Fall is here and that means two things: pumpkin spice every damn thing under the sun and the latest installment of FIFA, EA’s latest edition of footy released late last week. As most fans know, sports games get revised every year; some end up making drastic changes for the good and unfortunate drastic changes for the bad. And EA doesn’t always make the big changes to warrant a new purchase. So, is FIFA 18 worth your dollar bills?
Yes, it is. FIFA 18 has a lot of updated features as well as new ones. The big one for me is Ultimate Team, a mode where you earn coins to open packs of cards to create your own fantasy team. If you don’t feel like grinding for coin, you can always spend some real money and get a step ahead of the game. I despise microtransactions, but with that being said, I am a sucker every year to drop $20 from the start to get my club going. My club needs my financial infusion! You can still also visit the transfer market to buy and sell players, balls, kits, badges, and contracts. You have the resources to manage and customize the club to your satisfaction.
One of the cooler new features in Ultimate Team is the addition of offline Squad Battles. Basically you take your built team and play other squads that EA has put together. You choose your difficulty, play, and earn points. These points are tallied at the end of the week and however many points you earn sits you in a tier. Ex: gold, bronze. elite, etc. Depending on where you land, you are rewarded coins and packs of cards. This is an outstanding way for newbies to jump into the Ultimate Team pool without diving into the deep end and getting crushed by veterans like myself. Ultimate Team still has the Squad Builder tasks from last year too. Squad Builder will let you trade an army of players that you have no use for towards a chance to get better players.
I am an Ultimate Team junkie, but yes there are many other modes. Manager Career mode has improved. Most noticeable is the transfer hub. The days of just offering a price to buy a player is over. Now you have the option of meeting with both the player and the agent and negotiating a contract. I’m sure eventually this could get old (you can skip the cut scenes) but I was amused when I offered the agent of American star Christian Pulisic a signing bonus of $1! That’s right I went the Trading Places route and it didn’t work out well. The agent was offended and stormed out of my office. A week later I made amends and bought Pulisic, but it was hilarious to see the agent get pissed and leave, my manager (who I made to look like Morgan Freeman) still sitting in his chair with an astounded look on his face. It’s the little things.
The story line of the young prospect Hunter makes its return from FIFA 17; this was EA’s first adventure into telling a story from a young player’s point of view as he develops into a superstar. You make the choices of how he acts, be it cool and calm or fired up and cocky — but you better perform on the pitch and back up your words. This year’s installment will let you import your Hunter’s story over from FIFA 17 or if you are new to FIFA, you can start him from scratch. Once again, good job EA, I’m surprised. I will say the one aspect that has turned me off from the story mode is that you have no option to create yourself. I thought for sure that this year’s version would give you the opportunity of creating yourself and starting the story from the beginning. But no, EA figures that the Player Career is enough for gamers. Pssst EA, it isn’t.
The graphics look as real as you can imagine. EA continues to use the gorgeous Frostbite engine; soccer shirts flow in the breeze, hair rustles like a shampoo commercial and all of it is beautiful to watch. The players for the most part look like their real life counterparts. The crowd has a little more life to them as well, even dodging errant soccer balls as it comes hurtling towards them. Seeing Christiano Ronaldo fall backwards on the ground holding his face after he skies the hell out of a shot over the goal is awesome. More emotion like that has been added into the game to give it more of a complete feeling. All the favorite celebrations are there and you can even showoff in front of the TV camera or leap up onto the sideboards and play it up for the fans. Visually, FIFA 18 is spot on.
So let’s talk about gameplay. Each year it seems like EA gets closer to perfection but ends up missing a detail or two. Many gamers, including myself, have come to rely on the player’s pace or speed. In FIFA 18, pace goes out the door. The defense closes in on you quicker and will also accelerate to catch up with you. This year you have to be more precise, control the midfield and make your passes count. There are no more overly long passes across the ground — they’ll get intercepted. I have found myself spinning off the shoulder of the defender trying to get the space to get my shot off. When the opposing team is behind, they tend to fire long balls into the box in efforts to score. You see this in real life games, so I thought it was a nice touch to see teams feel the desperation and make last ditch efforts to score that much needed goal.
Another detail that I noticed is that each team plays to their strengths. I am a huge Manchester United fan (hold your applause/boos) and I found that each team that I have played had their own style. The players that I knew I needed to watch, I had to watch. Their play outshined their teammates. It no longer feels like I am playing the same players in different color kits. The difference is in there and it’s a breath of fresh air. The opening presentation is a touch different, but we are still stuck with Alan Smith and Martin Tyler doing the commentary. Maybe next year we get some new voices. I think it is much needed.
Overall I am completely satisfied with FIFA 18. If you are a FIFA veteran, I think you’ll agree with me. For me there was a learning curve, because I am a fast-paced player. I will abuse the hell out of some speed. I am not one to control my midfield, I try to thread the needle with my passes and take the shot. I cannot do that this year. I have to move and make the defense move for my shot opportunities to reveal themselves. I’m not bitching, I am glad that I have a challenge again. I have my Ultimate Team up and running. This is where I will spend most of my FIFA 18 life. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend the mode.
If you are new to soccer, FIFA 18 will accommodate you. Difficulties can be changed, you can pick powerful teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, or Juventus and make a run for the league title. There is a practice pitch where you can tweak your skills, and even a visual tutorial that you can turn on while you play. With all the modes and options that FIFA 18 has to offer, no soccer fan should be disappointed. Game on!