FIFA 18 Review
FIFA 07 brought the series to the forefront, FIFA 10 revolutionized football simulations, and FIFA 13 ushered in a new era whose influence continues to this day. FIFA 18, however, instead focuses its efforts on throwing in as many small additions as it can while slightly tweaking its already excellent set of controls. Those who just want to play a few matches of Kick-Off every so often might be disappointed with the lack of changes, but fans that are excited about new additions to their favorite modes have a lot to look forward to.
Gameplay is at the heart of sports titles, and FIFA is still the best feeling sports game on the market. FIFA 18 is a small improvement on its predecessor with the only significant changes in how the game plays coming on the defensive side. There’s just an added layer of control when you’re on form with a top defender and, equally so, a sense of dread when you’re not on your game. Never have so many of my matches ended with a defender being the man of the match.
One particular addition EA has claimed to be featured in past games, but it never actually materialized on the pitch, is one they’re calling Real Player Motion Technology. Essentially, players play like they would in real-life. While the developers are calling this the “biggest step in gameplay in franchise history,” I think it’s a year too premature. This is the first time it’s actually been apparent on-screen and, while it’s not perfect, it is most certainly capable of being as influential as something like 360 degree dribbling in FIFA 10.
While this new feature greatly effects matches when coming up against top players, its real influence lies in just how much it influences match tactics. Great players now actually play like they should so there’s an emphasis on setting your tactics to combat specific CPU-controlled players. I learned this early on in Career Mode when Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen completely dominated the midfield until I was forced to make two substitutions early on to add cover to the middle of the park. This is an invaluable addition for fans of Career Mode as it adds a lot more stress before a match when thinking about how to stop each individual opposition player due to how authentically they represent their real-life counterparts.
“FIFA 18 focuses its efforts on throwing in as many small additions as it can while slightly tweaking its already excellent set of controls.”
Career Mode sees the inclusion of in-depth transfer negotiations and a cleaner UI. Players can now enter the Squad Hub, which replaces the simplistic Squad Report, to do just about everything you would need when it comes to managing players. You don’t have to jump between four menu’s anymore to check out stats or put your players on the transfer list. FIFA 18 borrows from PES with custom-made cut-scenes in Career Mode that includes the unveiling of a player and, more importantly, interactive transfer dealings.
Players can now use their manager’s avatar to discuss everything from bonuses to release clauses through very simple cut-scenes. I was worried that I’d get tired of seeing the same repeating animations but you can thankfully skip dialogue and instead focus on the interesting replies and demands of players and their money-hungry agents. It may all be going tidy for a while until your star player will only sign their next contract if an 80 million pound release clause is thrown in. With the likes of PSG and Real Madrid quite regularly paying those kinds of sums, it forces you to up their standard wage and make sure you keep them happy by winning trophies. However, that will adversely affect your overall club value and if the owner demands that you keep an eye on finances, you may have to choose between keeping your star player and keeping your job. While fans have criticized EA for their focus on Ultimate Team instead of Career Mode in recent years, changes like this will go a long way to pleasing this crowd.
Speaking of EA’s ever so popular mode, there actually isn’t much to talk about besides the new Squad Battles mode. Players can take on community created teams to earn multiplied rewards. EA has finally addressed the single-player aspect of an otherwise PvP dominated mode, and it may become a worthy distraction if the rewards stay consistently high. Elsewhere, Pro Clubs fanatics will be happy to get the chance to create their own club crests and kits and also pick between one of three pre-made classes instead of having to change their position, height, preferred foot, and commentary name while fellow teammates wait an hour and eventually leave.
“FIFA 18’s focus on the art of defending and the long-awaited addition of authentic player styles makes the play experience a joy to take part in.”
As for the ridiculously named ‘The Journey: Hunter Returns,’ there’s not much fun to be had. In the second season of Alex Hunter’s astronomically unrealistic career, players take a trip around the world while being put in a plethora of different off-field situations like interviews with former players, but the gameplay and mission design hasn’t taken the step forward that was necessary to catch up with the likes of MADDEN and NBA. While FIFA 17 could be excused as the mode was in its infancy, I had hoped that its sequel would ditch the overly dramatic story of Alex Hunter and instead focus on the more interesting journey of starting as a kid in Brazil and making it through a youth team while playing full matches. The Journey’s second season still puts the player in substitute positions from the get-go while already at the heights of Real Madrid, Chelsea, and other European superpowers. It’s just boring and I’m not interested in the somber story they’re trying to tell with passing cameos and the illusion of choice through dialogue.
One last thing I would be remiss not to mention, even if simply to make a plea to the developers, is the game’s new penalty system. Fans might be thinking: why would they replace FIFA 17’s perfect system? I don’t have an answer to that question, but I know that what I experienced was nothing short of maddening frustration. I still don’t exactly know the proper controls to consistently score penalties as EA has decided to take out the forward motion system where you could run up to the ball before cheekily picking a side to slot it into just before your player reaches it. It was a brilliant system that was equal parts exhilarating and difficult – and now it’s gone. The only positive that can be gleaned is the rarity of ever actually going to penalties.
FIFA 18 is a game of addition, and fans of nearly every mode will be happy with what’s been added. The game’s focus on the art of defending and the long-awaited addition of authentic player styles makes the play experience a joy to take part in. Career Mode sees slight adjustments that make the world of difference when combined with what was already there and Pro Clubs is finally living up to its potential. Alex Hunter’s debacle of a second season is the only fault in another fantastic entry – and please patch the penalty system.
*** PS4 key provided by the publisher ***
- Focus on tactics
- Career Mode
- Improved defending
- Plethora of small, meaningful additions
- Real player authenticity (finally)
- The Journey Season 2
- Atrocious penalty system