The FIFA series has long been about bringing an authentic soccer experience to fans of the sport. Its Career mode enabling players to manage and guide their teams to glory, Ultimate Team mode bringing a fantasy aspect to the traditional proceedings, and FIFA 17’s The Journey even giving us an opportunity to roleplay a young, hot prospect. These are all excellent experiences, but only test the skills of an individual playing on their own. Yet, among all of these popular game modes lies Pro Clubs. A game mode that perfectly encapsulates everything soccer is about, and makes it into one of the most enjoyable and satisfying game modes the series has to offer.
On the surface, it sounds like a recipe for disaster – friends or random players hop into a team, control a single player and take on another team. As everyone desperately tries to select one of the attacking or midfield positions, leaving the defense a shamble of AI-controlled players or friends who begrudgingly fulfill their defensive duties, you can already picture the problems that can arise when playing with strangers. Get you and your friends organized, however, and you’ll actually begin feeling like you’re having a virtual kick about against that other group of guys at the park you don’t know, but challenged to a match all the same. That’s the magic of Pro Clubs. It requires and captures the teamwork and camaraderie of soccer, something FIFA’s other game modes have never truly burrowed down into.
Once you’ve chosen a team name, stadium, and kit, you’re all set to invite your friends, create your players and get the games under your belt. Working in a similar fashion to the Online Seasons, you’ll have to reach a certain number of points within 10 games to be promoted, and another, lower level to simply avoid relegation. With each game comes experience, bolstering your players’ stats and allowing you to unlock traits to give them an instantaneous boost.
Even when selecting these traits, there’s an element of teamwork. Knowing who on your team will be crossing the ball in, who might look for long-range attempts, or who will be the big target man in the box allows you to pick traits that line up with your team’s style of play. You don’t want your center back piling points into offensive traits, but improved standing and sliding tackles? Absolutely.
It all comes together (or falls apart), though, when you step onto the pitch. Leaving each person to control one single player on the team means you’re dependent on one another. Communication becomes crucial not only to string together moves or execute a counter attack, but get a group of friends together and Pro Clubs becomes the perfect catalyst for some banter. That last bit may not be an authentic representation of the Premier League, but anyone who’s witnessed a good game of Sunday League football will know that sounds about right.
And that’s what Pro Clubs is all about, emerging victorious from a scrappy game with your friends. Nuanced plays scattered in a sea of mistimed tackles, countless dab celebrations, and dodgy AI (it plagues every FIFA mode, Pro Clubs is no exception). Sure, Pro Clubs suffers from the same irritating issues as the other modes, but when you and your friends just have this mutual understanding of where each other are and where you’re going to be to go and score the winning goal, there’s something so incredibly compelling and satisfying about it. Scoring a screamer in Ultimate Team or The Journey may be cool, but knowing you and your friends worked as a team and shared in the celebrations puts Pro Clubs on a whole other level of replicating that feeling of being on the winning team in real life.
Alas, even when writing about Pro Clubs, it feels like I’m doing it an injustice. All of the compelling, satisfying elements of this team-based mode are best experienced first-hand. It’s just like when your friend tells you a hilarious story you “had to be there” for. Except with Pro Clubs, you really have to be there.