FIFA 18: The Journey - Preview Impressions

Alex Hunter Returns looks like a fantastic addition to FIFA 18.

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Few games generate money like the FIFA series does, but that money isn't just filling the coffers at EA as the company decided to invest some of that money into a promising story mode for FIFA 17. Players got to know Alex Hunter, a fictional footballer who kicked off his adventure in the Premier League last year. It was a very interesting debut season, with good story moments that told us how Hunter became a star. Now in FIFA 18 you will have the chance to continue Alex's career in The Journey: Hunter Returns.

When you start the new campaign, you can choose to go at it with a new version of Alex Hunter or resume the adventure from the FIFA 17 save. This means that the choices you made, including Hunter's club, will be transported to the new season. After watching a brief recap of what happened in the previous game, you will be transported to Brazil, where Alex Hunter enjoys his last day of vacation with his friend Williams. It is a delightful start where you will even get to play in a three-on-three "peladinha" against local youth (good luck with winning this match).

The campaign is divided into five chapters, and the first involves Alex Hunter's pre-season at his current club. You will participate in a tournament in the US, and the first game will be against Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid. The Portuguese star even interacts with Hunter for a few seconds, although if this sample is anything to go by, Ronaldo is far better playing on a pitch than he is as an actor. Luckily the same does not apply to the other actors, almost all are at a pretty good level, and even the other guests, such as Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry, perform well.

The second chapter is basically an expanded version of what you may have seen in the demo. The Premier League begins, but rumours of a possible transfer of Alex Hunter to Real Madrid begin to surface. We will not reveal what happens next, but it caught us by surprise. We can, however, say that the club where Alex will play does not depend on the player, although that might change down the line.

In addition to showing his life as a professional footballer, The Journey campaign also focuses on a more personal side of Alex Hunter. His father, practically missing during FIFA 17, will have a bigger role in this second season, and some unexpected developments will take place. You will also be making several decisions throughout the story, and one of them was surprisingly difficult, with clear repercussions for the rest of the campaign. We won't reveal more details about The Journey's narrative, but if you liked the first chapter in FIFA 17, you will surely appreciate this second part.

The gameplay involves, naturally, playing matches as Alex Hunter. You can choose to take control of the whole team, only Alex Hunter (our choice), or even share the experience with a friend via local co-op. Here, The Journey basically plays like a normal FIFA game, albeit with a few nuances. There are specific challenges for Alex Hunter to try and complete, such as assisting a goal, performing 10 passes, and so on. During the second half, the coach will update the list of goals, depending on the match outcome. If you are tied, he may ask you for the winning goal, for instance.

Most games run naturally, but there are some exceptions. Some special matches place the player in specific contexts, such as entering a game already in progress with a predetermined result. These moments are enriched with some cinematic sequences, more frequently than they were in FIFA 17. These add great value to The Journey experience and feature tremendous production values.

Graphically there are clear improvements over The Journey in FIFA 17. The models are better, lighting is superior, and everything just looks more realistic. There are also more actors and characters, and the overall presentation is simply spectacular. From stadiums and locker rooms to Alex Hunter's apartment to outdoor parties and special events; the production levels of The Journey are insane, all accompanied by an excellent soundtrack.

The Journey also includes a small RPG element. As you reach certain goals and successfully complete training sessions, Alex Hunter's overall rating will go up (he starts with 75). Whenever he gains a level, you can assign special points to specific categories. You can unlock passes with the outside of the foot, apply more curve to shots, make more spectacular passes, improve the effectiveness of slide tackles, and so on. Within the available positions (Striker, Offensive Midfielder, and Winger), you can shape Alex Hunter into several different specialties.

A new feature this season is the implementation of a customisation system. You can change Alex Hunter's casual wear, his appearance, and even his style during matches. There are several types of hairstyles and tattoos for the physical side, while the casual clothing includes shoes, coats, t-shirts, and pants. With regard to playing style, you can play with socks at various heights, tuck or untuck your shit, and adorn your arms with several types of bandages. As you meet certain goals and increase the number of Alex Hunter's followers on social media, you will unlock new options for each category of customisation.

We have not yet finished this second season of The Journey, but we are very impressed with what we have seen so far. There are clear improvements in all the components of the campaign, and it is exciting to accompany Alex Hunter on his "journey". If it continues this way, we believe that The Journey: Hunter Returns will be a fantastic asset for FIFA 18. You can expect our full review come September 21!


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