It is that time of year again, the next edition of one of the biggest gaming series is here. It is, of course, FIFA 18 and it is available now across all platforms. This year’s version looks to build on the success of the previous FIFA titles which have made the game a household name.
One thing that has remained true, with the progression of the series over the years, is EA’s commitment to improving the game with each passing edition. This needs to be done to keep the fans coming back to a sports title which looks to give players an immersive and authentic experience into arguably the biggest sport in the world.
FIFA 17 saw the expected upgrades in graphics and gameplay but also saw the start of FIFA’s story mode The Journey. In a first for FIFA, The Journey gave players the opportunity to follow the rise of young superstar Alex Hunter. Fueled by the Frostbite engine to add an extra dimension The Journey quickly became the headline-grabbing addition EA was after.
The Journey: The return of Alex Hunter
Alex Hunter is back fresh from his FA Cup success of last year, he is now looking to make a real name for himself in the game. The FIFA 18 edition of The Journey picks up where the previous one left off, a trend that will likely continue in future editions, whereby Alex Hunter is now regarded as one of the games brightest talents.
With added cutscenes, including an interview with Rio Ferdinand and an interaction with Cristiano Ronaldo and many others, this year’s version offers a better mix of the actual story and events on the pitch.
Without giving too much away, the Alex Hunter story is filled with unexpected twists and turns which will leave players on the edge of the seats. I must admit it still feels as though you are more a part of the audience than actually dictating the direction of Hunter’s journey. Nonetheless, the return of Alex Hunter is another great addition to FIFA 18 and I fully expect the evolution of this story mode to continue in future editions.
Gameplay and Graphics
So let’s start off with the graphics. This an aspect of the game which gets continued focus and improvement year on year and FIFA 18 is no different. This, in my opinion, is the best looking football game to date, especially when it comes to the PlayStation 4 Pro version of the game. The players look really close to their real-life counterparts and the same can be said about the stadiums. One aspect that really impressed me about the graphics was the crowd animations, which was something that was lacking in previous editions but which has certainly been rectified in FIFA 18.
The gameplay, as you would expect, has also seen some significant changes. The first change I have picked up is the focus on the timing of the shot, mistime the ball and it will roll harmlessly to the goalkeeper or fly off target, but get the timing right and it is almost a certain goal, no matter the difficulty of the shot. While I appreciate the thought behind this in trying to add realism to the game it does mean that you can now shoot from almost any angle or distance and see the shot fly in.
Another aspect of the gameplay that is apparent in the game is the added focus on individual players attacking abilities. For example, players such as Ronaldo or Messi can pick the ball up dribble past defenders with ease and place their shot beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. While this does happen in real life, it happens on occasion, in the game however it happens frequently making it near on impossible to defend against. This leads to a situation where the attacking traits are given preference over the defending ones, so teams such as Juventus, who are renowned for their defensive strength, are not as effective in relation to those teams with great attacking flair.
One great addition to the gameplay is the introduction of quick substitutions. Players can now make a quick sub, which will be determined by the players both on the field and on the bench, by simply holding the right trigger when the ball goes out of play. This helps keep the speed and flow to the game, unlike previous editions.
Ultimate Team in all its glory is back. It has all the options found on previous editions such as online and offline seasons, where you try to climb the league using you ultimate teams, online and offline FUT Drafts, a mode where you assemble a draft team for one short tournament of 4 games and has seen the addition of Squad Battles.
The introduction of a new mode for Ultimate Team follows on the addition of FIFA 16’s FUT Draft. Squad Battles allow players to go up against the Ultimate Team of people within their communities but rather than playing that actual person they will just be playing against the AI in an attempt to build up FIFA coins to improve their own Ultimate Team. This is perfect for people who like the variety of playing against an Ultimate Team but who don’t like playing online. It also provides probably one of the most effective ways to build up coins to improve your own team.
One of the longest standing modes in FIFA, Manager Mode, has seen a significant upgrade which has transformed the way transfers are negotiated. Instead of the old model, which saw you submit bids and get email responses, you now interact with the manager of the team which you are attempting to sign a player from. You can now agree on a breakdown of the deal either including a player in a swap deal or adding on a sell on clause through this text driven interaction.
While a very clever addition, it is not without fault. The transfer negotiations have become a lot more tricky and you are often faced with underbidding for a player which draws an overreaction from the opposing teams’ manager who subsequently storms out of the room and refuses to negotiate any further, this can get very frustrating. It is something that will need to be looked at for future editions of the game.
I stay true to what I said in the above review, the FIFA series has a clear focus on improving every year and creating the top football game year on year and in FIFA 18 they did not disappoint. Aesthetically it is the best football game at the moment and some welcome additions to the Ultimate Team and the return of Alex Hunter in The Journey story mode will see the game enjoy its usual success even if the changes made to the gameplay have been met with mixed reactions.