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Back of the net | The genius of FIFA 17’s free weekend

Back of the net | The genius of FIFA 17’s free weekend
Carl 'Malkaurai' Phillips

Free weekends aren’t a new concept. Online games (or multiplayer modes in AAA games) have been doing them for years, especially in the MMORPG scene, but last weekend EA took the approach one step further. They opened up most of FIFA 17, their current EA Sports flagship game, to PS4 and Xbox One owners. With the exception that the much publicised single player campaign The Journey being limited, everything else was on offer – Quick Play, Season mode, multiplayer with all game types, and the popular FIFA Ultimate Team. Sure, it was only for 72 hours, but that’s a lot of game to fill up the time that had me yearning for more once it was over.

I remember coming away impressed after playing the demo back in September, especially with the vertical slice of The Journey that was included. It’s for this reason I made sure I could jump into the free trial as quickly as I could. I will admit that I did prefer the on-pitch gameplay of PES this year, but FIFA still handles like it always has done. You know exactly what you’re getting with a FIFA game, and the same can be said of the latest iteration.

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That said, PES still doesn’t have the edge in everything else. FIFA 17 continues to exude style with its menus and overall presentation, and it outdoes its long-time rival in building an authentic atmosphere from start to finish. I appreciate those points are utterly superficial, but when you’re spending money on a game repetitious game you’ll be playing for months to come creature comforts like these are a must.

For the majority of my time with the trial I decided to power through the Career mode (seeing as only a part of The Journey was there, and I know I’ll enjoy it once I start.) I honestly felt it was the best career mode FIFA has produced in some time thanks to the way progression feels rewarding. For instance, the training mini-games aren’t a new aspect, but I love the way they are now used to improve characters in Career mode. Again, it gives a feeling of authenticity in that training is important. You can’t just turn up on match day and become a superstar – you’ve got to put in the hours to hone those skills.

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The training also gave me – someone who has never really been the best FIFA player, to put it mildly – a chance to really understand the intricacies and depth of the controls. I finally understood how to perfect finesse shots, and was able to fine tune my tackling so I wasn’t killing the opposing player (or getting sent off, more importantly.) The grading system helped in this regard, telling me when I was doing things right. The only thing I’d like to see added is a newbie settling where on-screen indicators helped with thumbstick placement and button timing for the basics in training. I’m not asking for it to be in matches (that would be ridiculous) but giving newcomers like myself the chance to perfect their input outside of competitive modes would make me feel much better with booting up the multiplayer.

If I did have one critique from my time with the trial, it’s that I was put off by the frame rate on my PS4. Despite claims that the game would run at 60FPS I honestly felt like it was running at half that during a match. For a game where milliseconds make all the difference it’s crazy frame rate issues have yet to be resolved.

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Here’s the thing, though – despite my grumbles about the FPS, I kept on playing the FIFA 17 trial. I couldn’t put it down, playing the mini-games to improve my players and work my way up the league table. It meant that when I booted up my PS4 this afternoon to check if I could still play it (I couldn’t) I was genuinely gutted the free ride was over. I wanted more, and the splash screen informing me of the different versions available to buy knew it as well (this is also a massive hint to those who know me of a certain present-giving season fast approaching.)

This is why EA’s move to offer the entire game for free was a masterstroke, especially during the Black Friday sales. The reduced prices weren’t exactly what I would call a bargain (between £30-35) but that’s still enough of a drop to make it seem like a worthwhile purchase. I mean, if a casual FIFA player can see the appeal, I can only imagine how much of an impact this has made on those more dedicated former players who have held off on this year’s edition.

Did you take the FIFA 17 Free Trial for a spin? Did it manage to convince you, or was it just a weekend fling? Let us know in the comments!