Living up to your legacy can be a tough task, especially if it’s a relatively good one. Yes, FIFA’s legacy might be full of bumps and negative criticisms, but no one can deny the fact that FIFA is, in fact, one of the best selling sports games ever. The entire franchise is EA’s crown jewel, and being the official licensed product of the world’s favorite game, enjoys a hefty amount of sales. But with such a great name, comes the highly demanding task of bringing something new to the table, each and every year.
Last year, we saw FIFA 17 bring about the shift from EA’s Ignite Engine to the much powerful Frostbite Engine. Still in its infancy, Frostbite provided the game with a lot of power, uplifting the game’s experience to a whole new level. That being said, this new level was full of hiccups, and it was quite evident, that the use of Frostbite wasn’t as refined as it should have been. Well, with FIFA 18, all that is set to change. EA Sports brings about a more refined and optimized use of Frostbite Engine with their latest iteration and hopes to succeed on last year’s huge success. But does FIFA 18 actually live up to the hype? Has Frostbite finally seen its proper implementation? Let’s find out, as we bring to you our in-depth review of FIFA 18.
Note: We reviewed the Standard Edition on our PS4 Pro and our PC. The features and gameplay, however, remain constant across all the editions and platform, with the little differences mentioned in the Pricing and Availability section of this review.
Graphics and Presentation
Probably one of the biggest talking points of FIFA 18 has to be the graphics department. In the recent years, FIFA has proudly showcased its graphics superiority as compared to other games. So much so, that it has had the best graphics overall when competing against many other AAA titles. Add to that the fact that FIFA borrowed the Frostbite Engine from Battlefield last year, to give FIFA 17 a huge graphics overhaul. So it was quite obvious that this year’s FIFA was going to be no different. And surely, EA did not disappoint us. FIFA 18 is one of the most beautiful games to grace the gaming world. Player models have been given more attention than ever, and more manager faces have been added to the game.
The use of Frostbite engine is evident in all the cutscenes and animations. Even the minute of details have been given proper attention and everything looks just near-perfect. Unlike previous iterations, the pitch seems like a proper football pitch, rather than just a green patch. Lighting is top-notch, and the entire atmosphere gives you the feel of being on the pitch. Stadiums are more lively than ever, and even the fans look realistic. A new feature that has been added to this year’s FIFA is the fact that players can celebrate with the fans, adding a touch of realism.
FIFA has been widely praised for its great commentary, and FIFA 18 certainly lives up to the legacy. Martin Tyler and Alan Smith have once again done a fantastic job, and those quirky statements from each of them are presented quite often. Yes, they both have huge praises to offer for Cristiano Ronaldo, but that should be expected, considering he’s the cover star as well as the best player in the game. Unlike PES, the game has commentary sections within the normal passes as well, thus resulting in zero dead spots.
That being said, it isn’t all merry. The Frostbite engine has always had its flaws. The entire FIFA franchise has been plagued with multiple glitches, and even the refined Frostbite engine can’t stop them. The default camera height and angle, both have changed, something that I wasn’t too fond of. The pro mode or player mode camera seems to be super laggy and takes almost ages to switch from one player to the other.
While the animations feel great, after a while you seem to realize how unnecessary they are. Even more so the fact that in most cases, they are quite long. These animations end up giving the entire game a sluggish and laggy experience, and it takes a toll on the gameplay, that we’ll be discussing further.
Football is played on the pitch, that’s where your core focus should be. Well, at least according to the players. But not so much for EA Sports. For EA, it is the graphics and presentation department that always is the main focus, with gameplay being the second priority. Okay, that might not be the real talk that goes inside the offices, but that is what one can make out of the final product. Yes, FIFA 18 looks great. But does it perform that well? I’m afraid there is no straight answer for that.
As a successor to FIFA 17, everything has improved. Passes are better, dribbling is more fluent. Sprints are more realistic and player movements have benefited thanks to Frostbite. In every aspect of the gameplay, FIFA 18 has improved upon its predecessor. This year, the gameplay has seen some new additions as well. For instance, dribbling seems much easier, and skill moves are relatively easier to execute as compared to the previous versions.
One of the biggest additions to FIFA 18 is the inclusion of Quick Subs. Quick Subs essentially allows you to pre-select a substitute from the bench for a player on the pitch. Then, during the match, you’d be prompted to quickly substitute the player simply by holding down the R2 button. This effectively saves the time one takes to make a substitution during a match. Sure, you can always pause the game and make substitutions the way you always have, but Quick Subs makes the entire process seamless. It is a feature we never knew how much we wanted until we got it.
The overall tone for defending has been greatly improved. Defending seems much more natural and realistic now. Unlike FIFA 17, the physical battles are much more efficient and not over the line. The entire man-marking tactics also work well, and so do the offside traps and other tactics.
Unfortunately, it still isn’t as great as it should have been. Since all the attention has been on the graphics, and more importantly, the animations, the entire gameplay suffers. Even though player movements seem realistic, it takes a novice user’s eye to notice that the overall sprint speed is way too slow. While player movements seem realistic, the actual gameplay still suffers from being linear. This was the main problem with Frostbite Engine in FIFA 17, and the same has carried on to FIFA 18. For example, in FIFA 16, the ball had near-realistic ball movements, but the actual gameplay was great. With FIFA 18, there has been too much emphasis on background detailing rather than improving the overall gameplay.
There are cutscenes present in the game, which do look good, but then again, add on to the load on the system. The entire passing game is very different than the way it should be. Sure, it feels much better than FIFA 17, but the passing mechanism still lacks a lot of optimization. Long passes are often inaccurate, and crosses from outside the box to the inside are often seen going the wrong way. Overall, the main focus has been on small passes rather than long passes.
Also, while skilled dribbling has been made much easier, EA wants you to focus on this. The usual sprint your way across your opponents won’t work in FIFA 18. Instead, you need to pass and work your way against them. Oh, and try to add flamboyancy to your game style, and you’ll own your opponents. The fact is that rather than focusing on proper gameplay, EA wants you to make football more of a spectator sport. For some people, that might not matter. But for a pure football enthusiast, it means having to adapt to EA’s vision of the game.
Thanks to Frostbite, the physics engine works well, but then again, it does seem to miss the spot. Your feet control the ball well, but that’s just about it. Headers are a mixed bag, sometimes they’re too great, and sometimes just way off target. There seems to be no body control either.
Last year, EA tried to experiment with the penalty system. This year, EA has changed things again, for better, in my opinion. Things have gone back to the way they used to be, where you simply had to aim for the spot and apply the power. No pushing the left stick up to start the run and all that crap. Straight down to business. Yes, it still feels different to the older FIFAs, but definitely better than FIFA 17.
Also, in its quest to allow players to move and customize their gameplay freely, FIFA has changed the kickoff system to a single player kickoff. While FIFA doesn’t reveal any way to bring back the 2-player kickoff, luckily, we’ve found a way to do that.
That being said, in all effectiveness, the flaws mentioned above do affect the gameplay, but if you’re a long time FIFA player, you won’t really notice the locked down game style. And in most ways, the FIFA sense has been maintained. If anything, FIFA 18 has improved on all aspects of its previous iterations, especially FIFA 17.
A lot of research and development goes into the development of the AI for a game, especially a sport’s one. FIFA’s AI has improved a lot in the recent years, and might I add that FIFA 18 has one of the best AIs till date in the series. It’s not perfect, sure, but it’s near perfect in most ways.
As such, the overall gameplay is still good. Sure, if you were to compare it to its nemesis PES, I’d have to give the crown to the latter one, simply for the amount of freedom it offers the user. That being said, FIFA 18 has grown a lot. The overall difficulty of the game has increased, but still maintains a learning curve. It still maintains its ease of use for first-time players and proves to be the first choice for many players.
FIFA offers a lot for its users, both offline and online. While there are the usual kickoff and multiplayer modes, there are a few additions to the gameplay modes.
If you’ve never tried out FIFA 17, you certainly have missed out on something. Yes, am talking about “The Journey”, the most anticipated story mode in the FIFA franchise. While the concept was great, it still had a short storyline and gave you the feeling of wanting something more. Well, FIFA 18 delivers with that “something more”, as it brings back the second season for The Journey. In the journey, you play as Alex Hunter, a young aspiring England footballer. Whether you’ve played the original Journey or not, FIFA 18’s Journey mode won’t be affected in any way. That being said, I’d strongly recommend you to play the first game (if you can), before you start with FIFA 18.
In The Journey Returns, Alex Hunter picks off where the story left. He tries to make it to the big clubs, but a failed transfer results in making him start his career from square one. You play on to proceed to make him one of the best and sought after players in the game. The Journey also includes many real-life players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann, Rio Ferdinand, and more. As opposed to last year, this year’s story has a better storyline, more depth, and better implementation of player emotions. As always, thanks to the refined use of Frostbite, the cutscenes are better than ever. This year, you can even customize Alex Hunter’s clothes, hairstyle, and other accessories. The Journey comprises of 6 chapters in total, with objectives for each chapter.
One of the biggest fan requests for FIFA has been to redesign the Player and Manager Career modes in the game. While FIFA has paid heed to them, the changes brought on are far from what the fans wanted. Everyone, including me, wanted a touch of realism to the career mode. A mode where we could make real-time changes and changes would carry on for the seasons to come by. Instead, what we got was just the addition of cutscenes for transfer negotiations. Sure, they display the true power of the Frostbite engine, but I still feel it was more or less unnecessary. Rather than the cutscenes, EA should have put in more efforts into developing an enriching storyline for the offline career modes.
As always, FIFA 18 also comes with the powerhouse that is Ultimate Team. It is great, it is phenomenal, and it’s better than ever. It includes many more legends, the likes of Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, and many more. But what’s even better is the addition of Squad Battles. Squad Battles in like Microsoft’s Forza for the Ultimate Team. In Squad Battles, the AI controls user created teams as opponents. Each time your created team defeats an opponent, you get extra points/credits for that. In my opinion, this is a very nice addition and a good way to keep earning credits even when you’re offline. Also, EA’s servers have improved a lot, and online multiplayer works pretty well. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the online matchmaking process, as it continues to mismatch many players, disregarding their skill level.
Pricing and Availability
FIFA 18 is available in 3 different editions, the Standard Edition, the Ronaldo Editon, and the ICON Edition. While the offline gameplay remains unaffected, the only difference lies in the rewards for the FIFA Ultimate Team. The higher priced editions include multiple coins as well as player rewards, which are explained in detail in the image below. There’s also a Legacy Edition for the previous generation consoles, that is, the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Should you chose it, remember that the graphics are quite different, and are similar to the Ignite Engine that was found on FIFA 14. Lastly, FIFA 18 also marks the debut of its first game for the Nintendo Switch, though the game’s graphics are vastly different from even the Legacy Engine. It has been optimized in such a way to perform well on the Switch, even while using it in the portable mode.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Switch
Purchase FIFA 18 (Starts at $59.88)
FIFA 18 Review: Should You Buy It?
So does FIFA 18, despite its minor flaws, justify its hefty price tag? Well, to be very frank, yes it does. Despite all the small hiccups, the game is a pure beauty to play and offers an enthralling experience through and through. The game offers a lot for both online as well as offline modes and should serve you well for a good couple of months. While FIFA’s Ultimate Team has long been the main selling point of the franchise, The Journey’s second season proves to be another reason to pick this title up. Yes, it may be on a pricier side, but then again, quality doesn’t come cheap. If you’re a football fan, you’re gonna like FIFA 18 a lot. If you liked FIFA 17, you’re definitely gonna love FIFA 18.