W hat is there to say that has not already been said about EA Sports’ FIFA series? Whilst the franchises’ annual releases are often dismissed as roster updates it has remained a commercial juggernaut that many gamers have a love-hate relationship with. This is the game of my childhood (and likely my adulthood as well.) I started playing FIFA with 01 and have given countless hours of my time to every iteration since then. The great FIFAs – 03, 07, 12, 2014 World Cup and Street (2005) will always have a special place in my heart and to my surprise FIFA 18 has earnt the right to be a part of this elite club. Easily the best game EA Sports have made in years, FIFA 18 represents a bold improvement in gameplay, graphics and almost every game mode. Game on!
After an early patch tweaked some defensive issues, FIFA 18 is now a near-perfect game on the pitch. After years of promises, players do indeed feel a lot more like their real-life counterparts whilst formations and tactical changes can hugely influence the result of a match. Crossing is perhaps the biggest improvement this year and really whipping the ball in with pace and curve is deeply satisfying. Above all the gameplay feels dynamic and unpredictable which with last year’s scripting scandal makes the game a breath of fresh air. Errant goalkeepers are my only minor gripe but like defending, this should soon be patched.
“The frostbite game engine has really come into its own”
Stunning. Packed full of licencing packages for the big leagues and more realistic crowd animation, FIFA looks closer to the real thing than ever before. The Frostbite game engine has really come into its own in the second year as the game represents a significant graphical improvement on its predecessor.
For me, FIFA is all about career mode. Usually completely neglected by EA, this year we have received some welcome updates. The novelty of cut-scene transfer negotiations has lasted longer than I expected and interacting with the likes of Jose Mourinho to get a big deal done is genuinely fun. Plus, the new transfer and squad hubs are very effective developments alongside the ‘breaking news’ feature which includes Player of the Month animations for the first time. Training and the Youth Academy could do with a little more work but this does little to take away from the immersive nature of this game mode.
The ever-popular Ultimate Team is also much improved this year with the addition of Squad Battles and Daily Objectives. These are excellent features which allow those who excel against the AI to reach the elite ranks playing offline. It remains a cash cow with packs and points offering no value for money but it’s still a lot of fun.
Elsewhere there are solid additions to Pro Clubs and the second instalment of The Journey. Hunter Returns is the weakest part of the game; the first half features cringy acting and cliched plots whilst the second half offers little action and leaves you with the boredom of controlling a single-player through a predetermined and pedestrian story. Still, if you simply don’t play this pointless mode then FIFA 18 offers a wide variety of addictive game modes with the potential of a World Cup add-on later in the year.
FIFA 18 fulfils the potential of 17 to create a unique and thrilling football game that nobody could call just another FIFA. There may be no revolutionary features that look good on the back of the box but this is a deeply effective evolution of the game with a ton of smaller features – like quick-subs – that add up to a cracking experience. The biggest praise I can give the game is just how many man-hours I’ve thrown into already and I’ve loved every minute. If you’re a casual gamer and in any doubt about getting the game I’d thoroughly recommend purchasing it immediately. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for Season Four of my Aberdeen career.