It doesn’t look like The Journey game mode will be returning in FIFA 20, with EA’s next footy sim shifting the franchise’s focus onto the new Volta street football mode instead. Seeming like a successor to FIFA Street, Volta will allow gamers to create their own street soccer star that will progress through a story and tackle opponents in smaller matches around the globe.
The Journey will be missed, though. This story-driven mode was first introduced in FIFA 17, with Tomiwa Edun voicing a player called Alex Hunter that joins the Premier League team of your choice at the start of a new season.
FIFA 18 turned Alex’s best mate into a playable character, with Chris Walters voicing the role of Danny Williams, while Alex departed your original club for pastures new. FIFA 19 saw Alex and Danny competing against one another in the Champions League, rounding off a trilogy nicely, while Lisa Solberg’s Kim Hunter chased glory in the Women’s World Cup.
It has been, for want of another term, quite the journey. And because it’s always worth shouting about the things you love, we thought we’d write a few words about The Journey before the FIFA series moves on towards Volta. Let’s get started with the things we’ll miss, then…
The decision-making drama
When you’re in its cut scenes, The Journey feels like a Telltale game crossed with a sports simulator (perhaps with a bit of soap opera thrown in for good measure), with tough decisions popping up from time to time to throw you off your game. Perhaps the most memorable one of these moments came in FIFA 18, with Alex’s agent Michael botching a deal that could’ve taken you to Real Madrid. Your career at your original team is ruined as a result, and the player is asked whether or not they want to fire Michael, which is a very tempting proposition.
A similar situation occurs for Danny in FIFA 19, but this time Michael isn’t actually the villain: after a spat, choosing to side with Danny’s mate Ringo instead of Michael will result in Ringo’s dodgy investments being revealed and the bailiffs knocking on Danny’s door. This is a neat twist on what you’re expecting, and it makes you think twice about all your future choices.
Choosing between family and work is another conundrum in FIFA 19, with the importance of Alex’s brand coming up against his desire to spend time with his loved ones. It takes an awkward poolside cameo from Neymar for Alex to realise what’s important in life, and it’s nothing short of triumphant when you get to ditch Alex’s entourage in favour of goofing around with his mum and half-sister.
The emotional connections
Being so invested in Danny, Alex and Kim’s decisions means that you can’t help but get emotionally invested in their individual journies. When Alex’s obsession with his brand puts him in hot water with his manager, for instance, you want to put in the extra effort in training to win the gaffer over. You want your place in the team back, sure, but you also want Alex to be in a better place emotionally.
Danny’s on-going rivalry with his somewhat nasty brother rears its head on numerous occasions as well, and you’ll want to play the game of your life every time you go up against him. You’ll feel genuinely gutted if you lose to him, whether it’s in a training session on the estate or a Champion’s League knockout game. And on the flip-side of that, gaining that final victory for Danny and earning his brother’s rest is a real emotional payoff.
Kim’s desire to race ahead in life is an interesting arc, as well, with numerous people advising her against trying to go pro instead of going to college. We’d never feel this close to individual players in an old fashioned career mode, which is part of what makes The Journey feel so unique. We’ll miss digging this deep into their personal lives, because guiding players in the right direction emotionally as well as tactically is something quite special.
The stories left untold
The Journey did feel like a finished product at the end of FIFA 19‘s instalment, but it left us wanting more nonetheless. As with a lot of great story-based games, movie trilogies and TV shows, there’s a lot of mileage to be had in imagining what happened next for these characters. Jim Hunter will surely be proud to see his grandchildren (and Danny) playing together in the sunshine, but he’ll still be following their careers for years to come. It’s a bit sad that we won’t be able to do the same.
Kim’s story feels particularly unfinished. As we mentioned before, FIFA 19‘s Journey hints that a professional career awaits her after a summer of international glory. Which club does she sign for? What struggles does she face? Does she really become a game-changer for women’s football, or is that pressure too much for the youngster to handle? Barring a surprise announcement of more Journey content, it seems likely that we’ll never find out any of those answers.
With Alex and Danny, there are stories left untold as well. Depending on which one you won the Champions League with, the alternate player will need to bounce back in a big way. Alex’s pushy agent is still on the scene, as well, and Danny’s cash troubles haven’t gone away. And we haven’t seen either player called up for international duty yet, either.
We’ve got some closure, sure: it was nice to see Alex and Danny playing together with Kim at the end of FIFA 19‘s Journey, and the scene where they shared some FIFA time together was a surprisingly heartfelt meta moment. But if you offered us a chance to play as these characters again, perhaps when the next real-life World Cup occurs, we’d probably bite your hand off.
And until such a dream comeback takes place, we’ll keep on shouting about how much we loved The Journey… a rare slice of emotional single-player drama for the franchise, which will definitely be missed.
FIFA 20 launches on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on 27 September. In the meantime, you might like to check out our coverage of the PES 2020 demo to see how the competition is doing.