FIFA 17’s The Journey story mode is an alluring new feature for the franchise, and the game’s recent demo gave gamers a slice of what to expect. Here a few questions and observations I have from the demo’s excerpted experience.
Will the Story’s Cliches Matter?
Developer EA Canada is approaching the story of Alex Hunter with all the resources and attention it deserves. The demo reveals cutscenes that take you behind the scenes at the club, and facial scans and good voice acting attempt to bring the characters to life.
The demo contains a few story props that are staples of sports stories: The wise old-timer, the frenemy, and the family backdrop. I don’t have a problem per se with these being included, but it will be interesting to see how the story handles these elements; whether it tries to do anything new with them and if they add to the experience.
How Much Will Alex Hunter Influence The Team?
In Alex’s first match in the demo, he’s a sub for Manchester United, sitting on the bench along with…Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba. There is no context to why these two mega-stars are not starting, but I find it highly unlikely either Zlatan or Pogba wouldn’t be at the start of the season. Also, Alex ends up being subbed into the game instead of them.
Now, I understand the mode needs to do things to service the story, but I wonder whether certain players being subs and the team’s overall tactics and strategy are going to be represented realistically for each team (you can pick to play for any team in the Premier League). Will teams play different with Hunter in them, or will the story unfold the same way whether he’s at a big club like United or a team that is fighting relegation? The story will likely dictate that Hunter become a star; is that more or less believable depending on what club he’s at?
Also, the game gives you the choice of whether to play as the whole team or only as Hunter. Both are different experiences, and it will be interesting to see how each one does or does not service the story and the gameplay.
How Influential is the Conversation System?
The demo gives a glimpse of the mode’s conversation system, which revolves around giving fiery, neutral, or cool answers to questions such as during press conferences. These answers determine your overall attitude, which has a bearing on how your manager and the fans perceive Hunter.
EA Canada has previously said that not getting along with your manager could lead to reduced playing time, which makes sense. However, what if you’re scoring loads of goals? How will the story handle your obvious usefulness to the squad versus the manager not liking you because you’ve been mouthing off in interviews?
If the mode can deftly blend the cause-and-effect nature of the conversation system to make sure your choices have consequences yet stay within the bounds of realism, that would be some very impressive slight of hand.
How Much Team/Player Flavor is There?
One of the cool moments in the demo’s segment of The Journey is when you see real-life players and managers, whether that’s when you’re waiting to come on as a sub or in the locker room. Anyone playing as Hunter at their favorite club is going to geek out seeing their heroes integrated into Alex’s story.
I hope that as the mode progresses we see and hear more and more from real-life players and managers. It makes sense that the managers wouldn’t talk to Alex when he’s just some unknown sub, but if Hunter becomes a star in the mode, are the managers going to be a big part of Alex’s story? Or are we only going to interact with the assistants? Similarly, real-life players like Harry Kane and cover star Marco Reus are speaking characters in The Journey, and I hope real-life players are regularly featured throughout the mode. This would really leverage the power of EA’s licenses and give footie fans a real thrill.
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Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 is out, and although the franchise has made good strides in including more and more official licenses, there are still some gaps.
Thankfully, gamers on PlayStation systems and PC (sorry Xbox owners) can use option files to import the kits of real-teams in order to make everything look authentic.
You can also take a look at a piece I wrote about the game’s Advanced Instructions based on time with the demo.
NBA 2K 17 (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC) September 20
FIFA 17 (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC) September 27
Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One, PC) September 27
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.
PES 2017 To Support PS4 Pro After Launch
Konami hasn’t given any details, including if there will be an HDR patch for the current PS4.