Initial Release: 29 September 2017
FIFA 18 is definitely an improvement on last years entry, with nice tweaks in Ultimate Team that will keep you coming back for more and the return of Alex Hunter in FIFA’s second attempt at an in-depth story campaign that creates a much more rewarding experience this time around.
Last year FIFA made its most drastic and ambitious leap in the history of the series, the introduction of the impressive Frostbite engine and an all new story mode that would lead us on a journey (See what we did there) of a young, up-and-coming prospect trying to make his way to the promise land. This laying the foundation for FIFA 18 to build on last years entry and challenge the likes of Madden and NBA 2K for the top spot as the most immersive sports game on the market. That said, the questions that we asked ourselves were – Has FIFA 18 revolutionised the franchise? Unfortunately not but has the game improved on last years addition? Most definitely and here’s how.
What separates FIFA 18 from PES is how accessible it is. Electronic Arts has made it easy to navigate each menu for going through your tactics, it’s all made simple and effective. The mini-games during loading screens return with some new impressive and challenging additions, the on-screen interface has become a staple of the franchise in recent years and its ever growing list of challenges keep each game feeling fresh. I’ve been playing football games for many years now, and I still found the presentation of FIFA’s onscreen tutorial helpful. After spending some time taking the advice, I felt my passing had improved drastically and I was creating better opportunities than in previous entries.
A revamp to the game’s animation system enhances the sheer fluidity of each match, regular FIFA players will be familiar with the ever-troubled dribbling in the series and the frustrating player movement off the ball, this year we have finally seen an advancement in both of these areas which make FIFA 18’s on the pitch experience much more enjoyable. Despite some of the player collisions appearing a tad forced, the majority of the interactions feel slightly more natural, this adds an extra layer of realism to the game which is much needed. First touch has also seen a slight enhancement thanks to the collaboration with Cristiano Ronaldo, the likes of Messi, Neymar and Reus will have no problem making their way through a challenging defence, it’s not just the world class players that have received the first touch treatment as even lower league players can now control a ball much more smoothly. The driven-through pass, that was introduced a few years ago, became a standard action for me. Fortunately, players are much better equipped to receive it than in past entries.
The big draw to last year’s iteration of FIFA was the inclusion of a new cinematic story mode, where players would take control of the ambitious prospect Alex Hunter, and the success of the young rising star was dependent on their performance. Last year was a solid start, the mode has seen a substantial improvement as it dumps the tiresome ‘Rookie’ story for a more in-depth narrative. The majority of the gameplay in The Journey 2 remains very familiar. You’ll continue to have objectives for each match you actively take part in, you’ll partake in various training drills, and decide how Hunter should respond to numerous questions or circumstances with a Cool, Fiery, or Balanced response. This time around, Key Decisions have added a new element to every choice you decide to take, this creating intensity within the story and highlighting the importance of critical moments that determine the fate of certain characters by the end of the story. After my time with Hunter Returns, I did however find these decisions that I had made earlier on slightly meaningless and I found that selecting the ‘Correct’ decision wasn’t too difficult.
While the story is well-written and the performance of the lead actor Adetomiwa Edun is certainly positively recognised, it’s the events on screen that slow this story down from being something much better, resulting in only a minor amount of motivation to advance through the narrative. These setbacks are somewhat tolerable because of the tale it brings, which touches on serious and sensitive subjects without overplaying on it and attracting drama, the mode altogether is once again a success. I won’t go into any spoilers, the story of family, football and business is executed well and the inclusion of new playable characters other than Alex is a good idea that mixes things up a bit, as they all help put together a tight story.
FIFA 18 does a solid job of creating an authentic experience for every match, with over fifty beautifully rendered real-world stadiums brimming with small details and passionate crowds, and also adding a variety of overlays in each broadcast that reflect international telecasts of the sport. The commentary still lacks in places but it still sounds more inviting than PES 2018, their dialogue occasionally seems small, with one-liners being repeated way too often.
Visually the Frostbite engine is representing ‘The Beautiful Game’ in the best way possible, it’s stunning and we found no glitches or frame rate issues during our play through. Career mode has also seen a few new upgrades, the main one enables you to engage in interactive and cinematic transfer negotiations. They help to immerse you in your chosen club negotiations, this can become incredibly tedious if – like me you’re looking to get rid of 8 players and bring in 12 new faces. As for Ultimate Team, Squad Battles offers up a new mode for those who prefer to play in single-player, these allow you to go head-to-head against teams made by community players. The better your performance and the higher the difficulty rating you beat them on, the more points you’ll receive. With a plethora of different modes in Ultimate Team alone, plus the extensive Career mode, Online, Seasons, Pro Clubs, and Hunter Returns, FIFA 18 offers a huge amount of content that will keep fans busy for another year.
FIFA 18 is definitely an improvement on last years entry, with nice tweaks in Ultimate Team that will keep you coming back for more and the return of Alex Hunter in FIFA’s second attempt at an in-depth story campaign that creates a much more rewarding experience this time around. Visually the game is stunning and it’s presentation is unrivalled in the genre which is a crown it can proudly hold. Despite these improvements, on the pitch it still falls slightly short of the realism that makes PES 2018 such a success, first touch is nice and smooth and it creates new opportunities as you advance up the pitch. However, some of the current bugs still continue to plague the series, the goalkeepers have taken on the role of Superman three years running and Defenders often look like they’re in an episode of Lost. That said, FIFA makes a welcomed return to the pitch and it’s definitely worth adding to your collection.
Verdict – 8 out of 10
We were provided a copy of the game by EA for review purposes