FIFA 17 The Journey: First Impressions
After several years of incremental updates, EA Sports introduced a major new feature in this year's FIFA: A single player campaign called the Journey.
The Journey tracks the career of a promising young player, Alex Hunter, from a defining moment in his under-11 playing days through to the Exit Trials at the FA Headquarters - a last chance saloon for young players with potential but no playing contract.
Alex has football in his blood, his grandfather a renowned striker in his hey day, before football became all about big money. His father played football too, but his career never reached his promised potential
Made possible because of the other big change in FIFA 17, the switch to the Frostbite engine, The Journey is an adventure through the life of a budding player coming through the ranks. You have to impress the boss in training in order to get game time, then when you get on the pitch you have to impress in order to earn your spot in the starting line-up.
Gameplay during a match is offered to you to either play as the team, or to play as Alex Hunter directly in the 'Be a Pro' mode.
There are moments between each match where you have to make decisions on how you will react to the situation: Post match interviews, a meeting with a team mate, coach or an opposition player in the hall.
A cool answer may show the boss that you are listening to his words of wisdom, but perhaps the other players may think that you are sucking up to the boss; A neutral answer might not stir any emotions in the fans or your team, but you're getting on with the job at hand and let your performance do the talking; A hot answer might get you noticed by fans and perhaps sponsors but you need to ensure that your performances on the pitch match your comments and that you're not writing cheques that your body can't cash.
It is surprising how attached you get to your Alex Hunter, the decisions you make are to get the best out of your career. If you successfully navigate the Exit Trials your agent lets you know which Premier League clubs are looking for you and your first big choice is where do you go: Go for a top four club and a higher pay packet, but you may never get on the pitch until you have been impressive in training; Go for a lower club and not earn as much money, but the game time will get you match experience and perhaps noticed later on.
For this reason, The Journey got me to do something I hadn't before: Even though Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all wanted to sign me, I signed for West Ham, they're a top six or seven club with a good manager and football set up and I was likely to get some time on the pitch to hone my craft.
In reality, the Journey serves as a tutorial for all the tricks and techniques possible in FIFA, the different ways to defend, dribble, attack, cross or shoot a ball. Sure, you can simulate the training sessions, but then you don't learn, you don't earn your place in the squad.
This is where The Journey gets you, you become emotionally invested in your player. You train well to impress the boss, you try to play well as a player for the team. When you get on the pitch you try to make the most of your minutes. This is where it hooks you, you need to show that you can kick it with the best.
FIFA 17 The Journey is only available on the newer generation of consoles and will not be available on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.