FIFA 18 Review (Xbox One)
Just when I was starting to praise EA SPORTS and their efforts in the past couple of years, I had to go and play FIFA 18.
The Journey Continues
Let’s jump straight in with the continuation of the story of Alex Hunter. The first season was a great success. A decent introduction to the concept of a story mode within a sports game. EA built on this with the addition of the Longshot mode in Madden 18. And boy does Longshot now overshadow The Journey.
Alex Hunters story in FIFA 18 is turbulent. I don’t want to spoil it, but certain things need addressing. Firstly, my story fell apart from the start. In FIFA 17 I had chosen to sign for Sunderland who, in real life, were relegated last year. In my FIFA they were top half of the table, but as they are no longer in the top flight in this years version of the game, I had to pick a new team. Which meant some of the back story links were a little messed up. Regardless, Alex’s time at his English club is limited as the August transfer window includes a bit of drama that largely feels out of your control.
Several times while playing through the Journey, just when I thought the story might be taking an interesting turn, it would fall flat on it’s face. You end up in LA and partying with Tierry Henry. “OK,” I thought, “there’s going to be some interesting party-life to football focus balance act to work with.” It’s even alluded to by a dialogue during the next match. But that’s the last you hear of it. No more parties. The only dialogue with Henry for a while is by phone. The character that spoke out is later all, “nah brah, you alright!”
Next comes the what-could-have-been love interest. I know, a bit cliché. But it would have been better than the resulting storyline. I’ll say no more about this plot line, but at least it does mix things up a little on the pitch, even if it’s only for a second half substitute appearance.
The second half of the season sees Alex Hunter looking for a club around Europe. You get a choice of three clubs that have all dropped out of European competition. I got the choice of Atlético Madrid, Paris St Germain and Brussia Dortmund. Once you arrive at the club you get informed they will be bringing in another player to act as your strike partner. Here I got the choice of Dele Alli, Thomas Müller and Antoine Griezmann. Thing is, I picked to play for Atlético Madrid, and Griezmann already plays there. So the game was giving me the option to recommend that we sign a player that already played for the club…
So I picked Dele. He signs for the club and you receive a chapter objective of scoring a goal from a Dele assist. There’s also an interesting coherence meter between you and your partner. Great! Only, five minutes into the next game, Alex gets injured. You then get the option to spend the rest of this chapter helping your “mate” Danny Williams to revive his career.
So that chapter objective of scoring a goal from a Dele (or other player) assist? Impossible. Unless you do it within the first couple of minutes of your first match together.
The final chapter has you recover and back to playing as Alex, in the hunt of some silverware to help save Dino’s job. You’re still working on that strike relationship with Dele or whoever you chose. In the stats you can see a nice comparison between Alex and the other player. The Journey ends shortly after completing the goal of picking up some silverware. But the ending for this season seemed a little flat.
On the Pitch
The main issue with the Journey, that doesn’t appear as an issue unless you have played Longshot, is the length of it. I’m not talking about the mess of storylines. I’m talking about the amount of actual football you need to play throughout it. And then the training on top of that! Longshot had a very good balance of story and gameplay. In FIFA 18, actually playing football takes up far too much time. The result is you fail to get the same sort of immersion in the story as they managed to achieve in Madden 18.
And what’s worse is that the actual on-the-pitch gameplay has taken a dip this year.
Defending has suffered the worst. Holding A still has you jockeying the opposing player. The B button used to let you make an attempted challenge for the ball in FIFA 17. In FIFA 18, it makes you take the most over exaggerated lunge you will ever see. Not only that, but the animation takes a good few seconds to kick in. So it’s almost impossible to make a Well Timed challenge. The B button is useless unless someone is running straight at you with the ball.
Calling for a pass is risky business when playing as a single player. If you call for it as they are actually passing to you anyway, then that button press is now interpreted as you wanting to make a return pass. There’s nothing worse than asking for a through ball, clear in on goal. And as the ball arrives at your feet, you attempt to turn around and pass it back to the guy that sent you through!
All a bit amateurish
Ultimate Team mode is a present as always. Taking a quick look around, not too much has changed in FIFA 18. During the initial objectives the games gives you, I ended up playing a beginner level league. EA Sports seems to aim the beginner level at 6 year olds. At least I hope they do, because it was ridiculously easy. The AI defenders refuse to tackle you in beginner mode. Once I started the league, there was no way out of it either. So I had to play three of four games that took forever due to the amount of goal celebrations I had to watch…
There’s a lot left to be desired about FIFA 18. While some people welcome the changes to the defending, I do not. And these changes to the gameplay have an effect on the enjoyment of all the available game-modes.
6 badly timed challenges out of 10