‘FIFA 17’ review: The Journey story mode a welcome addition

Sports video games on the level of “FIFA 17” don’t need to do much to ensure strong sales. The core “FIFA” game is strong every year and its fans are legion.

That’s what makes The Journey such a welcome addition to this year’s installment, and why even the most jaded “FIFA” fans may want to give it a chance.

The Journey is a cinematic story mode similar to what the “NBA 2K” franchise has offered the last few years. Stepping into the cleats of up-and-coming English teen Alex Hunter, players will follow his underdog tale during an eventful first season in the Premier League.

There’s no control over Alex’s look — he’s modeled after and voiced by actor Adetomiwa Edun — but there are means to choose details of the story. The choice of which EPL team signs Alex is in the player’s hands, meaning Arsenal fans won’t be forced to suit up for Chelsea.

Alex is a third-generation footballer whose former star grandfather fills in for Alex’s absent dad. Throughout the story, Alex will come into conflict with his childhood friend, who joins the same club and competes for playing time.

Three dialogue choices are available when conversations take place off the pitch. Choosing the fiery, cocky option will boost Alex’s social media following but risks standing with his manager. The cool choice has an inverse effect, and the balanced selection is self-explanatory. All of this is mostly superfluous to the story, but it’s fun to craft Alex’s personality nonetheless.

While Academy Awards aren’t in The Journey’s future, it’s familiar sports tale isn’t too hammy, at least. In all, players should get about 15-20 hours out of the mode while playing matches as a starter or sub as well as training games to beef up the protagonist’s stats.

Other than its all-new narrative experience, “FIFA 17” isn’t all that different on the surface despite the new Frostbite engine under the hood. The biggest addition to on-the-pitch action are driven kicks and headers that add a new wrinkle to attacking goalkeepers.

Otherwise, “FIFA 17” still boasts its deep Football Ultimate Team, career and club modes, each of which could be worth the prices of admission most years. The coolest edition to FUT is a way for friends to play offline by downloading their teams.

But on the whole, the hook for “FIFA 17” remains The Journey, and it’s worth a look.

Available now

“FIFA 17,” published by EA Sports and developed by EA Canada, is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, X360 and PC $59.99

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