Journey is meant to represent a football fans dream. Anyone who loved football as a kid always imagined playing and scoring for their favourite team and that’s what Journey is essentially all about. You take the role of Alex Hunter, who along with his friend Gareth Walker, dream of making it big. The mode starts out with both players as kids and slowly build up until you meet an agent and are signing for your favourite Premiership Team, albeit while still living with your mum in London. Throughout the story you’re met with choices when speaking to managers, coaches and press and your path should really be about how you’ll respond, either by being balanced, big headed or cool. This will then decide how everyone responds to you, for instance, fans love a big head, so talk yourself up and you’ll gain a higher profile, which in turn will earn you lots of twitter followers and sponsorship deals.
When it comes to getting yourself noticed by the manager, the game basically splits into two modes. First off there is training, where you go through set regimes each week in-between matches. These vary and come from FIFA’s skills mode, so you’ll either be practicing Shooting, Penalties, Defending or something similar, with the aim being to do it well and impress the manager. You will start on the bench during matches, so once on the field you’ll also have to impress there too, which generally sees you having to gain a certain rating during matches, as well as either scoring goals and/or completing a set amount of passes, all while ensuring you win the match. While the story changes, seeing you go from a nobody, to a nobody on loan, to a superstar, both the training and matches rinse and repeat, without it ever feeling like anything you do actually changes the outcome of the story. It’s fair to say that Journey is a valiant attempt by EA to mix things up a little and while it is by no means the finished article when it comes to the concept, it’s a fantastic start that we’d love to see evolve further in future FIFA games.
Elsewhere, when it comes to game modes, things pretty much stay as they are. Ultimate Team is back and as addictive as ever. There’s something just brilliant about the way you can build your team using gold packs, trade players and buy the kits, badges and balls that you need to make the side your own. There’s all manner of ways to test your team, be that offline or online against other opponents. If you’ve played Ultimate Team before, then you’ll know just how much fun this can be.
Within Ultimate Team is a new mode called Squad Builder. Here you’re tasked with building a team using players within your club. You then submit the squad and are rewarded, with the only drawback being that you will lose the players you submitted forever. This mode is good if you want to earn new packs, although changes are most people will stick to the transfer market in order to score money and the best players.
Other modes are also present and correct, such as Career Mode, Be A Pro and of course the ability to play online via Pro Clubs or whatever other way you like to play. Online seems to work well enough, as we were able to connect to matches without too many issues and without there being a lot of lag.
When it comes to the gameplay, having been used to PES 2017, things feel a little slow at first and to be honest quite easy too. Playing on Professional mode was a bit of a walk over, so the difficulty had to be upped. As for the speed, luckily FIFA does have some sliders which can make the action move a lot faster, so if you prefer your football played at pace, this is likely an option you’ll need to tweak. It’s fair to say that FIFA doesn’t quite nail the gameplay as well as PES 2017 does, as passing doesn’t feel quite as slick, while you can also cut through defenders like butter with through balls. When it comes to trying to pass the ball into the net, defenders are a little tougher to break down and often make last minute challenges to stop you. The same can be said of goalkeepers, who often make spectacular saves, but can be guilty of some howlers too. There are some neat little touches on the field, such as there being bounce balls, should a player need to go off injured and the fact that you’ll see the manager hold his head in his hands on the sidelines. Set pieces are also improved for the better, with you being given the option where to place the ball at both free kicks and corners, although the least said about the changes to penalties the better.
When it comes to the presentation it’s always hard to find fault with the FIFA games and this latest version is no exception. There are occasions when the commentary messes up a little, but other than that the game sounds and looks flawless. The menus are well designed and on the pitch players look fantastic and the stadiums give the sort of look and atmosphere that is spectacular to behold.
When it comes to FIFA 17, it feels like EA has learned its lesson from last year’s poor showing and did its best to compete once again with Pro Evolution Soccer in the gameplay stakes. While FIFA will always been king when it comes to licensing, game modes and the overall spectacle, it still has a little catching up to do on the field to provide us with perfect football gameplay, but with the addition of Journey and the fact that with FIFA, you’ll always be able to play as your favourite team (yes, Rangers FC are back), it’s easy to see why it’ll always be top of the league in most people's eyes.
Words by Joe Anderson
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/XBLA: wotta
(Version Tested: Xbox One (HDR) )
+ Looks fantastic
+ Journey mode has huge potential
+ Licensed teams
+ Addictive gameplay modes
- Gameplay still not perfect
- Choice doesn’t feel like it matters in Journey mode