most will agree that FIFA is by far the smoothest sports game when compared to Madden, NBA Live, and the NHL series in terms of animation fidelity. Will the Frostbite Engine take FIFA to new levels, or will it take a few years to get the kinks out?
Keys to Success for this Feature - This is truly a “wait and see” feature as it relates to gameplay. Even if its sole purpose is not rooted in fundamental gameplay enhancements, the overall experience, especially a “Matchday” experience, could use an enhancement. So if Frostbite delivers on this, it will go a long way in terms of replicating the emotion and passion that defines our beloved game.
Which gameplay enhancement released so far has you the most excited for FIFA 17?