I’ve spent the past few weeks playing the latest annual release of EA’s FIFA and I have been mostly having a good time. Every year, the developers of FIFA tend to focus on a certain gameplay change or improvement that will promise to bring the game close to its real-life counterpart. The focus for FIFA 18 this year, seems to be its multiple modes. Some have gotten massive improvements over others but all have gained some additions that will be entertaining enough for any player.
As soon as you boot up FIFA you are met with its stylized menu that showcases all the different game modes that a player can partake in. The Journey is probably the mode that stands out since it features Alex Hunter’s face and almost urges you to continue the story of the young and rising star who recently won the FA Cup. I’ll have to admit that I personally don’t care too much for The Journey. I’ve had way more interesting storylines in the Be A Pro mode but I decided to check it out since I played the original. It is more of the same and that is great for players who are looking for a more cinematic feel in FIFA. The story picks up after the first and players are given control over Alex Hunter’s decision and future through a series of on and off the pitch choices. Along the way, you can meet famous soccer celebrities like Ronaldo and Thierry Henry to NBA stars like James Harden. It’s a good mode to experience and a great way to earn rewards like coins for EA’s major mode in FIFA: Ultimate Team
Ultimate Team has a gained some new additions this year adding some variety as players strive to build the most overpowered team they can possibly imagine. New animations with pack openings make opening them more exciting regardless of the players quality, and daily quests like adding contracts or chemistry cards make sure you are always earning coins or packs to give you a boost in the transfer market. The most welcome addition has to be either the squad challenges, which allow players to challenge user-built ultimate teams offline or the addition of legends, which gave players the ability to use all-time greats like Maradona and Pele on their team, only available on Xbox One. Both squad challenges and legends add variety to FUT when it is hard to find an opponent online with a solid connection and to see different combinations of teams.
The real management mode and the one that arguably got the most major update is the Career mode. Whether you play as a player or manager the menus are revamped to make the feeling that you are actually part of this world. News headlines aren’t just words with images but actual video footage about the athlete who has done something good recently or bad. In manager mode, transfers are now done in a real-time, cinematic matter. Instead of sending emails to the manager you are dealing with, you can actually be seen in the office talking to the manager and sometimes even meeting the player when the deal is done. I have a feeling that the novelty of all these additions will wear off quickly but the fact that the developers added it to the game just shows how much they care about presentation.
Unfortunately, the gameplay and everything around it holds back FIFA 18 from being a positively memorable experience. Before a match starts, you are greeted with stellar visuals and top-notch commentary. The atmosphere looks and feels great, and with EA having the ability to get the exact pre-match graphics that you might see in big leagues, it sometimes feels like you are watching a real game. Yet, once the game starts you can see that well it is a video game. FIFA is known to be faster than it’s direct competitor, PES when it comes to gameplay but it just feels unnatural this year. You could be attacking one end but as soon as you lose the ball, you might find yourself immediately defending in your own half. Defending as well is just bad this year. Every tackle or shove happens to be foul or an advantage for the other team, while tackles that should be fouls due to their rough nature are overlooked by the referee. It disrupts the flow of the game and it’s just frustrating in modes like Ultimate Team. During the first week of release, EA had a patch to fix the reactions of goalkeepers. However, the goalkeepers still seem unresponsive to me. I hope more patches are added to control the flow of the game.
One of the common criticisms that sports games get every year is that they are the same as the previous installment. It is a statement that is sometimes true but this year’s FIFA feels genuinely different. There are some additions that you wouldn’t see in FIFA 17 and they are worth checking out for anyone who is a football/soccer fan.