Forget Messi versus Ronaldo and Maradona versus Pele. Keane versus Vieira? Pah. There’s a new rivalry in football: Hunter versus Walker.
Alex Hunter and Gareth Walker are the main characters in FIFA’s brand new game mode, The Journey, which was introduced in the recently-launched FIFA 17.
For those yet to pick up a copy of EA Sports’ hugely successful football game, Hunter is the protagonist whom gamers must turn from a young starlet into a football superstar.
There’s a pretty interesting storyline that has been heavily likened to that of Manchester United’s overnight star, Marcus Rashford.
Except Rashford didn’t have to go through an exit trial as a teenager to get his opportunity on the big stage. In The Journey, you must impress in a six-stage examination process in order to earn recognition.
The new game mode, which sees you facing loan spells, sponsorship deals and various other situations, breathes new life into the FIFA franchise. The fallout with Walker feels rather forced, but overall it’s a quality addition and will only improve in future editions of the game.
FIFA 17 has been out in Europe since September 29 (those lucky North Americans have been playing since September 27) which means most players have probably already completed The Journey, but, of course, the fun doesn’t stop there.
Ultimate Team (FUT) sees plenty of updates, none of which make the grind any easier. But that’s part of the fun, right?
Squad Builder Challenges allow you to earn rewards by creating squads that meet certain requirements. Some are arduous - you will spend coins on players you have no intention of using - but tougher the challenge, better the prize.
While you are encouraged to spend recklessly in FUT, EA Sports ensure you’re more thrifty in Career Mode.
The realism in Career Mode is heightened considerably with the introduction of Club Worth, which helps you to keep an eye on the club’s financial situation. Make sure you’re maximising your revenue, and not spending too much on scout wages and stadium maintenance, and you’ll avoid becoming the next Blackpool.
New game engine
The visuals in FIFA 17 are rather stunning, helped by the introduction of the same Frostbite Engine used in Battlefield 1. It’s impossible to escape the improvements in the lighting - stadiums, especially in evening kick-offs, are now an aesthetic instead of merely a setting.
It's difficult to notice the new Active Intelligence System, which EA claim “introduces constant spatial analysis, increases activity off the ball, and changes the way players move, read, and react."
That said, countering the dominance of pace in the game has clearly been prioritised. There are plenty more battles on the pitch, and speedsters will come out second best if they are challenged by stronger players.
Set piece rewrite
Set pieces have been rewritten to allow you to take free-kicks and penalties from different angles. It’s fancy, but not entirely necessary - how often do you see a free-kick taken with the outside of the boot?
A precision marker now appears when taking corner kicks that makes the process unnecessarily more challenging. Again, another change that EA could have scrapped without any complaints.
The overall gaming experience is a heap of fun. EA have improved on FIFA 16, while any neutrals hoping to see FIFA slip in the battle against Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer will have to wait at least another year.