More than 20 years and 100 million copies since its launch, the FIFA game series from Electronic Arts has been an annual tradition for many gamers. In my case, I believe I have owned every iteration of this series since it’s launch in the mid-nineties.
Sometimes criticised [like many sports games] for seeing more evolutions than revolutions, this release is notable for a new game mode which garnered a lot of pre-release excitement.
I’ll get to the ‘The Journey’ shortly, but first some impressions of the new Frostbite-powered game engine and some info about playing as Manchester United this year.
While some players love FIFA Ultimate Team and online gameplay, I will most often choose the manager version of Career Mode. I always enjoy re-imagining the squad – sometimes through the transfer market and other times through the youth academy method.
This mode has seen some small alterations this year, most notably in the expectations that your board will place on you. In addition to the usual trophy expectations, you may now also be given commercial targets like shirt sales or youth development goals based on the revenue your academy generates from player sales.
It’s great to get the new kits and the updated rosters, and United look sharp in all three of this season’s shirts. You’ll also finally see the real faces of all 20 Premier League managers, which is kinda cool.
Our new signings have some above-average ratings [Zlatan 90 | Pogba 88 | Mkhitaryan 85 | Bailly 82] and overall I’d say our skill levels are mostly accurate this season – with David de Gea getting a notable bump to 90, finally denoting him as the world-class keeper he is.
I’m afraid to say that apart from these new wrinkles, the gameplay unfolds pretty much exactly as it has for the past few years. There is no revolution in this game mode, and most of the annoying facets are still there [like players who moan about game time even though you play them in all European and Cup ties].
Now, onto ‘The Journey’.
If you ever tried FIFA’s ‘Be a Pro’ mode, you will be familiar with the framework of this part of the game. Gameplay interspersed with training to improve your skills and your position in your chosen team.
But this is so much better – you are playing a character with a back story, a mum, a best mate, your grand-dad the former pro and an agent.
The story starts with your U11 final in Clapham where you must make the winning penalty. Fast forward to successful Premier League exit trials, meeting your agent and your chance to sign for a Premier League side of your choice.
Your best mate Gareth ends up playing with you, too – as you embark on United’s pre-season tour and off you go from there. There also seems to be a rival player who walks around talking shit about you, and you must choose your responses wisely to set up your character’s personality and future possibilities.
While I suspect this game mode won’t have a ton of replay value, I’ve been impressed with the cut-scenes and the realistic storyline [much has been made of the real players who consulted on The Journey to ensure it’s realsim].
The story opens with some stylish, cinema-style credits and really pulls you in. And it’s very cool indeed to turn up for training with Paul Pogba and Zlatan passing you in the hall of the training complex and giving you a little nod.
Obviously, I’ve only just started this mode and haven’t played long – but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Alex and seeing what other surprises are in store. You should give it a try!
So there’s my early verdict on this year’s changes to FIFA 17. I guess the good news is that the lack of substantial upgrades to Manager mode will give me more time to dig deep in ‘The Journey’. I have a feeling that this Hunter kid may just be the next Marcus Rashford…