Who would have thought that FIFA 17, the latest installment in a 23-year-old soccer franchise, would be the best game released in 2016?

The surprises begin with the introduction of The Journey, a story-driven single-player mode akin to the MyCareer option in the NBA 2K franchise. The Journey is a remarkable triumph that gives players just the right number of customization options. You can choose protagonist Alex Hunter’s position, but it only allows you to play the spots on the pitch where you can make an immediate offensive difference. Very few defenders can win a game on their own. You also get to shape Hunter’s personality and relationships, but again, within reason. The mode’s architects had a particular storyline in place, and too much customization could affect that.

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The plot is good and the acting exceptional. Soccer clubs are massive business entities. Big teams have 50 or more players competing at various levels, plus the managers, trainers, agents, etc. associated with them. A diverse group of fictional characters come along for Hunter’s lengthy odyssey, all brilliantly motion-captured and reading from a solid script.

All of this was done without sacrificing anything on the field. The players are more physical — pushing and pulling each other as they jostle for better positions. It is no longer just about ridiculous dribble moves that only a dozen real players can pull of in real-life. Matches in FIFA 17 are gritty, just like actual soccer.

There are no bugs crawling in either the online or single-player mode of the game. Couple that with an innovative, immersive new story mode, stunning presentation and skillful tightening of in-game mechanics, and you have a game that scores a goal at every level.