FourFourTwo got an early hands-on with the new FIFA17 ahead of launch to take a deeper look at the new addition to the FIFA17 roster – The Journey.
The challenge for EA with a game like FIFA is how to re-energise the game each year beyond the new kits, latest signings and continual improvements in overall gameplay and realism. This is often a game of inches and tough to make quantum leaps forward. The last game-changer was the introduction of FIFA Ultimate Team back in FIFA 09 which has been a runaway success with no signs of slowing.
The Journey is the much-hyped new addition to the FIFA 17 roster and immediately upon loading you see the impact of the transition to the Frostbite engine that powers games such as Battlefield, Dragon Age and Star Wars Battlefront.
There will be no spoilers here but the essence of the game is this.
You take on the role of Alex Hunter, aspiring footballer, who along with his best friend Gaz are desperate to succeed and bag that pro contract. There’s a back story to Alex whose father and grandfather were both pro footballers and Alex’s mother plays a lead role too.
What type of Alex Hunter will you be?
As the name suggests you now embark on The Journey to being a professional footballer with the pressure of trials, choosing which Premier League team to sign for, impressing in training and then forcing your way into the team and performing when you get the chance whilst dealing with off field pressures and dramas along the way. It’s not just about what you do on the pitch, at regular intervals you take control of how Alex responds to situations with your choices impacting on where the story goes from there and Alex’s relationships with the other characters in the story.
All the elements of FIFA as you know it are all still there....the skills and training challenges appear in training and trial sessions with your performance impacting on whether you get picked or not. In matches you can choose to take control of the whole team or just take control of Alex in a way similar to the Be A Pro mode of former FIFA editions. Each game you feature in as either a sub or starter carries a series of challenges you try to succeed at to impress the boss.
This being 2016 there’s also a social media angle with your followers increasing or decreasing based on your performances and what Alex says in public with endorsements and sponsorship deals kicking in at certain follower levels. The feed also has football journalists, agents, family, friends and rivals having their say to anchor things firmly in the modern reality.
Story consultant Harry Kane
Ultimately this is still a test of your on-pitch FIFA ability but the interactivity and storification of the journey takes it way beyond a series of skills and game challenges. EA are clearly serious about this mode and that shines through with the depth of the back story and sheer attention to detail of all elements including the involvement of a number of young pro players such as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Dele Alli as story consultants to sense check the reality of the battle to make it to the top in modern football. Watch out for the odd cameo from some famous faces along the way in the game too!
As the gaming market moves towards its VR future it’s not hard to imagine this as an even more immersive VR experience which would feel like a natural transition but this is a very promising first step from EA and a genuinely new and exciting addition to this year’s FIFA package.
See more on how The Journey was created below