It's daytime soap stuff but I couldn't stop playing. The story of a kid coming up in the industry is engaging and the interplay between Alex Hunter and the characters around him, particularly with his childhood friend Gareth Walker, sucked me right into it. You'll bounce around a few different clubs over the course of your tumultuous first season. I ended up playing the mode through to its completion, which took me about 20 hours. At the end I was given Alex Hunter to keep in my FIFA Ultimate Team; a nice reward for chugging through it, but it really was its own reward.
It's a bold campaign for EA, who surely knows that no matter how good FIFA is, it'll still sell copies of the game by the ton. The fact that it knows this and has opted not just for a campaign but for something so odd and experimental, with its Mass Effect dialogue and dense detail, is really something. Hell, there's even the opportunity to choose between a cool or fiery personality, which is the renegade/paragon system in all but name. I'm not suggesting Alex Hunter is football's Commander Shepard, but… that's actually what I'm saying.
FIFA is, then, in terms of presentation, features and surprisingly writing, an excellent football game. EA has taken chances, and had a decent crack at reinventing the metaphorical wheel that represents what we expect from our yearly orb kicking simulators. I'd recommend it for The Journey alone, just to see EA play with the genre in a way that I don't think has been done before.
There's a flaw to FIFA though, and it's kind of a big problem. As much as it pains me to admit it, FIFA just doesn't nail the simple art of kicking a football the way that PES does. The passes in FIFA feel sloppy; running through a defence initially feels like moving through sludge. Corner kicks are maddening. You'll score goals, and some will be screamers, but until I got used to the game's idiosyncrasies, I found most of these were more by luck than judgement.
At the end of my PES 2017 review, I said that you only needed a single football game each year. I stand by this, but FIFA 17 isn't just a football game. It doesn't feel as satisfying to play as PES 2017, but FIFA's got a few extra cards up its sleeve with FIFA's Ultimate Team and its stellar The Journey mode. Maybe this year, die-hard football fans should pick up both.
Just this once.