by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
The inexorable march of the FIFA games goes on, and another year means the same, large core fan base will be buying the latest in football simulation. FIFA is usually the innovator, bringing new modes like Ultimate Team which other sports games emulate in their own product. However, this year, it’s FIFA which is bringing aspects of others under its wings with a brand new story mode. It’s a predictable tale, yet an inspiring one, and it’s good enough to bring in a new wave of fans. If you’ve taken a step away from FIFA in recent years, or perhaps have never played it before, you should know FIFA 17 is the best one in a while.
“The Journey” is the title of the story mode, and focuses on a young English boy called Alex Hunter. Featuring fully voiced cutscenes, The Journey follows Hunter’s story through his early life and his first year of being a professional footballer. You’re given RPG-style dialogue options which will have an effect on how much the fans and your manager likes you, meaning you can be a cool professional who gets on with the job, or the hot headed prima donna which the fans are always talking about. You choose your favourite Premier League club to start with, but choosing a bigger team might mean you get less playing time. You are only just starting out after all. Choosing a smaller team might mean less success, but at least you’ll be playing.
Your dialogue options don’t have much of an effect on the actual story in the mode though. As mentioned, the narrative follows a fairly predictable trajectory with ups and downs. Alex and the players and family are acted well, though, and there are brief cameos from various real life footballers which add something to the mix. As for the actual gameplay, you can choose to control the entire team, or just Hunter himself. The latter is the preferred method, as you get to influence the game exactly how you want to, and be the player you want to be. You can be the selfless team player and pass the ball, or you can try and be the next Messi and take on your opponents with skill. Performing well in both matches and training gets you in the manager’s good books, and you’re given feedback during the game on what’s going right and what you’re doing wrong.
Progressing through The Journey grants you bonuses in the ever-popular Ultimate Team mode, where you create your own team from players you obtain from random card packs. This year there are also some team building challenges which will take some of your useless old players and exchange them for better ones. The Draft Mode makes a return this year too, where you create a one-off team for a short tournament. However, it costs in-game currency to enter, and the amount can be a fairly high barrier to entry. This is a shame as it’s a one of the best modes thanks to it giving you the chance to play with some of the game’s best players. There are also real cheating issues online in the PC version of the game at this moment, and I’ve lost many thousands of coins due to hackers causing you to disconnect from the servers before the match even starts.
There are also a handful of other performance issues. Clicking outside of the game window during an online game causes you to disconnect instantly. Not only does this give you an automatic loss, it also increases your “DNF modifier” which will decrease the amount of coins you receive in future matches. EA lists this as a known issue on its website, but hasn’t actually listed a workaround or a date for a fix. For now, it seems, offline play is the way to go.
As for the actual ball kicking aspect of FIFA 17, it’s just as strong as ever. If you’ve been away from the game for a while, you’ll notice some small changes such as being able to move your player independently of the ball. Set pieces have been changed too, with corners and free kicks having a different targeting system, and penalties now require you to physically run forward to shoot the ball. But if you’ve played FIFA before, it won’t take you long to get to grips with how this one plays. It’s a good simulation, if a little stiff at times, and the player animations are still some of the best in the business.
As Pro Evolution Soccer creeps ever closer in quality (and perhaps even overtakes in some instances), FIFA needed to step up its game this year. In terms of sheer number of game modes, FIFA is unmatched, and The Journey alone is enough to warrant a badge of recommendation. Hopefully future iterations of the game won’t just be rehashing the same story told this year. The PC version of the game is having technical issues at the moment, but if these can be ironed out, then the online modes are a great deal of fun too. For football fans, this is FIFA as you remember it, but there are a lot of reasons to jump back into the series, or to check it out for the first time.
Range of modes is deep and broad, The Journey is a great addition
Technical issues on PC, gameplay feels stiff and boring at times