Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
The FIFA franchise, as a whole, is one of the few in the video game realm that can consistently pump out a stellar product with simple roster updates, boosts in controls, and glorious visual upgrades from top to bottom. If any other developer attempted this methodology, they’d be hung out to dry in an instant. Fortunately, FIFA is built on one of the best game engines in the history of the sports simulator genre, which makes it only logical to sinking development time into things like player controls and visuals. FIFA 18 is a product of exactly that, as it is a simple, yet highly impactful piece that’s familiar, but also brand new.
My initial reactions to the series remain the same each year a new FIFA arrives into my download queue. I’m always blown away by the series’ visuals and the way the games, as a whole, are presented. FIFA 18 is no exception, and I once again found my jaw falling straight to the floor. I’m still perplexed why the rest of the development community hasn’t taken notes on FIFA ’s ridiculously efficient ability to build a visually stunning product annually. I’m equally surprised EA doesn’t apply this same framework to the Madden or NHL franchises. Nonetheless, FIFA 18 looks gorgeous, with its upgraded player models, stadiums filled with rowdy football fans, and authentic broadcast presentation overlays. It’s truly a treat from the moment you fire up the console.
The other interesting aspect, in relation the visuals, has to be the fans in the crowd. If you’ve ever read any of my NHL reviews, you know I’m a huge fan of the crowd animations. I know, it’s a nerdy thing to look for in sports simulators, but I’m fascinated to see if developers actually take the time to build something of value in that dark corner of every sports game. FIFA 18 certainly provides an interesting take on this small slice of awesomeness. Each fan seems to perform a different type of animation, as opposed to every other model doing the exact same thing. (Yes, I actually watched their movements during a match.) The best part is, the crowd will generate their team’s chat based on the flow of the game. In other words, if you’re in a close game during the final stretch, the crowd will build you up with your team’s chat. An absolutely amazing thing to experience in a video game. After all, soccer is well known for its rowdy attendees.
Another noticeable improvement, aside from the upgraded visuals and the incredibly detailed fans, is easily the effort put into improving player’s controls. The FIFA franchise has long been plagued by players getting caught in animations that throw off the flow of a match or a particular sequences. FIFA 17 seemed to alleviate the issues, to some extent, but more work was needed to balance player animations with in-game responses to things like sporadic slide tackles and changes in ball possession. FIFA 18 seems to fix all of those issues, as the overall product on the feels more natural and responsive, especially during unforeseen situations.
The tightening of controls is complimented by a huge revamping of the dribbling mechanics. I finally feel like I have the ability to string together a unique series of moves to get by my opponent. No longer did I feel stuck choosing between four dribbling moves, waiting for the animation to finish before selecting another. Those days are gone. FIFA 18 finally gives players the freedom to drag opponents into the corners before freezing them out with a change of direction by stopping on a dime and pulling the ball back away from the defender. This truly makes the game feel like something I’ve never played before, and I feel it finally provides the creativity many players have been asking for.
Adding to the overall flow of FIFA 18 is a noticeable improvement in the differentiation between players. In the past, FIFA always felt like a jumbled mess of random players on the pitch, regardless of how good they actually were in real life. Thankfully, FIFA 18 has changed that, and it’s noticeable even during the game’s opening test match. I immediately felt the difference in speed and agility when switching from one player to the next. Of course, the second player I switched to was none other than Cristiano Ronaldo himself. This year’s installment certainly feels like an improvement in attribute designation. The changes are subtle, but noticeably different when playing a powerhouse team like Real Madrid against an unsuspecting Deportivo Alavés.
As if the upgraded visuals and controls weren’t enough, FIFA 18 ushers in its second year of The Journey, its live-the-life player mode. Alex Hunter is back for another round, but with much more on the line than in FIFA 17 . EA Sports has expanded The Journey by adding more dynamic experiences scattered throughout a longer storyline. Hunter is given the opportunity to travel the world and engage in some global soccer action, which allows players to interact with new landscapes, additional teams, and top players. It’s a fantastic mode with impressive strides taken to further its lifespan.
The Journey looks and feels like a live-the-life experience should. It comes packed with all types of twists and turns, crucial decision-making points both on and off the field, and specific goals to keep you on track. Last year’s version was a great start, but ultimately left us feeling empty-handed. This year, players can finally immerse themselves in a more complete experience that keeps you coming back for more. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun. Playing as Hunter as he travels the world and interacts with various characters is super cool. FIFA 18 ’s The Journey mode makes scooping this title up a no-brainer.
Last but not least, FIFA 18 brings back EA Sport’s flagship game mode, FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT). This game mode is nearly identical to last year’s edition, where players work to build a fantasy roster by acquiring packs of digital cards. Nothing has been added to this offering, outside of expanding their legends roster and upgrading player’s attributes. It’s a little upsetting to see nothing has been done to improve FUT, but it’s still entertaining to try and collect all your favorite players and build your ultimate roster. I’d love to see some more substance, but I’ll take epic visuals and Alex Hunter over FUT any day.
When all is said and done, FIFA 18 is a game I can get behind. A lot of the small annoyances have been fixed from last year, especially regarding player movements, and there’s nothing like diving full force into The Journey with Alex Hunter. There’s also the gorgeous graphics; it’s truly a work of art when you stop and take it all in. The lack of FUT improvements knock it down a peg, but all in all the title is worth sinking your cash and time into. If anything, you’ll love the way Rolando’s perfect sculpted hair deflects the wind in one of the most beautiful stadiums ever constructed as those rowdy Real Madrid fans engage in a bit of tomfoolery. Just remember to take it all it and enjoy the ride.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Still the best looking sport simulator on the market. FIFA always delivers the best visuals year in and year out 5.0 Control
Easily the best control setup I’ve seen out of the FIFA franchise 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Still one of the top broadcast packages in the genre and compliment an array of authentic sounds 3.0 Play Value
FIFA will forever struggle on the replay front, and FIFA 18 is no exception 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best