FIFA 17's new story mode, dubbed The Journey, is without doubt the game's biggest addition this year - and arguably the series' most significant new mode since Ultimate Team. And while we talk through the game's other major changes in our main FIFA 17 guide, The Journey stands out above all.
In The Journey you'll play as Alex Hunter, a hotshot 17-year-old with aspirations to emulate his legendary grandfather by stepping out in the Premier League. The story tracks his path from kiddy kickabouts on Clapham Common to - if you play your cards right - the next trophy-winning, media-darling Marcus Rashford starlet.
Here, we'll talk you through what exactly The Journey mode is, how it works, the best and worst outcomes and our best advice for how you can ensure you make it to the big time. It should go without saying, but there will of course be some story spoilers dotted throughout this guide, of varying significance, so read on at your own risk.
What you need to know about The Journey - rewards, length, available clubs
As we mentioned above, The Journey is FIFA's new story mode, but although it takes influence from other, more traditionally role-playing, story-driven EA-published series like Mass Effect, the way the Journey works is somewhat unique.
Whilst we haven't been able to play through The Journey enough times to decipher the outcome of every single decision and performance, we do know the overall structure and several different conclusions to the story of Alex Hunter. We'll start with the basics:
- What do you do in The Journey? - The Journey involves a combination of training exercises, matches, conversations, and cutscenes, with a bit of Twitter feed checking thrown in. You'll split your playing time roughly 50-50 between training and matches, whilst conversations only happen sporadically, such as after man of the match performances or at significant milestones.
- Does Alex Hunter improve over time? - Yes, in fact it's the main hook that keeps you interested in playing for longer, outside of the story itself. As you train and perform well in matches, Hunter's individual attributes like Short Passing, Finishing, etc. - and thus his Overall rating - will gradually increase. Each time your Overall rating goes up a level, you'll also receive a number of Skill Points to spend on individual Traits. Unlocking one of these will either increase a particular attribute by a few levels, or grant you a Trait much like those on standard players, like Swerve Passing or five star Skill Moves.
- What clubs can you play for in The Journey? - If successful at the exit trials, you'll be afforded the choice of any Premier League club to play for - meaning no, you don't have to just choose Manchester United. Those 20 English teams, plus three in the Championship, are the only ones you can play for. A little further down the line, it's quite likely you'll be loaned out - this time to one of three Championship clubs: Aston Villa, Newcastle United, or Norwich City, who you'll play for until recalled later on that season.
- How do you 'win' or 'lose' The Journey? - We'll go into this in more detail just below, but in brief there isn't a clear case for 'winning' or completing The Journey in one specific way. Generally, your goal is to balance popularity with your manager, and popularity with your 'followers'. Keeping them both happy will mean you can continue along your journey for as long as possible, with the greatest possible outcome for Alex. Making them significantly unhappy will result in reduced playing time and, ultimately, the end of the road for Alex Hunter.
- How much do your decisions and conversations affect the story in The Journey - Honestly, not very much. Generally different dialogue options will affect that cutscene in which they occur, but have next to no repurcussions down the line. The only thing to bear in mind is your manager's opinion of you and your follower count - hitting certain numbers of followers trigger sponsorship deals, and with them come cutscenes featuring the likes of Angel Di María (yes, it's actually played by him), flashy photoshoots, and so on. Otherwise, we found that whether you gave a diplomatic press interview or told your bratty rival where to shove it didn't do anything for the story at large aside from make that cuscene dialogue play out a little differently.
- How long is The Journey? - The Journey lasts around 16 hours at most, which includes performing each training session and match manually without simulating anything, and achieving the longest possible story arc. The Journey will finish at the end of the season - in late May - at the latest.
- Can you fail The Journey exit trials? - Yes. The start of the game will see you face the dreaded exit trials (a kind of last-chance saloon where under 18 players released from football acadamies have a final shot at impressing professional scouts) and the first of several objectives you'll be given there is to rank in the top half of the 22 footballers on trial during a practice match. If you finish outside of the top half, you'll be asked to leave, with the option to quit or reload an earlier save.
- What rewards are there for playing The Journey? - The Journey offers players a handful of rewards, which are earned simply by playing through the story. You'll receive a random FUT Loan Player over a certain Overall rating up to five times, at different story milestones, which range up to a minimum rating of 87 Overall (in fact we earned Thomas Müller, who apparently broke FIFA's rating system). If you finish The Journey you'll receive an Alex Hunter Ultimate Team card, which is permanent and tailored according to your own Alex Hunter's progress. We found that, although the card was tailored to our own Hunter's progress, the stats still differed; our Hunter had Accelleration and Sprint Speed in the mid 80s, for instance, whilst the FUT card had Pace in the mid 70s. As an example for what to expect, we also achieved 'A' ratings in every training session, and between 7 and 10 out of 10 in every match, won every competition we were in, and saw our Journey version of Hunter reach an Overall of 73. We were awarded with a gold card for Alex Hunter that was rated 75.
- Can you get injured in The Journey, and what happens if you do? - Yes you can, however it never actually rules you out for a game. If you pick up a knock in a match - we picked up two over the whole season - you'll get one of a selection of pre-made cutscenes with the physio and coach, who tell you RICE (rest-ice-compress-elevate) and learn to 'run clever'. As far as we know it has no bearing on the story, and is just a nice touch of semi-realism.
For more on FIFA 17, be sure to check out our main FIFA 17 tips and guides hub, plus our list of the best, highest-potential wonderkids, the best players for every position, our explanation of FUT 17's new Ones to Watch cards, the best FUT Chemistry Styles, the best ways to earn free FUT Coins quickly, and finally our detailed FUT Chemistry explainer.
FIFA 17 The Journey walkthrough
The Journey is a strange beast; there's no room for a walkthrough in the traditional sense - take this turning, perform this action here - but there is still a story, and there are still some different results depending on how you perform. Plus, it's just generally unclear how it all works, as there are no hard and fast 'rules' as to what actions determine what action, so we're here to clear that up for you as best we can.
Final warning for the spoiler-sensitive, too: full story spoilers will of course follow.
The Journey begins - childhood flashback and exit trials
After you've indicated your favourite club in the pre-game menus, The Journey opens with Alex Hunter and his best mate, Gareth Walker, playing Sunday League football on Clapham Common. Your legendary ex-pro grandad, ever-supportive mum, and deadbeat dad look on as the kids cup final comes down to penalties - with yours the deciding one. If you score, the match ends there with plenty of glee from your team and family - miss, and so will the opposing team after you. Gareth gets another chance to win the game for you with the next kick, and does. Either way, you'll win the cup and go home happy - catching the eye of a scout or two - and the ire of your bitter dad, career cut short by injury - in the process.
Flash forward to the present day, and it's you, Gareth, mum and grandad once again, this time at the infamous 'exit trials'. The two of you have been released from an unnamed academy and this is your final chance to impress a scout and get a foot in the door at the top level. Here, you'll need to complete three objectives: stay in the top half of players during a half-length practice match; finish in the top 10 after a few training sessions, and the top 10 again in another practice match. Fail to do so, and you're met with a game over screen and an option to reload an earlier save (note that, in our experience, the game saved automatically and often, with no option to do either save or load manually). You'll also get to choose your position here, from four options: Left Winger, Right Winger, Centre Attacking Midfielder or Striker - we went for attacking mid in our main playthrough, which we'd recommend, as it allows you to drop a little deeper to win back and pass the ball, and affect matches throughout, which is surprisingly important. Your choice here has little other impact on story though, as far as we know.
Choose your new club
After succesfully negotiating the exit trails, you're approached by an agent, the slightly-slimy Michael Taylor, who tells you there's not a club in the league that isn't interested - congrats! You can now choose from any of the 20 Premier League clubs, although it's worth bearing in mind that bigger clubs will afford you less playing time - but more money, and glory - than the league's minnnows.
Choose your club, and it turns out this one happens to be your legendary grandad Jim Hunter's old club too, and your old mate Gareth has happened to get a contract there too - fancy that!
First training session, meeting the team and the gaffer
Your first session sees you meeting the squad, the coach (not the actual manager, who remains a silent background figure throughout the story), and Gareth at training. There are a couple of dialogue options, where you'll see Gareth is isn't quite striking the same 'chemistry' as you are with teammates. The better you do in training, the more chance you have to break into the first team, but at big clubs at least, you'll be starting on the bench for your first game regardless.
First match, tour, start of the season and coming off the bench
Your first games take place on tour, with you coming on as a sub in each.
Soon enough you get your chance in a real game, in the section of the story which was featured in the FIFA 17 demo. Gareth Walker has started ahead of you - and seems pretty smug about it - and you're brought on from the bench to replace him around the 65-minute mark, with the score tied at 1-1 (Gareth getting your team's goal) in a big game.
You'll be given three objectives by your manager in every game where you come off the bench, which break down into a target match rating out of 10, a tactical target like scoring the next goal or getting two assists, and a result-based target like winning the game or holding onto your lead. Complete them to increase your chances of starting future games.
The Big Money Signing
Uh oh. On Transfer Deadline Day your club decides to splash out on a Big Money Signing (always referred to under that name, rather than the player's name) which was in our case, and many others, Harry Kane. Even worse, they're going to play Gareth with him instead of you up top, meaning you face some major competition.
Farmed out on loan
Things go from bad to worse for Alex now, as your mate Gareth starts to get a little Big Time Charlie and stops responding to your messages, whilst the boss decides that, despite you being a valued player, it's time to send you out on loan.
As far as we know, this is a scripted even that happens no matter what, regardless of your match ratings and training scores. You have no say in the matter - other than choosing how well you want Alex to take the news - but you do have a choice of three Championship clubs: Aston Villa, Newcastle United, or Norwich City - which are probably the options because FIFA still has assets for their stadia, seeing as all three were in last year's Premier League competition. Choose whichever takes your fancy - we went for Villa, because Norwich are boring and Newcastle are just a mess, let's be honest.
Meeting the new team, and a familiar face
Over at your new club, you'll meet your new boss, Dino, who seems pretty scary on first impressions but is actually a pretty lovely guy, who's all about the squad working together as a unit. You'll also meet Danny Williams - who you first encountered at the exit trials giving it large because he already had a contract, and has had a few pops at you on social media since - who just happens to be at your loan club.
It turns out Danny's actually a decent enough guy -probably suffering from a bit of an inferiority complex - who helps you settle in. It's back to the grindstone for you though, as you'll be doing more training before you earn your first professional start (depending on training and match performance, and how happy you make your manager with 'cool' options in interviews with the press).
Grinding it out in the Championship
For now, this is your home. It was still early on in the season when we were loaned out, and you'll be there until at least January when transfer rumours start to fire up again. Do your best to train well - using all three attempts at a drill if possible, and avoiding simulation at all costs - and play well in games. Not only will these improve your manager's opinion of you to help you start games, it'll also earn you more followers without the need for fiery interviews, increase your attributes, and earn you Skill Points to spend as your Overall rating increases over time too.
Gareth also seems to be weirdly smug about all of this, taking the occassional pop at you on social media with some backhanded compliments like 'maybe the Championship's more his level'. Ignore him for now...
Recalled to the big leagues
We're not sure at this point if it depends on your performances or not, but we generally played well, getting 'A' rating in all training sessions and 7-10 ratings in matches, until we were recalled.
The call-up can only happen in January either way, as it's spurred on by good old Gareth making a shock transfer request and move to - wait for it - your Biggest Rival. When you head back to your main club's training ground all happy to see your estranged friend, he blows up in your face, informing you that you'll never be able to fill the hole he's left. Charming. And a bit irrational.
Grinding it out again, this time in the Premier League
Now you're back, it's simply time to get your head down and play well for the team. You've got half a season to climb to the top of the Premier League table, and make it through to the FA Cup final. Ignore Gareth's increasingly manic snipes at you on social media, and focus on keeping a regular starting spot through strong performances and training results.
After a mid-season game against your rivals, Gareth pops outside to the car park to make amends for his bizarre attitude, putting it down to pressure. Just as he's apologising though, the ever-flummoxed Danny Williams turns up to give you a lift, and Gareth flips (again, seriously he needs some therapy), interpreting your new friendship as some kind of slight on his character and storming off.
Aside from that, you'll hear mentiones of you making it into the FIFA Ultimate Team Team of the Week - from match commentators not less, if you play well, and also get a pretty nice gaff now you're back in the big leagues, which ol' grandpa Jim finds a little unsettling - but he quickly comes around.
Sponsorship deals start flooding in
Once you hit 200,000 social media followers - which should happen naturally through good performances, but can be sped up with fiesty press interviews - you'll get your first sponsorship deal.
It's Addidas who decide to get you on their books, first of all with a choice of swanky new football boots, which feature lots of trademarked pseudo-science and no discernable difference to your actual play in game - which is realistic!
After that, you'll receive new deals at 275,000 followers and 300,000. We didn't actually notice anything happen at 300,000, as it popped whilst we were on the photoshoot that you get on hitting 275,000 first. Angel Di María pops up there, who says hello to you in his native language before being ushered off by the brand bloke who's there on set. You'll earn plenty of money from these deals, but it's not clear what difference that actually makes to your playthrough - it seems as though it doesn't make any, other than unlocking the ncie cutscenes with big players.
The final push for the Premier League trophy
If you've been playing well, your team's probably in with a chance of winning the Premier League. As Manchester United, we were a few points clear at the top going into the last five games of the season, where we were granted a cutscene with the coach again who gave us a nice rousing speech.
Showdown - the FA Cup final against Gareth and your Biggest Rival
Finally, it's time to tell Gareth where to shove it - by letting your football do the talking, of course. He gives you all kinds of nonsense on social media in the build up to the cup final at Wembley, where you'll be taking on him and your rival team, in our case Liverpool.
In the tunnel beforehand, Gareth gets even nastier. Depending on your response - we went with fiery because the lad deserved it, and we were pumped up with game-face on - he may get extra personal, insulting your grandad and your vacant dad, who's career was cut short by injury. Go and smash him on the pitch - metaphorically, we mean. We know it's tempting but try not to get sent off.
If you win, the post-game cutscene will see you walk over to Gareth and silently pick him up from his melodramatic position of disappointment, where he's lying on the pitch. If you lose, he'll do the same to you, but still celebrate more than a little excessively right in front of you. Bit unnecessary.
Your dad also shows up outside the stadium after the game. Regardless of how you played (we scored nine own goals in one game to test out what happens with the lowest possible score...) he'll say you look strong and played well, which Alex will somewhat harshly ignore.
End of the season, and a big phone call
Finally, you'll see a cutscene where you and Danny wind down in your pad, playing... FIFA! Your agent rocks up, grandad Jim siezing the opportunity to make up with him after their frosty relationship over the year, and your mum's just chuffed all round.
Before it all wraps up though, you get a call. Not from the England manager with a call-up, but from your coach, who then tells you to turn on the TV, where you see you have actually been called up to the England squad. We're pretty sure players get a phone call before it's all over 'EA Sports News' in real life, but it's a nice touch.
There, in a typical 'it's only just beginning' way, Alex's Journey wraps up, and you're awarded a FIFA Ultimate Team card for Alex Hunter, which is tailored loosly according to his attributes in your playthrough. Congratulations!
Other advice you should know before playing The Journey in FIFA 17
Throughout The Journey, you'll find that you're incentivised to do a couple of things: keep the manager happy, and get more followers. It's not made totally clear why you'll want to do that though, or how exactly those things are affected, so we've put together a few tips on getting a happy gaffer and healthy fanbase, alongside some general tips for success in The Journey story mode.
For the record, as far as we know the best possible ending is three sponsorship deals (including the cutscene with Di María), winning the Premier League, winning the FA Cup, and getting an England call-up - there may be something even better you can do, such as beat your grandad's goalscoring record, although that one, for example, would simply require scoring more goals!
- Social media followers, manager happiness, and money are all linked together. Fiery responses in publicly-broadcast dialogue will get you more followers, whilst cool options in any situation the manager is aware of will make him happier. A happy manager is key to getting more game time, which you'll need to do if you want to play in the FA Cup and get the longest possible playthrough, whilst followers are key to unlocking specific cutscenes with top players like Di María through sponsorship deals.
- It's possible, however, to achieve everything without worrying about our dialogue. Whilst training performance only affects your manager's impressions of you, match performance affects both. Training well and racking up the goals and assists on the pitch will make both your manager and fans happy - in fact we split our reponses evenly between fiery, cool, and balanced, and still maxed out manager happiness and sponsorships through solid performances on the pitch. Letting your football do the talking is all you need to do.
- If you find in-game performances tough - and they can be at times - then you can of course tweak your chances of success by going for cooler responses in dialogue options, keeping your manager happy enough to play you. Manager happiness is much more important than followers, ultimately, as he's the one who decides whether you're kept, sold, played, or left on the bench.
- As a general tip, it's worth noting that the in-game camera angle can be changed. We thought the 'Be a Pro' angle was the only one, which is incredibly awkward to deal with at times, until we logged on on a different PS4 to see the camera angle was back to the normal one, as if you'd selected to play as a team instead of just Hunter. Pop into the settings to change it.
- Playing as Alex Hunter in matches it much easier than playing as the whole team, when it comes to getting a good rating. You might be used to playing as a team, but it's worth learning to adapt to playing as just Hunter. Aside from just being a nice breath of fresh air from standard FIFA gameplay, controlling just Alex allows you to significantly affect how often he gets on the ball and affects the game. You can drop deep to win it back from the computer which is obsessed with posession on higher difficulties, and likewise build up play through you by calling for it and working it forwards. Teammate decisions can be a little wonky, but it's still much easier than relying on a 60-rated Alex Hunter's AI to get him into good positions for your pass in team-control mode.
- You can instruct other players to perform most actions you could if controlling them as a team normally. Threaded through balls, lob passes, airial through balls, shots, closing down players, and more are all available as commands to your teammates through 'shouting' at them as Alex Hunter. Simply press the button you normally would if controlling them to instruct the AI to perform an action. Mastering this is enormously helpful for success on the field.
- Spend skill points wisely. It's unlikely, if not impossible, that you'll earn enough skill points to unlock everything. With that in mind, think about your playstile and your position. Hunter's Penalties, for instance, start down in the 40s or 50s - is spending precious Skill Points to level that up to the mid 50s worth it when you could be adding extra pace, stamina, passing, and five-star skill moves?
If you're looking for more FIFA 17 guides, we've also detailed the best players for every position, plus we've listed the best, highest-potential wonderkids and explained how to perform every free kick and set piece in the game, after FIFA 17's total dead ball rework.