FIFA is an yearly franchise so it is always interesting to see how the developers attempt to improve from the previous iteration of the game since they only have a whole year of development at most. FIFA has continued to innovate throughout the years although sometime there are minor setbacks as well, but for the most part, the series has flourished with multiple entries. The most significant leap for EA Sports’ FIFA series started last year with the introduction of a single player story mode called The Journey. The game also switched engine to EA DICE’s Frostbite Engine which proved to give it some cutting edge tech especially for the visuals.
So with this in mind, the question regarding FIFA 18 is how much of a big leap it is compared to its predecessor and sadly while modes like Battle Squads this year are great additions, the gameplay related improvements are rather minor this year. It would have been incredibly disappointing if it wasn’t for the Story Mode which is perhaps the biggest contributor to improving the game this year. If you have grown fond of FIFA 17’s story mode character Alex Hunter, you will enjoy his return with FIFA 18 as he makes his way to the big leagues.
Squad Battles are back again this year and they add a lot more playtime to the single player component of the game. It is fun going through them while maintaining a team and the the option of multiple difficulties is perfect for those who have mastered the FIFA gameplay. Aside from that, EA has touted improvements to the animation with a real-time player animation technology that appears to have taken motion of capture of the popular Football players like Ronaldo to make sure their behavior mimics how they play in the game, but this is hardly something worth praising about here. In term of the difference between animations, the game feels a slower to play now while the controls remain mostly the same.
FIFA 18 attempts to keep it casual friendly by introducing a variety of control schemes. If you are new to the FIFA series, you can switch to a beginner controls where you can still enjoy the basics of gameplay while having to worry about some of the more advanced features. Although higher difficulties only seem to effect the AI and despite the difficulty being adjustable, it seems to be far easier now to perform goals this year. I am not sure how it has changed compared to last year but I felt myself scoring more easier with FIFA 18.
Speaking of the story mode, this was perhaps my most favorite aspect of FIFA 18 this year. While I enjoy playing multiplayer matches online with my friends, the addition of a Story Mode was always a surprise to me and for this year, EA seems to have improved the production values making for a compelling experience where you assume the control of Alex Hunter again and get to see many of old familiar faces as well as new ones. You will also play alongside some of the celebrity players like Ronaldo.
If you haven’t played the story mode in FIFA 17, you can still watch a recap of the events from the first story mode. This year, Alex Hunter will start by joining the bigger leagues and as seen in marketing, he will get to team up with Ronaldo. I won’t spoil the story but it honestly surpassed my expectations. The cutscenes are nicely directed and the story itself actually feels like a large scale production instead of something that was gobbled together in the last minute. The story mode revolves around the life of Alex Hunter not just in name, you will be able to see how he rises up through the ranks. There are some nice tidbits like letting you see the social media followers and comments from fans even if they are mostly scripted.
The story mode also features multiple choices for events that determine the outcome of your story and even the fate of some of the characters. Alex Hunter has a personality that can be either fiery or cool depending on what you prefer. This also determines his behavior during matches and his popularity around the social media. The story mode is divided in 6 chapters and aside from the main story objectives, it also presents optional objectives that can be attempted in each chapter and result in bonus for Alex Hunter. You can customize his appearance and skills and stats during the course of the story mode.
FIFA 18 feels like a rather minor step up from the previous game. The biggest change is the Journey Mode but the rest of the improvements feel rather minor. This doesn’t mean FIFA 18 is a terrible game, since it is still fun to play. It just doesn’t feel like a bigger step forward like FIFA 17.
FIFA 18 Review (Xbox One)
Game Reviewed on: Xbox One
Game description: FIFA 18 is a sports simulation video game in the FIFA series of video games, developed and published by Electronic Arts and was released worldwide on 29 September 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
FIFA 18 offers a great story mode this year with the return of Alex Hunter, but when it comes to improvements to the general gameplay, there is not much to gain here.