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7 must-read FIFA 17 tips and tricks – directly from the developers at EA Sports

Ben Wilson travelled to developer EA Canada to get the inside scoop on what’s changed this year – and these seven essential tips will ensure you score an immediate advantage over all your mates…

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Whether it’s Ultimate Team, career mode, or newly added story mode The Journey, there’s something here for players of all expertise levels. One vital thing to take on board is that pace has been slightly toned down this year, and physicality ramped up – meaning powerful target men are, at last, an asset rather than an albatross. But there’s plenty else you need to know, too. Take it away, EA…

1. In The Journey, consider your destination

Picking an elite side can be something of a poisoned chalice

You’ll almost certainly be keen to check out that new story mode before you do anything else in this year’s FIFA. You play as 17-year-old prospect Alex Hunter, and can choose to turn out for any one of the 20 current Premier League clubs – but picking an elite side can be something of a poisoned chalice. Mat Prior, who directed the mode, explains:

“There’s no single most challenging club in The Journey, as we wanted to give people that element of choice – but it is definitely harder if you’re playing for a team whose goal is to win the Premier League. Such as the Manchester clubs, or Chelsea. Plus at United and City, you’re up against Ibrahimovic and Aguero just to get into the side. You need an average rating of 8.0 to break into the team ahead of them, which is a daunting prospect.”

“If you’re a relative novice, you should go for the less marquee teams,” continues Prior. “I would suggest, if you have genuinely no allegiance, one of the mid-table to lower-tier teams. Crystal Palace is a good one. They’re a little way down the table, but have a decent squad, and great fan chants in the game too.”

2. Master the perfect free kick…

Set pieces are more challenging, yet offer greater flexibility this year. For instance, you can change the angle of your run up before striking the ball, using nudges of the right stick. “All new features take some time to get used to,” says lead gameplay producer Sam Rivera. “What you need to do with free kicks is understand the player you are using, and know his attributes. For instance, ‘curve’ obviously really affects how much curve a shot will have.” Aim too far wide of the net with a player who has less than a 75 curve rating, and there’s zero chance of it bending back in to hit the target. (Don’t forget you can check player attributes before striking the ball, by holding R2/RT.)

Under Rivera’s tutelage, we find half the power bar to be just the right amount of oomph to both keep the ball down and stretch the keeper, after a conventional run up. But, as he explains, there’s a twist: “If you position a player in direct line with the ball, you can go around the wall with the outside of the foot – the Roberto Carlos style. You couldn’t do anything like that before.” Getting it right is much harder than a standard free kick, but there can surely be no better way to properly rub a mate’s face in when they’ve just clattered you on the edge of the area.

3. … and penalty kick

Spot kicks are even more challenging to adjust to than free kicks, if you’re a returning FIFA 16 player. It’s taken two weeks of FourFourTwo moaning that they are broken to adjust to the new system, and even now we prefer the old one. Anyway, over to Rivera: “For penalty kicks, the mechanic is now completely different. Once you get it, we think it’s much better - like taking a regular shot. Use the right stick to line up your player, then the left stick to start your run up. You can sprint with RT/R2, slow down with the LT/L2, and obviously at this point need to hold down the shoot button. The faster you approach the ball, the more powerful it will be – but also the higher your margin for error. My favourite technique is sprinting, even though there’s more chance to miss!”

4. Pick your online team wisely

Big, powerful strikers like Ibra and Diego Costa are a massive factor in FIFA 17, that’s exactly what we’ve been aiming for

Fed up of having to play as one of Spain’s El Clasico teams to stand a chance online? Mercifully, changes to the match engine, in particular that improved sense of physicality where bulky players simply refuse to be budged off the ball, open up other strong sides with which you can combat FIFA’s traditional big two.

“The classic teams everyone plays as every year are Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona,” says Rivera. “This year you can definitely add Manchester United and Chelsea to that list, for competitive gameplay. They’re both so physical. Big, powerful strikers like Ibra and Diego Costa are a massive factor in FIFA 17, that’s exactly what we’ve been aiming for. Borussia Dortmund are recommended too, for different reasons. You won’t be using the physical play as much with someone like Marco Reus, but he’s fast, and so is Aubameyang – they’re a really speedy side. FIFA isn’t just about pace any more, but with players like that it is still a difference maker.”

5. Stop being Mr Dribbles

While teams packed with power rangers get a much-needed boost in FIFA 17, there’s less of an advantage to packing your squad with players boasting five-star skill moves. Again, that should make online play much more balanced. “If you pick a passing team – Barcelona are the best example, obviously – you can put together, say, ten passes in a row and it will all flow better, because we’ve improved the game’s passing and active intelligence such as player movement,” says Rivera.

“There’s more activity around you,” he continues. “In previous years you could dribble around everyone with one guy like Messi or Neymar, but not any more. You can still dribble past a couple of guys, but we’ve changed the defence so that team-mates support one another better. It’s not just one defender trying to tackle Messi. Other defenders will move across to cover much more effectively, and choose better tackle animations when you (or an AI team-mate) makes a challenge.”

6. Get physical in career mode

Who would I recommend above all else? Renato Sanches - he’s a beast this year

No surprises as to the type of player Rivera recommends for those planning to sample career mode this year. “It’s a good, but tricky, question. I play as Club America, so focus on signings from the Mexican League, rather than your Premier League.” 

The trick is to drill down into player stats rather get swept away by your infatuation with one big name: “I would say it doesn’t matter on the individual, but a combination of two specific attributes. They are the player’s mass – how big they are – and their strength attribute. We combine those values to determine how strong the guys are. The bigger the player, the better he’ll be this year. Who would I recommend above all else? Renato Sanches, who just signed for Bayern Munich, he’s a beast this year. And he’ll be great in Ultimate Team as well as career mode!” I’ve applied this exact advice to my Ultimate Team, and as a result have Olivier Giroud (194 lbs, 88 Strength) monstering through all comers. Far more effectively than he ever has done for Arsenal, in truth.

7. Broaden your Ultimate Team horizons

Ultimate Team is more addictive than ever this year – but don’t bother dropping six months’ worth of coins (or wages!) on a Suarez, Ronaldo and Messi. You can get much greater value in the next tier down. “Dimitri Payet for West Ham was always one of those players last year,” says Ultimate Team producer Garreth Reeder. “The poor man’s Mesut Ozil. You could find him at a relative bargain, yet the delta in attributes was not far off the elite players within the Premier League.”

We put this to the test, and he’s right – it’s already possible to build the spine of a top-quality, 100-chemistry Premier League side in Ultimate Team for less than the cost of two gold packs. Planning on adopting the same approach? Be sure to grab Giroud (inevitably) to lead the line, Giannelli Imbula (79 OVR) to do the heavy lifting in midfield, John Terry (84 OVR) for defensive duties, and Fraser Forster (78 OVR) between the sticks. Using the FUT transfer market, all four of these players can individually be purchased for less than 2,500 coins. That’s compared to 23,000 for Payet or a crazy 100,000 for Ozil. 

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