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Review

FIFA 18 Review

Still king of the football world?

There’s no doubt about FIFA’s domination of the football game landscape, pushing aside its competitors each year as soon as it’s released. Each entry sees EA try to take a step forward with the simulation and the gameplay, and FIFA 18 continues that tradition of yearly iteration, though some changes may be a bit of a challenge to handle.

On the pitch, one of the most obvious tweaks has to do with defending, and here it does feel pretty rigid. Of course you still have sliding tackles, standing tackles, the ability to jostle with opposition for control of the ball. In addition you can hold down a the tackle button to perform a hard tackle, a halfway point between standing and sliding. It’s not a bad system, but during matches you will notice your defence not moving as smoothly as you’d like after trying to perform one of these moves.

Getting used to defending in FIFA 18 takes time and after spending almost a week with the game I feel like I’ve got a handle on it. I’m far from perfect, but competent enough now to make the opposition commit errors and lose possession. Defending is just one part of the action though and many will be a lot more focused on pushing up the pitch in attack for those goal scoring opportunities. Facing off against the various difficulty levels, I found Professional to be a healthy balance, with Semi-Pro too easy to open up and World Class like fortresses.

When attacking players would run into open spaces, but there were quite a few occasions where a couple would bunch up instead of running into the space I hoped they would. Of course some of this would be down to tactical management – the game now replicates some of the signature tactics from major teams – but even with some tweaks this would happen on occasion. When a passing chain came together that led to a goal scoring opportunity, FIFA 18 felt in its element. So while defending takes a little time to get the hang of attacking feels challenging, smooth, and entertaining. It can also be frustrating when a shot clatters off the inside of the post and rolls away, which happened a couple of times.

One of the main draws to FIFA 17 last year was the introduction of The Journey, a story mode which followed the first season of youngster Alex Hunter. FIFA 18 sees the return of The Journey and Hunter’s more difficult second season. It’s a pretty long experience clocking in around eight to nine hours, but the final chapter feels very drawn out. There are some good story beats and while there are moments of surprise the story peters out towards the end. It doesn’t have the same impact of the first Journey, but what it lacks for in that regard it makes up in others. Without veering too much into spoiler territory Alex Hunter may be the main focus but he isn’t the only one in the spotlight. You can also customise Hunter’s look including hairstyle, clothing, and how he wears his kit on the pitch.

While many may flock to complete The Journey first, it isn’t the part of the game that gives FIFA 18 its longevity. The most obvious of this would be FIFA Ultimate Team, which has been the jewel in the crown for the FIFA series for the past few years. There’s not much difference here from previous years, though PS4 and PC players will now have access to legendary players now like Thierry Henry, which were previously Xbox One exclusives. Other than that, the same core element is here of buying packs to build a team of players, selling players you don’t want, competing against others in seasons and online competitions, and bidding for players you do want.

As in previous years you can use real money to purchase FIFA coins which can be used to buy additional packs in Ultimate Team. Obviously more packs mean more chances of getting good players, but they’re not detrimental to those who don’t buy into the microtransaction economy. Coins are earned at a regular pace when playing Ultimate Team, with challenges boosting your chances of coins. You can quite quickly earn a few thousand, with a gold pack priced at 5000 coins. Any customisation options for a player you create are unlockable and aren’t purchased. Things like haircuts, tattoos, boots can all be previewed and cost nothing more than reaching milestones in the game.

Outside of Ultimate Team, you have the standard career modes where you can either be a manager to run the club or rise through the ranks as a player. In manager mode you’ll set up the squad, carry out transfer and contract negotiations, and try to meet board expectations while also playing as the team on the pitch, though you can sim matches if you want to avoid that.

As in previous iterations, MyPro will have you manage aspects like player training, focusing on drills that help your player improve in their role, raise the player’s profile by performing on the pitch, and are able to request loan or transfer requests if you feel the club you are at isn’t the right fit anymore. Like in The Journey, you can choose to either control the whole team or just your player, and I personally found it a lot better when controlling the whole team.

Of course online is a factor as well and while I only played a few matches, the servers seem to be solid, but as long time fans of the series are aware the game can be temperamental at times and randomly disconnect. I didn’t run into that during matches online in FIFA 18 and found the gameplay to be smooth even when there was some latency between myself and the opposing player.

FIFA 18 looks great throughout, with the major leagues all presented well and the regional overlays recreated with some additions and improvements. You’ll be able to tell the La Liga score bar apart from the Premier League one, for example. When it comes to football games, the commentary sounds a lot more natural compared to PES 18, but while EA tout a new Real Player Motion Technology, I wouldn’t say that FIFA 18 is hugely better than its rival visually, just different.

What’s Good:

  • The Journey mode more evolved than first entry
  • FIFA Ultimate continues to be among the best modes in sports games
  • On pitch attacking action feels smooth
  • Customisation options are free and unlockable

What’s Bad:

  • Not especially bad, but defending takes time to get the hang of
  • The Journey does drag towards the end
  • Player AI could be a little dumb on a few occasions

FIFA 18 is a solid entry into the FIFA series, but while there have been some changes over last year’s iteration, they aren’t so big that they make an essential purchase. Personally I found attacking smoother and defending a little harder to get hold of, while The Journey fun, if a bit dragged out. However where it matters FIFA 18 is a very good representation of the beautiful game, and Ultimate Team will have a firm grip on players over the next year again. Does FIFA remain the king of the pitch though? I’d say its pretty even nowadays.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PS4

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5 Comments
  1. Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Patiently waiting for feedback on the Switch version… :)

    Comment posted on 27/09/2017 at 11:16.
    • geofduke
      Member
      Since: Dec 2011

      I tend to buy Fifa every second or third year. I never really put that much time into it, even though I do like it. I think I’ll get it on the switch this year. I think I’ll get more out of it if I can play it on the train and at work. I liked the PES games on the psp back in the day and there haven’t been any really good portable football games since then. Looking forward to (fingers crossed) a decent handheld FIFA.

      Comment posted on 27/09/2017 at 18:34.
      • Eldave0
        andUandU
        Since: Aug 2008

        Yep. The last FIFA I picked up was FIFA15 so I’m long overdue picking up a new one. The idea of taking this one on the go and firing it up at work during lunch breaks is really tempting.

        Comment posted on 29/09/2017 at 12:06.
  2. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    I think they’re at the point now there’s not a lot they can do to improve the game.

    Didn’t I see something about quick subs? Now you can substitute quickly without entering the pause menu? I definitely wouldn’t be buying this for me, but my son may force my hand.

    Comment posted on 27/09/2017 at 17:47.
    • leeroye
      Member
      Since: May 2012

      Im in the same boat as you. Personally i much prefer PES but my son is a complete FIFA nut, as with most kids i guess, judging by how many of his mates play it. They usually rip the piss when they see me playing PES. What do kids know eh!!

      Comment posted on 27/09/2017 at 18:09.

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