So season tickets have been bought, fantasy teams have been chosen, 'Match of the Day' has to be set to record and Jim White has told us that the Transfer Window is slam shut, meaning there is only one more thing that has to happen in September for the football season to be well and truly underway - a new 'FIFA' game has to come out.

Alex Hunter with Ronaldo in The Journey

Alex Hunter with Ronaldo in The Journey

Last year, EA Sports made the most significant change to its long-running football franchise - which began way back in 1993 when 'FIFA International Soccer' was released on the Sega Mega Drive - when it introduced The Journey, bringing a story mode to a soccer simulation for the first time.

You were put in control of 17-year-old aspiring player Alex Hunter and after picking his team and his position you then had to guide him to footballing greatness over the course of a full Premier League season.

The mode borrowed heavily the story of heavyweight hopeful Andre Bishop in 2011 boxing game 'Fight Night Champion' and was rightly praised for providing a cinematic-style experience which encouraged gamers to become emotionally invested in Hunter and the path he was on, as well as providing the usual fantastic on-the-pitch gameplay.

'FIFA 18' is here and, of course, Hunter is back in The Journey: Hunter Returns and gamers eager to see what's next for their pixelated hero will not be disappointed. All the hallmarks of what made the first installment so engaging and fun are here and significantly ramped up.

The next chapter in Hunter's story opens with the FA Cup winner and his fellow footballer friend Danny Williams on vacation in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the two pros decide to check out some traditional street football. After Hunter is recognised by a young boy the pair getting talked into playing a game against the local lads and a tricks wizard called Renan on a five-a-side pitch. The mini-game will bring a big smile to the faces to players who can remember the much-loved indoor matches on 'FIFA 97' and fans of 2005's freestyle-fest 'FIFA Street' - which was like a soccer version of 'NBA Jam' featuring some of the world's greatest and most skillful players.

From this fan-pleasing mini-game the focus turns to pre-season, a meeting with Ronaldo, transfer speculation surrounding Hunter's future and the dramas he has with his father and childhood friend-turned-fierce rival Gareth Walker. The set up for these continuing stories occurs when Hunter is interviewed by retired Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand on chat show 'Ones to Watch' and has to answer some tough questions about his feuds. It is these layers that the developers have added that shows just how much work has gone into replicating the football experience as enjoyed by fans all over the world, match day is just one part of it.

From here on, the mode hits familiar territory with the player having to handle all aspects of Hunter's career from training sessions to playing in matches, to post-match interviews and interactions with your teammates, with everything you do helping to build up Hunter's rating and stats.

We also get some welcome customisation options and you are now able to change Hunter's hair, give him tattoos, style his clothes and pick his boots. It's safe to say that if you enjoyed the addition of The Journey to 'FIFA 17' you will not be disappointed by the next installment but to say more would be a major SPOILER!

If you move away from The Journey: Hunter Returns, 'FIFA 18' has all the usual modes we've come to expect and want.

The super-popular FIFA Ultimate Team and its winning formula is probably the mode that will keep you coming back for more and reaching for your credit card once The Journey has been completed.

New additions include Squad Battles, where you play matches against other Ultimate Team clubs controlled by the AI, before being ranked against other real-life players for the amount of wins you manage. For those who fear the pressures online FUT Champions or don't have the time to commit to the latter's grueling schedule of qualification rounds and weekend tournaments it's a brilliant alternative.

The twice-daily Squad Challenge matches in Ultimate Team see you rewarded with coins or packs for achieving specific goals will be well-received by seasoned FUT players and although it's not part of the game that you get out of the box the web app this year is fantastic for the Squad Building Challenges.

Gameplay wise it's rare for EA Sports to make hugely significant changes but a number of long-standing issues have been fixed.

The biggest improvement has been made to crossing with the double tap and triple tap button pressing to change up the type of ball you execute replaced with a new three height system: holding RB gives you a drilled low cross (perfect for when you've skinned the fullback), LB provides a floated ball ideal for knockdowns and a press of X supplies a pacey whipped cross to attack.

Shooting has been boosted and you can now add more power whilst keep your effort below the bar which means you're going to see more belters from outside the box and net-busting volleys fly into the net.

Tackling has been improved - in particular standing challenges - and defenders can use there physicality to stop attacks leaving attackers no chance of just dribbling through. The collision detection is the best it's ever been and the way the players react off each other mean you have to be prepared to shield the ball, turn away and use your passes to get up the pitch. Just like an actual football match. Gone are the days when a player with top ratings for speed and skill can dominate a match to the detriment of the beautiful game.

Although the pace of the game - once again powered by the impressive Frostbite engine - has been increased EA is still focusing on re-creating a match experience comparable to the real sport which is to be commended, and multi-player games still are more frantic than the matches versus the AI controlled opponents.

So the ultimate (team) question is should you go out and buy it?

Quite simply if you love football then it's a must-have purchase, it's a near-perfect recreation of the sport and a year's worth of gaming is on offer until we get 'FIFA 19'.

The Journey will take 12 to 15 hours to complete, whilst Career Mode can last as long you want it. Ultimate Team, if you allow it, can take over your life; just playing these three modes are like taking on three individual titles.

EA Sports has more than delivered once again, back of the net!

'FIFA 18' rating (reviewed on Xbox One): 4.5 / 5

By Philip Hamilton