Every year, as the latest editions of sports franchises come out, I wonder what each developer could possibly add to an existing game to justify the purchase for gamers. EA has a strong history of excellent results with its FIFA franchise, and it’s definitely become the leading soccer simulation game in the field. Last year’s release was notable for adding a more cinematic career mode, following the character of Alex Hunter. FIFA 18 doesn’t add anything as large as that mode to its bevvy of options and game modes, but it does bring Alex Hunter back for the second year of his journey in the professional soccer leagues.
Every year the graphics improve, although at first the graphical enhancements aren’t necessarily grabbing your attention right away. It’s more like smaller tweaks which improve the overall package in a gradual way. When delivering a top-notch sports simulation game, as much as the controls have to successfully mimic the way that a sport is played, it’s just as crucial to deliver authentic looking graphics and presentation. As someone who lives in North America, I liked the new broadcast overlay for MLS, as it made the broadcast presentation feel a lot more authentic and natural as the announcers discussed the MLS teams. Graphically, the game boasts additional stadiums making their first appearance in a FIFA game, including the home of the LA Galaxy, StubHub Center in LA. It’s in the finer graphical details that the game really shines and brings to life the on-the-pitch and off-the-pitch game of soccer. The experience is truly immersive, with area-specific fixtures and banners making their appearance. The crowds that pepper these stadiums also look more realistic than ever before, with more unique and individual crowd reactions being injected into the proceedings. The home crowd will chant and get louder as an attacking play occurs on the field.
The successful “Journey” mode from last year returns with Alex Hunter touring the world. It remains a truly immersive experience, the cutscenes are well acted and put together, and the storyline is an enjoyable one. Players can make impactful choices throughout the gameplay, which shape the journey that Alex goes on. It’s a compelling career mode, which feels much more in-depth than your typical career mode found in a sports simulation game. I’m a devout fan of MLB The Show, and I would love to have a more cinematic career mode present in that game series. It adds an extra dimension that once experienced, I can’t imagine not having it anymore. For the player who enjoys additional customization, Alex can also be customized with new hairstyles, tattoos and more.
The traditional career mode, without the cinematic depth of Alex Hunter’s Journey, is back as well. This year, there’s more inclusion of news clips and other cinematics to mark the rise of your player.
Football Ultimate Team (FUT) mode returns to FIFA 18, and brings some of the biggest legends in the game with it. Not only are classic players like Diego Maradona, Pele, Ronaldo Nazario and Ronaldinho included, but they are represented with three separate versions, which show how their styles as players changed over the years, as well as their stats/attributes. It’s a clever choice to include players at various stages of their careers. It would be cool to have this available in more sports games—to be able to represent stars of the past at various points in their illustrious careers.
With some enjoyable changes and tweaks to all of the action that is represented off of the actual soccer field, the game still boasts a lot of changes and adjustments to gameplay on the field. FIFA 18 boasts more than 15 new skill games, which are fun exercises to get better at gameplay.
New to the game is a change to how substitutions are done throughout a match. A context-based substitution prompt comes up, which allows players to make changes without having to pause and leave the match. As a fan of the game who’s still at times a neophyte when it actually comes to the finer points of soccer, substitution was a mechanic which I didn’t always understand how to implement and use properly. I found the inclusion of dynamic quick subs to be a big benefit, as the substitutions offered in the prompt make sense based on the gametime situations that are occurring on the field.
The gameplay animations are more accurate and realistic than ever, with the updated real player motion technology. Motion capture techniques and new animation selections have been implemented and improved and make the game look much more accurate and fluid visually. The dribbling mechanics feel a lot more natural and overhauled from FIFA 17, and are immediately evident when starting a match. The crossing controls in the game have been updated and overhauled as well, making them far more responsive.
Returning from last year’s version of FIFA is the ability to use the Women’s national teams for a Women’s tournament. It’s additional depth to the amount of teams and countries that are represented.
FIFA 18 doesn’t boast big changes to its winning formula like FIFA 17 did with the inclusion of “The Journey” mode with Alex Hunter, but it does take what worked in previous years and continue to tweak and alter to make the overall product crisp and concise. The gameplay and broadcast themes are authentic-feeling, and the graphics have never been better (or at least not until FIFA 19 is released next September). EA makes a compelling case for players to reach into their wallets and purchase this year’s new release of FIFA 18.