Many of you who are awaiting the arrival of FIFA 17 are doing so in anxious anticipation of the new ‘Journey’ mode. The newest feature (which you should note is only available on the current gen systems) sees you step into the shoes of Alex Hunter as you begin your challenge of cementing your place in the pantheon of footballers. The demo allowed players to take charge of Hunter during the first match of the season and gave us a chance to have some first-hand experience of what is in store for us.
One of the first comments I read about the new Journey mode was that it is ‘FIFA meets Mass Effect’ a strange yet very fitting comment. The new feature is setup with the player making choices of what Hunter says prior to matches, during the match, and in post-match interviews. You are given a dialogue branch from which you choose your reply, with your answer tipping the scale between ‘fiery and cool’. It is an interesting break into new territory for FIFA, with the closest the franchise came to doing something similar being the choices the manager mode allowed you to make in FIFA 2010. The use of a visual meter should give you something to use as an excuse for a second or third play-through as you manipulate Hunter to be a massive dickhead or the golden boy of the manager and supporters.
From what I have played of the game; the atmosphere is built through an effective sense of immersion – particularly if you are a football fan, with your debut appearance being marred by the chants of ‘who are ya?’ from the supporters. It is very intriguing to see how this mechanic alters; whether it is drastic or subtle, as you begin to develop your reputation. This atmosphere is further developed by the commentary, with Martin Tyler and Alan Smith commenting on your father who is a former footballer as he watches you from the stands, they comment on your performance in a far more fluid fashion that previous features in the series, and react to the crowd. These small mechanics really do help immerse you into the game as yiu fight to prove yourself.
What I did notice was that whilst much of the atmosphere was developed organically; it was hampered somewhat by a slow straight-to-disc film type of music. It didn’t really do much for me and actually broke the aforementioned immersion as you feel like the spectator rather than the player. I’m not saying that the music should be removed altogether, rather that it should be used on occasion; like the end of a match or conversation (they do this well already) rather than jamming it in amongst the roar thousands of supporters.
Another nice mechanic to see was the use of substitution appearances. In previous FIFA ‘Be a Pro’ features, you either missed the entire match or started each match. It is something that I was surprised about not seeing even three or four years ago. The ability for you to play a segment of a match should mean that meeting the manager expectations for the match are more challenging for the time left during a match.
There are a couple of worries that I have for the game though. The biggest of which h is to do with the longevity. How long will the game last? Will we only get one scripted season before the mode switches back to a more closed off version that the theatrical shots we have seen? Will the feature allow for enough diverse situations before the player gets apathetic to the developing troubles of Hunter? Will you be able to force a transfer away from the club or is it only a one season trip? I can’t help but look at all the great footage and the potential of the new mode and think of all the times FIFA have oversold the features of their games. Hopefully this will be different.