FIFA 2018 (PC Review)
FIFA 18 is the latest in the annually released behemoth franchise from EA Sports. This is the 25th instalment in the long running series, featuring Real Madrid and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo on the front cover for both the standard and Ronaldo editions. One of the greatest players in football history appears on the cover of the Icon edition, in the form of Ronaldo. The Brazilian one, that is, not the Portugese one. He’s on the standard and Ronaldo editions, instead of Ronaldo. Get it?
There are several game modes for you to enjoy in every FIFA game and this one is no different. Centre stage, as always, is Ultimate Team, the mode where you’ll inevitably get the most game time. However, the highlight of FIFA 17 was, for me, The Journey,and Alex Hunter is back once again in FIFA 18, so that’s where I started.
I was delighted to see you can import your save from FIFA 17, which carries forward not just Alex’s stats but also his achievements; most notably whether or not you were able to guide your chosen Premier League side to victory in claiming either the league title, the cup, or both. Alex’s fantastic first season is referenced in both commentary and cutscenes, as is his rivalry with childhood friend turned arrogant prodigy, Gareth Walker.
The Journey in FIFA 18 manages to improve on its predecessor in just about every way, from improving the drama and heart of the story to stepping up the gameplay mechanics. In the latter half of the season, Alex gets to choose from three top European players to join him at his new club and form a strike team. The mechanic of a partnership revitalises the season for you, as it adds a real sense of both camaraderie and competition as you and your strike partner work together not only to help each other score, but also to outperform the other.
I was also thoroughly impressed by the points in The Journey when you step into the boots of another player, spending a spell as Alex’s friend from the first season Danny Williams, and a short period where you take control of a player during a USA vs Germany Women’s friendly. Sounds random, but it makes sense, and it’s great to see EA taking steps to highlight the fact they’ve had the rights for many of the national women’s squads since 2016. Maybe make the female players available in Ultimate Team, or a full fledged career mode for them?
It was nice to see the overhaul of the skills training, a feature that seems to get stronger and more interactive every year. In Career mode, The Journey, or even during load times between Ultimate Team matches, you can play short training scenarios, helping you hone your edge when it comes to defending, crossing, passing, or any of the other skills that come with being a top footballer. In Career and The Journey, as always, training your player helps to improve their skills, not just yours. Useful for turning your young savant into the next Lionel Messi.
There are a total of 82 different stadiums to play in across FIFA 18, including 52 licensed stadiums from 12 different countries and 30 generic fields for the smaller clubs. Combined with the updated graphics and animations for fans, this makes the most immersive FIFA yet. The stadiums, from Barcelona’s Nou Camp to the Parc des Princes of Paris Saint-Germain, as
beautifully and faithfully rendered, and listening to the Liverpool fans in Anfield belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is always chilling.
Every year, EA tweak the gameplay, trying to find the perfect balance between offense and defence. I don’t think they’ll ever find it, particularly because attacking powerhouses like Cristiano Ronaldo will always be rated higher than their defensive brethren. There’s an odd weight to defending in FIFA 18, which lead me to a constant string of fouls during my first few hours of gameplay before I managed to readjust to the timing and momentum needed to get the ball without crippling a forward. Finding that sweet spot between over committing and playing too passively felt really satisfying. That said, there’s an option to enable ‘Legacy Defending’, which sets the defensive gameplay back to what you’re more used to.
Moving on to Ultimate Team, it’s here where the difference between the three editions of FIFA 18 stand out. All three versions of the game get access to some free packs of players, contracts and kits, but the difference is how many. While the standard edition will net you 5 free packs at a rate of one per week, the Ronaldo edition grants you one per week for 20 weeks while the Icon edition gifts you with 2 packs per week for 20 weeks for a total of 40 packs. It’s just one example of the Pay to Win nature inherent to Ultimate Team.
The players you get from packs join the low-rated selection you get when you start your Ultimate Team career, with the idea being to build not just the best team of players but also a squad with good chemistry. High chemistry improves most aspects of your teams play, so it’s more important to build a squad that works well than it is to shove all of the best players you get early on in to your team. This really only applies to the stage of the game when your squad if filled with bronze players, as the true superstars of the game are so good that they make chemistry irrelevant.
You improve chemistry by finding players from the same country, league or team. One shared bond creates an orange link between them; any two shared bonds turns that link green, and makes the two players in question work better together.
There’s a single player mode to Ultimate Team, but while you can change the difficulty, it’s really just a place for you to hone your skills and earn easy coins to improve your team. The real challenge lies in playing against real players from around the world and stacking your dream team up against theirs. As stated earlier, there’s a Pay to Win element to Ultimate Team, as you can use real world money to purchase packs to improve your team. While you can’t use real money to buy players directly from the transfer market, the guy who opens more packs is more likely to pull a superstar player and have an edge in any competition.
FIFA 18 is yet another strong addition to the long-running series. With another powerful season of The Journey, some vastly improved skill games, and the return of fan favourite Ultimate Team, FIFA 18 is a welcome step forwards in the saga of the Beautiful Game.