FIFA 17 demo: Is The Journey, FIFA’s new story mode, a game changer? (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

FIFA 17 screenshot

FIFA 17 screenshot

I dabbled with FIFA 17’s exhibition mode in the demo, coming away feeling that the passing is slow yet the game as a whole works. Despite the new game engine there’s a sense that somehow FIFA 17 looks wonderful yet a bit ropey at the same time, which is odd. But anyway, we don’t know how old the demo build is and FIFA has a history of changing substantially from demo to release. I’m holding judgement on gameplay until launch. What I found incredibly interesting, though, is the newly created The Journey, FIFA 17’s story mode.

It’s unclear where the FIFA 17 demo starts in The Journey’s timeline. Presumably the full game will see you start your career as a kid and make it into the Premier League, but in the demo you walk into Manchester United’s changing room, see your kit, and are eventually told that you’re starting on the bench against Chelsea. Another young player, Walker, gets the nod to start the game, so you have to wait for your chance.

It’s a simple setup, but one that feels right and ripe for turning into a dramatic Hollywood moment. The thing is, and perhaps I’m overthinking this, why does your mate, Walker, get to start up front, pushing Ibrahimovic to the bench? And why then when Mourinho decides to change things up to try and get a winner, does Ibra stay on the bench and newbie Hunter (you) get a run out? It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that happening, but I guess the whole thing is.

Anyway, Hunter has little interactions throughout the short demo, Mass Effect style. He talks to Walker about impressing in the match, to the coach about if he’s ready to make his debut, and following the match in an interview. It’s simple stuff, but affects some stats that presumably will make a difference at some point in the story. What’s a little disappointing is the lack of believability in the voice acting. The post-match interview, in particular, came across less deer in headlights (as you might expect) and more unconvincing voice actor.

FIFA 17 screenshot

When Hunter was given his chance in the game (you can chose to play as the team or the single player – I chose the latter) he was given certain criteria to meet. Win the game, achieve a rating of 7.0 or higher, and provide an assist for a goal. It’s here that another potential issue arose. With about 20 minutes left, the game balanced at 1-1, Hunter was subbed on. I started badly, calling for the ball at the wrong moment and in turn seeing my rating drop. I had a pot shot and it went a long way wide. Being a Premier League striker wasn’t easy.

But then I went on a lovely run down the wing and got a player booked. Later on I turned Cahill and the Chelsea man lunged badly, taking me down and getting himself sent off with a straight red. I’d made a real difference. Yet my rating hadn’t increased. In the 90th minute I called for the ball, Rooney played a blinding ball through the defence and I was in. I let rip, the keeper dived and made a great save, but Rooney followed in and we got the goal. It felt great, but my rating was still below the target.

The whistle blew, my rating of 6.5 meant I didn’t get any bonus, but at least we won. The game didn’t even register my saved shot as an assist, when it was only down to my effort that Rooney got his tap in. The post-match interview seemed happy enough, but the focus was on Walker’s performance. He’d scored a goal on his debut, when in the game’s mind I (Hunter) had done nothing of note. I had, though. I’d made a big difference and changed the result. In a game mode that seemingly relies on ratings and the game judging your performances, it left me a little concerned. I’d enjoyed what I played a lot, more than I expected, and now I’m looking forward to playing through the whole story, but will it be fair? Maybe that’s the point. I know Ibra won’t think he’s had a fair shake of the stick either.