For each of their sports franchises, EA Sports has come up with fun ways to keep things fresh. What this looks like for any one of their brands often times is unique to the sport. This couldn’t be more true than when looking at FIFA 17.
This year’s installment has taken a major step forward in making your experience more personal. No longer is the game solely about picking up the controller and playing. Well, it is, but for those who jump into the new mode, The Journey, it’s about you.
The Journey is a new, story-driven campaign where players must make choices to help shape their character. Your player starts off a young boy, Alex Hunter, playing soccer in England. Gamers are then given the opportunity to score a game-winning penalty kick in a junior game. After a few cutscenes illustrating how soccer is in the boy’s blood, we see him as a teenager.
This is when EA Sports threw an interesting twist into FIFA 17. Branching dialogue options are introduced and your choices shape the type of person he is. These decisions also influence his relationships with folks such as your manager, childhood friend, grandfather and mother. FIFA is obviously not known for narrative, but this and The Journey altogether were welcomed surprises.
Getting back to the story, he had been cut from his club and now must prove himself in an open-tryout of sorts. Gamers choose the position they want their player to take on the field. Several matches as well as drills come and go. For the matches and drills, you are given a score and this total determines your rank among the lot. The challenge is to finish in the top 10 after all has been said and done.
Hunter finished training and was eventually offered several contracts by members of the Premier League. Gamers are able to choose the team they wish to play with. Each varies in the amount you are paid, however, playing with better teams means getting less playing time. I elected to join Hull City and was able to play right away.
After an introductory training session on Hull, our preseason tour began in Seattle. During the first game, Hunter comes off the bench with about 30 minutes left in the match. You are given three goals to achieve. One is to achieve a match rating of 8.0 (starting at 6.0). Second is to score a goal and third is to win the match. You are given bonus cash for each goal you achieve, and your attributes improve based on play.
Once each game has concluded, you are interviewed by the press. Each response you give can reward you with fans, improve your standing with the manager or worsening your standing with him. Having a bad relationship with your manager can result in less playing time and worse.
The regular season pulled around and my player played for Hull City for a trio of games. He didn’t net a goal once and so he was sent on a lone to Aston Villa. Not scoring, the team losing and poor training sessions all had a say in that happening.
Training sessions might not seem important, but they are essential to staying on the starting squad. I applaud EA Sports for placing significant value in the training sessions and not just making them superficial time sucks to pad playtimes.
During Hunter’s time in Aston Villa, things improved. He was able to net several goals in games, the team won and his training performance improved drastically. Having an open training day here or there helped me choose the skills I wanted to focus on. Most days, the training sessions are chosen for you, but you will have free days here and there.
Getting back into the Premier League is ultimately not too difficult. During my entire time in The Journey, FIFA 17 did a good job of creating tension between Hunter and Garrett. This is born out of the competition surrounding one starting spot and there obviously being two of them.
When you finally find success in the Premier League and begin signing endorsements, you feel a true sense of accomplishment. FIFA 17 does a fabulous job of honoring the tradition of soccer, while crafting real, true meaning into The Journey.
From a gameplay standpoint, nuance has been added to ball control or keeping the ball from the opponent. Actions are more precise than they were in previous years. Gameplay flows better than I’ve seen and that is thanks in part to Frostbite Engine, which is powering this year’s game. Scoring feels like a true accomplishment and no tally ever feels cheap.
The Journey adds a very unique and innovative element to FIFA 17. I’m very interested to see how this concept could be applied to other EA Sports franchises in the future. There is a lot of potential for evolving it in brands like Madden and NHL. Of all of the ways EA Sports could have changed up the FIFA formula, this was my least expected but a personal favorite. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on FIFA. EA provided We Write Things with a PS4 code of FIFA 17 for the purposes of this review.