There’s a FIFA 17 demo available for download. It includes twelve teams to play in friendly matches, but also a taste of the game’s new ‘Journey’ mode. This is where you take control of a single young footballer and try to guide them to stardom, complete with Mass Effect-style dialogue wheel during cutscenes. I’ve had a play.
To be clear, the Journey mode really appeals to me. 2K’s NBA series has long wrapped cutscene-told story around basketball games while charting the rise of a young player, and I’m happy to see FIFA try the same. I’m even happier still that there’s dialogue choices. In the demo, you get to talk with your friend and fellow youngster in the dressing room, the assistant manager (or coach? He looks like an egg) on the touchline and the press after the match. It’s not clear what the consequences are of your decisions, but different lines of dialogue rate differently on a “fiery” or “cool” meter, while comments during the post-match press interview alternately won me favour with “followers” and with the manager.
To be even clearer, this has all the potential in the world to be terrible. EA have tried wrapping plot around their plotless games before – Need For Speed, repeatedly, for example – with usually disastrous results. Footballers also do not always make the most sympathetic characters, especially in the Premier League where even people who have never kicked a ball during an actual game make more in a month than I do in a year. I’d almost prefer if the game started you out not as a player on the periphery of a superclub, but at a Championship team or non-league minnow.
The demo gives a mixed impression, as the “fiery” lines of dialogue might better be labelled “prick”. They also only prompted different responses from other characters in one instance, and in that case it didn’t matter anyway.
As for the match itself, it pits Manchester United against Chelsea, and you can either control United as a team or main character Alex Hunter on his lonesome. I opted for the latter and spent the first sixty minutes of the match on the bench, with the hour related via a brief cutscene showing goals. With the score 1-1 you’re brought on with a few optional targets: achieve a personal match rating of 7.0 or above, score a goal, and win the game. I accomplished all three, because I’m great.
(Aside: Alex Hunter feels like the most generic name in the world, yet I can find only a few instances of it in other games, movies or books.)
After your press interview – which had janky animation glitches and a line of dialogue which skipped partway – the demo is over. I imagine what happens next is Mourinho never gives you another chance in the first team or eventually you’re sent out on loan to Stoke.
Elsewhere the teams you can play as in the demo are Manchested United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Lyonnais, Seattle Sounders, Tigres U.A.N.L. (MX) and Gamba Osaka. The download is a little over 7GB and available from Origin.