5 things we learned from playing the FIFA 17 demo

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This week has been a big one in the world video games - especially if you like your football games - as the demo of Fifa 17 finally dropped.

Big things have been promised this year with the introduction of the Frostbite game engine, aimed at bringing better, more realistic visuals, The Journey mode to give a more dramatic and soap opera-like alternative to the Career Mode, and the overhaul to Fifa Ultimate Team with new tournaments and challenges introduced.

So, with the demo now offering a teaser of what the game will be like, what have we learned?

1. The Looks

FIFA 17

The game continues to divide some, but what cannot be denied is that this is the best looking Fifa to date. The Frostbite engine has provided instant improvements to the player likeness across the board, and the details within their features and traits.

It has also had an impressive effect on the footballing environments in which you're playing. The lighting in particular has taken a marked step forward, with floodlight glare much more realistic at night, while the contrast between light and shade during the day also appears to have been sharpened.

2. Key player impact

FIFA 17

This was an interesting difference to note. At times in Fifa instalments in recent years it has felt as though at any point, any player could suddenly morph into a talent of near-Messi levels and take over a game. That's not realistic, as mad and fun as it could be. In Fifa 17 so far it already feels as though things are shifting away from that.

Instead, the elite players feel a level above the rest at times. Feed Hazard the ball for example and much like in real life you suddenly feel more equipped and dangerous in attack compared to attacks started or spearheaded by others. Ibrahimovic, Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa were other early example we found in the demo where playing the game through them significantly improved your chances of success. Everything was sharper and more succinct, and shifted you forward in your seat as a result.

3. Intelligent movement

It's been a big factor in EA Sports' marketing push this year - players will be more spatially aware than ever, making the right runs at the right times to support the man on the ball. Could this really be the case, though?

On early gameplay it certainly looks that way. Not only were midfielders dropping and breaking into space to receive the ball better and more frequently, but the timing of runs has also drastically improved. We had attackers breaking stride and bending runs to stay onside too, an immensely satisfying feeling when moments later we were slipping in Lewandowski to tuck away a one-on-one.

4. Set pieces

FIFA 17

First of all, the new penalty taking system is still far from convincing. It feels as though Fifa 17 has made it far more complicated than it needs to be. The angle and pace of the run-up in truth is not something players should have to worry about or indeed fiddle over, as you will inevitably find.

Corners, however, have already improved from the early version of the game we played in the summer. The new system is built around a cross hair in the penalty so players can choose where to drop the ball. In the earlier version this cross hair snapped back to its starting point each time we let go of the control stick. Thankfully this is no longer the case and the cross hair stays where you want it.

Another nice but subtle touch is EA's removal of a long-standing problem: mistiming the jump in free kicks. We've all done it, one player runs over the ball and you hit jump, making things significantly easier for the player who eventually does strike the ball.

Now though, a quick press of triangle when you spot more than one player over the ball and you assign one player in your wall to charge down the set piece should it be shifted before being hit. It's a nice dynamic to add to proceedings, and one that can lead to some quick counter attacks when successful.

5. The Journey

FIFA 17

Arguably the biggest let-down of the demo - not because the content isn't good - but because it doesn't show us anything we hadn't already seen.

One game feels a little like short change for such a big feature in the game, and one that marks a significantly new type of gameplay for the franchise.

The Journey looks great. That much we know. The cut scenes in the dressing room and tunnel look great, and bring a new dynamic to Fifa. It just would've been nice to get more than one game as Alex Hunter.