“It’s basically an RPG, but before you ask, no, you can’t romance Ferdinand”
Enjoying FIFA 18’ s RPG-like Journey mode
I’m the most casual soccer fan there is, only following the sport when there’s a tournament on. This year I got hooked on the World Cup and felt the urge, for the first time since playing FIFA 96 on the Sega Genesis, to get into a soccer game. FIFA 18 is surprisingly easy to pick up. After an evening spent getting to grips with basic passing, defending, and shooting, I enjoyed diving into more advanced skills such as feints, flicks, and stepovers. There’s an impressive amount of nuance in the simulation, although I do find defending tough, which longtime FIFA fans have taken issue with, too.
The first thing I did, in the official Russia World Cup mode, was take Scotland to victory. As a nation we’ve accepted that we’ll never win the World Cup, but it was satisfying to experience it virtually. Videogames really are portals to amazing, unimaginable worlds.
But it’s The Journey that really captured my imagination. This story mode is wonderfully presented, following a young player, Alex Hunter, as he makes a name for himself in the Premier League and navigates the life of a star soccer player. It features cameos from Rio Ferdinand and Cristiano Ronaldo, who you can interact with via a Mass Effect- style dialogue system. It’s basically an RPG, but before you ask, no, you can’t romance Ferdinand.
It even has its own equivalent of the Paragon/Renegade system. Hunter’s dialogue choices dictate his personality, which in turn affects his playing style on the pitch. You have to deal with probing TV interviews, an estranged father, relationships with teammates, rivalries, and other tense situations, all while keeping the manager happy by playing well and behaving yourself.
What could have easily been an melodramatic cheese-fest is surprisingly understated. The Journey is tastefully cinematic, and dealing with Hunter’s personal life as well as his career is something I’ve never experienced in a game before. Unlike regular FIFA matches, the story gives every game stakes, which makes them much more exciting.
I also love how you occasionally get to play in other settings, such as an impromptu game of pick-up soccer with some kids in Rio de Janeiro. It’s interesting to experience that FIFA style of play somewhere other than a stadium. The frequent training sessions are great for refining your skills, too, letting you practice shooting, tackling, and the like, then getting scored for it at the end.
I’d recommend The Journey to anyone, even if they don’t care about soccer. It’s lavishly produced, well written, and clearly made with passion. And it’s just nice to play a lightweight, BioWare-style RPG that doesn’t involve combat. I’d love to see other sports games borrow the concept, and more RPGs, or games with RPG elements, finding different ways to tell stories.
the story gives every game stakes, which makes them much more exciting
Whatever happens, don’t let the gaffer down.
Making a name for myself on the pitch.