“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.

Dream team

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.

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