A little while ago I published an article which posed the question “What if 2K Studios made a Football?” which looked at the possibilities available if 2K placed their magic touch on the footballing universe.
With greater attention to detail and an overall more in depth cinematic experience, I proposed that 2K held all the right parts to create an absorbing sports game both on and off the pitch. So when FIFA 17’s ‘The Journey’ trailer was released this past week at E3, I couldn’t help but notice at how familiar some of the “developments” seemed to be. So is FIFA 17 really giving us something that we haven’t seen before?- or is it just “borrowing” some key components from the very successful NBA 2k franchise?
With FIFA 17 moving over to the Frost Bite engine, the possibilities to what the developers are able to do are multiplied both on the pitch but also off it. The Eco Motion engine used in the 2K series is used to not only great affect within actual game play, but also in loading screens and menus etc. The pre-game conversation with the punditry panel which includes Shaquille O’Neal is incredible. Let’s not beat around the bush; it’s there to cover the extensive loading time but the fluidity of the movements and interactions are fantastic. The FIFA franchise has suffered a bit in this area and come under some negative scrutiny. Its portrayal of matches mirroring that of a television broadcast using dynamic images and statistics are great, but could a ‘Monday Night Football’ style presentation be the answer? Some people argue that FIFA is losing touch with being a football game and becoming of a mirror image to Sky Sports, so development in this area of FIFA could see pre-game footage from inside the dressing room providing more of an ‘authentic’ experience. Not only this, it seems that more effort has been placed on development visuals around the pitch with corporate boxes and tunnels now being shown within the stadiums.
The use of the Frost Bite engine means that new modes are also going to debut in FIFA 17. And it’s here where I think FIFA have “lifted” their ideas directly from 2K. No doubt about it. FIFA 17 will offer a mode known as ‘The Journey’ where by the player takes the reigns in the life of Premier League prospect Alex Hunter in his quest to become a footballing star. Much like FIFA’s seasoned “Be a Pro” mode, the player will only have control of Hunter during matches but will deal with experiences both on and off the pitch. It’s rumoured that dialogue trees will be available which may or may not have an impact on the progress of your career. When compared to the ‘Living the Dream’ My Career mode directed by Spike Lee which featured in NBA 2k16, it’s easy to see how the similarities are uncanny. Starting off the college career of the protagonist Freq Vibrations, you chart your career to the heights of the NBA conferences with decision both on and off the court having an affect. Now information on ‘The Journey’ mode is still a little thin on the ground but by placing further emphasis on the presentation of a narrative alongside the game play, means that FIFA could rival the complete package offered by 2K in its NBA franchise.
Although we tend to hear about some sort of game play improvement every year, in my opinion these are minor tweaks which haven’t really made for a better football game experience. No i’m no expert on game play developments, but this year the emphasis on physicality is back on the agenda with those players renowned for their type of play being able to use it to their advantage. Rather than just winning the header on a floated ball, players this year will have the option of trying to control the ball (on the chest for example). On the defensive side it means that players will be able to impact on their opponents to control the ball and this should (in theory) appear in the animations in game. There is also mention of a re-write on set pieces, a new ‘active intelligence system’ and promising the ability to use new attacking techniques. Now the direct link to NBA 2K here is a little tenuous, but it’s been a while since I, myself, have played a sports game where the fluidity of control and game play felt so natural. Could this be something that FIFA is looking to replicate? We will see.
One of the major draws to the NBA 2k franchise is the sheer amount of content available around the game itself. 2K TV is a fantastic idea which offers a weekly video covering move sets, highlight videos and interviews with real NBA stars and all completely accessible from the main menu. Watching the videos also provides opportunities for players to earn in-game credits. Surely FIFA can’t be far off being able to offer something like this?!
Another option of an online mode such as ‘My Park’ would revolutionise only gaming in the FIFA universe allowing a more ‘FIFA Street’ style component to the already heralded Ultimate Team and Divisions mode already available. Alongside the sheer amount of updates in and around the 2K franchise means that within a week of a new hairstyle / kit / apparel / footwear being worn- it’s in your game. Granted it can become quite tiresome with the amount of updates you have to download but could this level of polish be the icing on the cake for the FIFA franchise?
With the release of the ‘My Journey’ trailer, it’s clear to see that EA are accepting the fact that their product may not be top dog for much longer with critics heralding PES over the last few releases. Coupled with some of the developments being offered in other sports franchises in the console world, is this the start of a revolutionary wind of change in how EA views it’s most successful franchise? Or could this just be a flash in the pan to please those fans they may have lost over the last few games?
Only time will tell my friends – cliché I know; but it kind of works!