Title: FIFA 18
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed,) PlayStation 4, PC.
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: September 29, 2017
TL;DR: The Journey was great fun. Graphics are superb, and the controls were a bit iffy.
Price: £50 / $60 all platforms 
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information.

Another year, another FIFA – the release of the FIFA football games are more regular than my bowel movements. But does this title come up smelling of roses? Let’s have a look.

I have spent the last week going football crazy, trying every mode on offer and challenging everyone I could find online. The usual modes are there like the single player “kick off,” Seasons, Tournaments, and the ‘online’, versions of the same. The controversial cash cow FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is heavily advertised on the main menu and a big draw for a lot of players.

Pro Clubs mode was always my favourite in the FIFA titles; grouping up with my friends and giving ourselves the most inappropriate team names we could think of (maturity level 100), and doing battle against like-minded individuals. So, I was really looking forward to seeing how this had changed, or even stayed the same.

The menu system is so polished and smooth, it was a joy to navigate, and gave me a good first impression of the game; this is definitely what I would expect from an AAA title. And of course, whilst looking through the settings the soundtrack is playing away in the background. 39 tracks are available in the “EA Sports Trax,” menu, with artists like Lorde, Kovic, and alt-J, is just a small selection off the list. Lots of different styles to try and cater for a multitude of tastes.

I never played FIFA 17, as my favourite team Aston Villa became relegated from the Premier League and the thought of playing a season with another club just didn’t appeal. This meant that I never got to play The Journey part 1. Upon seeing the option to play the story campaign, The Journey (part 2) on the home screen, I was intrigued. This would be the first thing I would try. 

Straight away I’m introduced to the teenage protagonist Alex Hunter, an aspiring football sensation. A brief series of flashbacks catch me up with his story from FIFA 17, how he came up from the lower divisions to the Premier League, and then went on to win the FA Cup. A rivalry between teammates, and interaction with his friends and family members.

The production quality was very high; the cutscenes using DICE’s Frostbite engine were looking absolutely beautiful. The acting so far was better than what I’ve seen on many high budget football movies. I was hooked and wanted to see more. A football game with a campaign mode; this was pulling me in.

So, I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but needless to say, Alex carries on playing football, and his story takes him to three continents and different teams in different leagues. The campaign is split into six chapters, and you get rewards for completing certain prerequisites for each chapter. Some are hidden, so you do end up looking through all the options and making sure you cover everything. There’s even a dressing room so that you can change Alex’s outfits, tattoos, and hairstyles. The more you progress, the more options you unlock. The rewards consist of stat upgrades to your statistics or cosmetic items for your dressing room.

Cutscenes intermix with training sessions and actual games. On one occasion, you take over another character of the story and play an international women’s tournament with a high-pressure challenge to complete. This got the pulse racing and was very exciting.

The voice acting and motion capture is top notch by the professional actors; however, they have used real footballers, and some other sports stars to play themselves. Here, the acting feels very wooden, and a little off-putting. This is my only disappointment with the Journey mode, as I feel the story is well written and was most enjoyable. I wanted to keep playing to see the next chapter, and I have never had that experience in a football game before.

Pro Clubs was exactly the same as previous incarnations, create your “PRO,” in the character creation, and then give him a name and vital stats. Once you have completed that, you are able to create your own team and invite your friends, or join an already created team that is recruiting. I joined a large team and played 10 vs 10 games with only the goalkeeper controlled by the computer. Chaotic, but so much fun.

For those that like the Pokemon-esque aspect of collecting cards/players, there’s FIFA Ultimate Team, where you can try and assemble the best team possible with random card packs. You are able to purchase these card packs via microtransactions, or you are sometimes rewarded with the occasional pack from playing matches or completing activities elsewhere in the game. For example, I received a few packs for completing The Journey. You can then play your team vs others either locally or online.

The controls for FIFA 18 were the same as they have been for years, as far as I could remember. As a past player, I was able to pick up and play straight away. But as default, there were tips on how to perform a certain action hovering under the onscreen player, but you could turn this off at any time. The controls were responsive except for one major niggle. I found that passes aimed at certain players were automatically going to players in another direction, so sometimes even with the controller in my hand, it felt as if I wasn’t in control of what was happening on the screen.

What did I think of FIFA 18? I enjoyed it but was equally frustrated by the poor AI of my teammates. I found that I could play a few games before my teammate’s lack of ability to pass a ball caused me to shout at the tv and go make a coffee to wind down. Playing online eased the pain a little because the opponent was competing with the same issues, which gave me plenty of chances to capitalise. I don’t know if this was affected by difficulty level, but I was playing on professional and it was dreadful. AI players running into each other and unable to complete passes, and players passing in the opposite direction to where you are pointing the thumbsticks.

The graphics were crisp and the stadiums looked amazing. The mo-cap of the players on the pitch made the replays look almost passable as real footage, especially the player interviews at the end of the match with Alex Hunter in Journey mode. FUT doesn’t interest me personally, but I loved the story mode. There were some new features like ‘player personality’ and ‘enhanced dribbling’ added to FIFA 18, this gave some of the superstar players unique visuals like the way they sprint or act off of the ball, but if I’m honest, I didn’t notice. The online play obviously gives the game life and a lot of replay value for months to come. 

The Good

  • The Journey was great fun
  • Amazingly crisp graphics and motion capture of players
  • Good, varied soundtrack

The Bad

  • Abysmal AI in single player
  • FIFA Ultimate Team, feels like you have to spend money to compete
  • Issues with passing

Family Focus

This game is rated ESRB: Everyone, PEGI: 3. The content of this game is suitable for all persons.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.