I recently purchased Fifa ‘17 and I came to the realisation that I haven’t played a Fifa game since 1996; in fact, the last Fifa game I played was Fifa ‘95. I have watched other people play various editions of the game over the years, but have never shown a lot of interest. A lot has changed within the franchise since then and I can sincerely say for the first time that I love this game. It is a beautiful rendition of the beautiful game. The RPG story, The Journey, is a fantastic edition and utilisation of EA’s game dev’s, and the playing style is fluid and well designed with a with a well-developed AI. EA have definitely looked at their modern fan base, their habits and have certainly taken into consideration what football means in 2016.
The Journey follows the career of a young, aspiring footballer named Alex Hunter. Being the grandson of a successful footballer, Alex, alongside his friend Gaz, competes for a place in a Premier League squad, which leads to an inevitable strain on their friendship. Your tutorials take place in training grounds and you compete to achieve a high score in the hopes of making the starting eleven. As it is RPG-based, EA employs its conversation wheel to allow the player to carve out a personality for Alex. You can choose a Fiery, Cool or Balanced approach to interacting with others in the game. Obviously, each choice invokes a different response from various angles; A fiery response, for example, will result in gaining admiration from your fans but losing esteem from your manager. Your choices do make a difference in real time, affecting the length of pitch time you get at your next game. It’s a far more exciting angle to be playing football from.
Another new and contemporaneous feature is the addition of an in-game Twitter feed for Alex. He is tweeted support, abuse and general banter from fellow teammates, rivals, managers, commentators and fans alike. His Twitter followers and re-tweets depend on his performance on the pitch and the types of responses he chooses in conversations. We can follow his increase or decrease in salary and transfer worth, as well as a glimpse into what kind of accommodation differences there are between a Premier League and Second Division tour. You will also receive many tweets from your mum, which gives the game a real sense of belonging and raw beginnings.
The gameplay itself is far more intuitive and the AI is the best I’ve seen in a sports game. You can choose to play as Alex alone, allowing the AI to control your teammates – who are actually pretty good at defending – which adds to the RPG experience. You are given various goals for each match, such as make ten passes or three tackles or simply score a goal. Alex’s performance on the pitch is also measured each game, which leads to comments on what you can improve: dribbling, passing, striking etc. Obviously, the higher your rating the more likely you’ll be in the starting eleven, so it’s in your best interest to aim high every game. Which, if you’re as competitive as I am, comes as standard.
I haven’t finished the game yet, but tensions within my story are already rising as Gaz ditches me because of his big old ego, so I’m looking forward to where the story is going to go. This game opens up Fifa to a host of new players who maybe wouldn’t have considered a sports game before, much like myself. Bar the players looking like they’re running with a rod up their backsides, the game is beautiful, humorous and engaging and has finally made football interesting again.