With the new Frostbite Engine, the introduction of The Journey and the neglect of clubs over the last few years I wasn’t holding my breath for FIFA 17 Pro Clubs. What we got though put a smile back on my face and here’s my story why.
Pro Clubs Rocks!
Pro Clubs is THE best game mode in the FIFA series bar none. It’s the most rewarding and for years has had the best competitive scene full of elite players each a specialist in their own position working together in sanctimonious harmony. It’s electronic football in its purest form.
I’ve been playing at the top level since FIFA 11; finished number one in the world with clubs at the end of two FIFA’s and loved every minute of it.
That was until September last year…
FIFA 16 Sucked!
Clubs on FIFA 16 felt like playing Sunday League in 1980’s orthopaedic shoes with an anvil in my pocket and one of those playground sponge balls that was consistently full of water. Passing to team mates usually resulted in a 3 second wrestling match and players controlled the ball further than they could kick it.
It was difficult to call it a competitive game when the best tactic was to rifle a pass into the box hoping for a lucky bounce and matches were won and lost on a series of first touch coin flips.
N.B. Advocates for last year’s gameplay are either relatively new to the game (I’ve been spoilt having experienced the game in the glory years) or were enjoying it because the randomness in FIFA 16 lowered the skill gap so much that they finally weren’t getting smashed every match. Either way they’re wrong. 😉
Needless to say I was disappointed and with EA dumbing down FIFA year on year for a while now I wasn’t optimistic for Pro Clubs in FIFA 17.
One glimmer of hope was that EA were pushing competitive gaming hard. Surely they couldn’t have a competitive scene where the skill gap was a similar level to Viva Pinata. (Could they…? This was EA were talking about after all)
FIFA 17 Pro Clubs – Redemption or Bust?
In the run up to FIFA 17 I was hearing snippets of information from competitive gamers that had already played the game, and 99% of it was positive. This never happens. There’s always something. My hopes were being raised and I constantly had to ground them. The players had experienced FUT and career mode – Pro Clubs is a completely different animal.
Then EA Access early access came around, I could finally see for myself! I jumped on clubs with three others and….
YASSSS! Clubs is back!!!
Ok, my joy might have been over-exaggerated and fuelled by the relief that FIFA 17 Pro Clubs was just actually playable after the bitter disappointment of 16 but I was happy. I could see myself getting stuck into clubs again and actually enjoying it.
Here’s what I think of it so far (finally):
Pro Player Accomplishments – Better but Unnecessary
Prior to FIFA 17, accomplishments were a pain in the arse. I work hard all day, I’ve got a family, the last thing I wanted to do is sit in painful drop in games for hours trying to get seal outs and weak foot volleys just so I could compete at the top level.
The old accomplishment system encouraged greedy and unenjoyable gameplay which EA thankfully identified. By introducing levelling up based on your match rating Pro Clubs feels a lot less “grindy” and even the odd drop in game can be enjoyable.
For players like me it’s a godsend. I can just get on, play clubs and let levelling up do its thing. Being able to assign and unassign experience points means pros can be set up depending on what position you play and should feel and perform differently accordingly.
That is until you have two teams of maxed out pros on the pitch… Perhaps EA should have considered some sort of cap – even with the Frostbite Engine I’m not convinced the gameplay can stand up to 22 superhuman footballing machines on the pitch at the same time.
Even though the new accomplishments system suits the time deprived player it’s still not necessary. Levelling up has a place in offline modes where you’re playing through a story but online you just want a level playing field where games are purely skill based.
For Pro Clubs online, just give everyone the same amount of points to spend on their pro’s attributes and be done with it. A level playing field where tactical set ups are skill based, balanced and fair.
FIFA 17 Pro Clubs Kit and Badge Design
My God I’ve seen some hideous kits so far. It’s clear that fashion design isn’t a strong point in the FIFA community.
That being said customisation is a nice touch. It’s something the clubs community have been asking for for years and EA have shown they’ve been listening.
It’s not the full “upload your own designs” package that a lot of people wanted but let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen. The game’s rated for ages 3+ and EA would have to employ an army of moderators to clean up the inappropriate content. (Have you seen the FIFA community on Twitter?)
FIFA 17 Pro Clubs Gameplay
Let’s get down to business, at the end of the day this is all that counts.
The gameplay in FIFA 17 Pro Clubs is a huge leap forward from FIFA 16. Passing has been fine-tuned along with the first touch system meaning we can play proper football again. Build ups are more realistic and enjoyable and teamwork is rewarded as is individual intelligence.
If you disagree take a look at this video from my pal Dylshkin (if you want to learn Pro Clubs from the best make sure you subscribe!)
Actions are a lot less random. In FIFA 17 Pro Clubs you actually feel in control again. If you lose the ball or misplace a pass it’s because YOU did something wrong. Not because the EA RNG monkey decided to screw you over. And I can live with that. Being in control of making a mistake means you no longer get frustrated at the game. You learn from it and get better.
The increased control and reduced RNG means the skill gap has increased which is fantastic news for competitive pro clubs. Games should be decided by who plays the best and not by who gets the luckiest bounce.
From an outfield player’s point of view keepers seem balanced. A good keeper will keep you in games but they’re still beatable (low driven shots anyone? 😉 ). If you play GK let me know what you think in the comments!
One slight negative is something I touched on earlier. With 22 high rated pros on the pitch the game becomes really congested. FIFA 17’s game engine, as it is every year, is designed primarily for 1v1 gameplay. When there are AI players on the pitch the game feels spaced out and balanced. Take away the AI and give all players free will and that space and balance goes away.
To combat this you have to think quick and mix up your game plan. Use the odd over the top ball to get defenders off the front foot to create space for your passing game. Stay unpredictable.
For me, Pro Clubs is back! The casual scene is going to be fun and the competitive scene will be brutal. The best game mode in FIFA 17 has risen from the ashes along with my enthusiasm to play it.
What do you think of FIFA 17 Pro Clubs so far. Let me know in the comments!