|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: EA Sports|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: September 29, 2016|
|Players: 1 -4 Players, Online Multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Content is generally suitable for all ages.|
by Patrick Tretina
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.