FIFA 17: The Journey Mode    

Tom Awesome’s Review Score: 8.5

FIFA 17 has a new story mode, The Journey. It puts you in the role of Alex Hunter, a young soccer phenom who miraculously makes it onto a Premier League roster with your childhood best friend. You get to choose which position you play, and choose from a handful of teams.

There are no customization options with Hunter. You get who you get, and I was drawn in by his humble nature and his awe of the surroundings.

You start off in a substitute role before being loaned to a lower level to develop your game. The story involves your family, including your grandfather who was a Premier League star in his day. The relationship with your best friend is a key component of the story, and you make some new buddies along the way.

The main focus of the mode is the action on the pitch. You play friendlies, league and cup matches. Usually, you have a training session with two drills and then a game. Sometimes, there are multiple training sessions or games in a row.

Training sessions have two purposes: first, they raise your skills. The harder the drill, the higher your gain in the key skills associated with the activity. Second, it gives you valuable practice shooting, passing and defending. I was terrible at FIFA at first, but the training sessions really helped me develop my skills.

Games were fun, and the graphics were unbelievable. Despite my general lack of skill, I had a blast with most games. I was way out of my league in the Premier League, but once I was sent to the lower level I started to hold my own. When I returned to the Premier League, I actually felt like I made a difference, and made my club much more competitive. Hunter’s skills also improved after every game, but I saw no correlation between the rate of gain and whether I played well or poorly. You also have the choice of playing as Hunter or the entire team, I always chose the team.

Hunter’s childhood friend Gaz plays a central role in the story.

Throughout The Journey, you will have interactions with your managers, your parents, your grandfather, and your buddies. You have some selections in how you respond: you can be fiery, cool or balanced. Your choices influence your number of followers, manager’s approval and sponsorship status.

The story concludes with you accomplishing the loan feat your grandfather failed to attain. Once you are done, you are fed into the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team mode, where you collect cards to assemble your squad.

The Good: There was a lot to like in The Journey. First off, the games were amazingly fun. The training drills may have been a little repetitive, but they made me a much better player while improving Hunter’s skills. The training and game loop was very addictive, I can’t count the number of times I said “I’ll just play through one more training session” the led to me playing for an extra hour or more. The gameplay presentation was great and the commentary seemed pretty interesting.

The Bad: The ending felt abrupt, and I was not fond of just being dumped into the Ultimate Team mode. Despite performing well in training sessions, my session ended with Hunter being rated a 74 overall. With another season, I felt like I could really become a decent player in the Premier League. I had a transfer value, but I never knew what it meant. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to develop Hunter’s career over several years.

The Verdict: I’ll rate the story as OK. If you are a big futball fan, you will love FIFA 17 and the The Journey mode. If you are a more (or much more casual) fan like me, you might find yourself feeling lost within the European soccer culture. Overall, I am very happy with FIFA 17, and it will likely be the only soccer game I buy in the next several years.

Buy it on Amazon: FIFA 17 (Xbox One) or FIFA 17 – PlayStation 4

Background: I have only a very casual interest in futball. I have never played in an organized setting, and little knowledge of things like crosses and through passes. Outside of recognizing some of the club names and a very loose idea of the principles of relegation, I have no knowledge of the English Premier League.

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