FIFA is an interesting franchise. You’re either somebody who picks it up every single year, knowing that most of the changes will be minor or you’re somebody who can’t understand why so many gamers pick it up year after year and spend hundreds of hours perfecting their skills.
I’m somebody who plays FIFA religiously year after year. It was a big part of my childhood, where I spent many hours playing with my brothers and other family members and we’ve now progressed to constantly playing each other online. Even when EA don’t implement the best of changes, I’m usually forced to upgrade just for the fact that we all need to have the same version to play together. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that FIFA 18 implements quite a lot of new gameplay features (both minor and major) that make this year’s iteration worth your while.
Firstly, movement feels much smoother due to completely reworked animations that EA have implemented to make movement on the pitch feel more realistic. 1v1 encounters feel much more tighter and every contest feels more competitive. Every contest of the ball whether you’re in attack or defence feels closer and much more strategic. In previous iterations of FIFA, most passes feel like they’ve been a guarantee to hit their target but in FIFA 18, it feels like every single piece of possession matters. Turnovers are crucial and making sure that your passes stick finally have meaning.
Crossing has also been fixed. I found that it was severely broken in FIFA 17, making it near impossible for it to score from crosses. In FIFA 18, I always felt that my crosses landed where I wanted them to and that the A.I players had the instinct to run onto the ball effectively. Dribbling has been slightly changed too. There’s now more ways to explode away from your opponents. Lots of people have complained that in recent years, it’s been too easy to get away from your player (with hero runs). These are still prominent in FIFA 18, but I felt like I needed to work harder to get that final pass in due to the tighter 1v1 contests.For hardcore soccer fans, you’ll be happy to know that EA has implemented signature movements from some of your favourite players. 360-degree motion capture is the hottest trend in gaming now and this technique is used throughout FIFA 18. Ronaldo’s signature free kick and Sterling’s unique dribbling techniques are just a few of the many, many trademark moves that you’ll see throughout the game. Whilst they don’t completely change gameplay, it gives more meaning to adding those iconic players to your Ultimate Team. There’s way more personality in both the animations post goal and the crowds which are finally 3D models and no longer lifeless objects. Similarly, there’s more overlays for a wider variety of teams. These are all things that won’t affect most FIFA players, but for the hardcore fans, they add that extra bit of realism that will surely go a long way.
Dynamic Quick Subs are a very minor change that should have been implemented years ago, but really change the way that I found myself playing. In previous years, I’D only sub once or twice a game (often nearing full time or heading into extra time), but the quick sub prompt will recommend when you should make a sub based on an injury or decreased stamina. It’s an unobtrusive prompt where you press the R2 button to see the recommended sub followed by the X button to action the sub.The Journey was one of my favourite parts of FIFA 17, but it was extremely shallow and over way too quickly. EA have clearly worked hard at taking it way further in FIFA 18. You still play as Alex Hunter and have the chance to start your character fresh or continue with the character that you created last year (complete with stats and attributes). In The Journey: Hunter Returns, there’s now chapter based goals, the ability to play as other players and local multiplayer. You can also fully customise Alex with a range of tattoos, hair styles and outfits. More importantly though, Alex now has an upgradeable skill tree and attributes which you can unlock as you progress through the story. It finally feels like there’s a reason to finish The Journey this year around and it remained one of my favourite parts of the game.
FIFA Ultimate Team is every bit as good as it has been in previous years, but there’s some serious additions in FIFA 18 make it even more fun to play. Squad Battles allow you to play against other teams from the community. You’ll be able to progress through the leader board based on your wins/losses. Icons play a bigger part in FUT too. Each Icon player has three versions with ratings that are based on how they played in that point of their career.I’ve never been a big player of Career mode but there’s some changes there too including interactive transfer negotiations, your choices being played out in press conferences/cut scenes and several new training drills that allow you to develop your squad or player in the unique way that you choose.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This FIFA 18 review was based on the PlayStation 4 version. Online gameplay has not been tested extensively, but online has never been an issue in previous years. Nintendo Switch impressions will follow at a later date.