There’s a scene in FIFA 18’s story mode that still got me even though I knew what was coming, even though it telegraphs its schmaltzy appeal, even though I can see in my mind the corporate conference room where the idea was born. Alex Hunter, the game’s hero, lands a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola, and so they shoot an advertisement.
The producer sets up the scene. Alex has had a tough game. He’s heard the booing and rejection of the crowd (part of the setup to The Journey: Hunter Returns). He wants to get the hell out of there. And then here comes the Coca-Cola kid again with a red and white can to make it all better.
The scene is an homage to Coca-Cola’s swooning Mean Joe Greene ad, which aired in October 1979 and then again when Greene’s Steelers whipped the Rams in Super Bowl XIV. It’s one of the top two or three pieces of television advertising in U.S. history. First grade for me was The Empire Strikes Back, The Dukes of Hazzard, and the Mean Joe Green Coca-Cola ad. I’m not kidding. A weary football star (Greene, a Pro Football Hall of Famer) leaves the field, and somehow a moon-faced urchin, played by Tommy Okon, slips down the ramp behind him, offering the Pause That Refreshes for a day of heroic sacrifice.
Greene reportedly had to drink 18 bottles of Coke to make his scene. Alex Hunter gets it down in one take. But FIFA 18 didn’t do the jersey exchange. A selfie has to suffice. That really bugged me. Hunter needs to give the kid his shirt. That’s what gave the original ad its heart-tugging power.
Whether the Frostbite engine could render a player disrobing or not, I’ve no idea. (Earlier in the game, Hunter mentions trading shirts, a football custom, with cover star Cristiano Ronaldo in a friendly. Ronaldo’s jersey is later seen in Hunter’s apartment, signifying that he accepted the offer.)
Coke is keeping up the ruse by offering cans printed with Hunter’s image on them at 7-Eleven and Walmart in North America. There’s a download code underneath the cans’ tabs that offer additional content during The Journey: Hunter Returns. That’s great, but if you’re going to go Mean Joe Greene, Coke and EA, you have got to go all the way and give the kid the kit.
Our review of FIFA 18 is coming later this week.