The global sports video game juggernaut enters the world of storytelling with the debut of The Journey as the latest addition in FIFA 17.
Developers: EA Sports
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Just like the premier clubs of the world, FIFA doesn’t have a rebuilding year. Every season EA Sports is expected to take the massive global hit, update the content, continue doing all the great parts and continue to innovate. The FIFA 17 team delivers not only the high-quality everyone expects but brings in an entirely new element with interactive player choices and storytelling in The Journey.
As with the annual summer transfer window, EA Sports surveyed the landscape and added next level talent to the creation of its biggest game to date. Frostbite was brought in to deliver the engine that produced Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age, and the Battlefield series. The new engine is noticeable, mostly in the story mode where there is a higher level of character interaction and screen time for the player. While there are a few graphical areas that could be polished, Frostbite has a strong opening with the FIFA series and should continue to improve as The Journey mode expands.
Welcome to The Journey
The Journey is an impressive new campaign for a game that wasn’t lacking modes. The story centers around the talented young Alex Hunter who you begin following (and playing as) as a youth league player. Part story mode (think TellTale) and part career mode make this an outstanding feature for anyone who has ever daydreamed of being the next big star.
…The Journey is elevating that experience to play out like a movie on the screen rather than just in my mind.
EA brought in four breakthrough talents from the Premier League to help consult on the life and struggles of a promising player looking to establish themselves. Within the first hour of gameplay, you can quickly see how your actions both on and off the pitch impact your relationships with fellow players, the staff, media, the fans, and your best mate.
The Journey, thankfully, allows players to control on-field action through either full team play or just as Alex Hunter. Personally, I’ve always preferred the single player career mode, so The Journey is elevating that experience to play out like a movie on the screen rather than just in my mind. At the start of the campaign players are allowed to choose any EPL club they wish – so no you aren’t stuck with United and Mourinho.
I’d advise not reading about the twists and turns in the story and wait to experience the entire Journey yourself. Throughout Alex’s progression you control him o the field and in practice, earning points to level up your skill attributes and push higher in the ranks of the squad. While there are clearly aspects of the story that are predefined, it is unclear how much my actions in practice, during games or dialog choices could dramatically impact his future.
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These are limits of year one of the new mode, but in no should diminish its overall addition to the game. The Journey delivers in almost every way imaginable by feeling authentic to have opportunities as a young talent, but also face setbacks due to manager confidence or players rivaling for your position. Opposing fans taunt Hunter on the pitch, while behind the scenes real life superstars are interjected into the story.
The story follows Alex’s life off the pitch as well as you experience how changes to his professional status impact family and friend relationships. After getting a feel for the mode, it is easy to see countless ways to improve it over the years to come – more real-life manager interaction, more variance in Alex’s path and personality, venturing outside of the EPL, and the impact of the media on player transfers.
Changes Across the Board (Almost)
While The Journey takes the spotlight this year, FIFA 17 has countless other gameplay modes to fit every individual’s preferred style of play. Football Ultimate Team (FUT) returns with improvements to squad building features, expanded online play and weekly challenges. FUT continues to grow as the FIFA series’ most popular more, adding in the ability to manage your team outside of the game through an accompanying website.
Several other notable additions include:
- Set pieces have been completely re-written. Players now have the ability to target specific spots on the field to place the free-kick and easily switch to the receiving teammate.
- The manager career mode has increased financial details monitoring club worth and advertising revenue. Managers are now ranked on not only league play and finances, but also Cup and continental competitions, and youth development.
- Players can build their own custom badges for clubs in FUT, online or off-line modes.
- The J1 League (Japan) has been added, along with expanded league teams.
On the audio front, IFA hits mostly highs and only a few typical lows of sports matches. The soundtrack to FIFA has become a feature onto itself launching several acts to a global stage. In-game audio continues to be updated with real life changes as players get injured, signing updates from the transfer window and week-to-week action as the EPL progresses in real life.
The Journey capitalizes on an aspect that is often overlooked in most sports games – the emotion and personal stories – that make real life sports greater than the event itself.
One major addition of FIFA 16 that seems to have been left idle this year is the women’s teams. While a few new squads were added, there are no advancements from last year’s debut which followed the Women’s World Cup. It is great that FIFA is adding in the national teams, but without league play, it is quite a shallow feature. FIFA 18 needs to debut either the NWSL or the Women’s Premier League.
Ultimately, FIFA is known for creating a massive online community of soccer (football) lovers across the globe in a bevy of modes. The Journey capitalizes on an aspect that is often overlooked in most sports games — the emotion and personal stories — that make real life sports greater than the event itself. On the pitch FIFA 17 adjusts the speed changes from last season, shielding the ball becomes easier and a complete new penalty system. Passionate soccer fans all the way to sports games lovers who have never actually watched a match have plenty to keep them occupied online or off.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.