When you first launch FIFA 18, the game opens with Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann exchanging goals to level the Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu. Shots of the strikes immerse you in the action as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are deadlocked. Suddenly, Madrid win a free-kick on the edge of the area and Ronaldo lines up to take one of his trademark set-pieces. Then you are given control.
FIFA 18 begins by placing you in the centre of the action, providing a television-quality match experience better than any video game ever has before. The presentation has been improved once again this year to make the matches feel even more realistic than in previous versions. Broadcast packages and lineup graphics help add to the realism and depth, moving the video game closer to real life. FIFA 18 feels like real football.
It feels like real football not just because of the graphical improvements, but the gameplay is more like a real match. Defending is no longer automatic. Players need to time their tackles to win back the ball before holding up the ball and shielding opponents before finding a team-mate with a properly weighted pass. It is here that FIFA 18 has progressed. The midfield battles are tougher and require more patience. You can no longer just sprint around and get past your opponents. Winning matches requires you to play well.
The new crossing also makes wide play more useful, and makes pace less powerful than it had been in previous editions. This is a welcome improvement as you can choose which types of cross to find your striker, meaning that gameplay is different whether you have a pacey centre forward or strong target man. Computer-controlled teams also have their own playing style, so playing against Brighton & Hove Albion is a lot different than playing against Barcelona.
In the past few years, FIFA has catered for a variety of different gamers with their extensive game modes. Some people will play nothing other than Ultimate Team, while others swear by Career Mode. Luckily, all the various game modes have been improved in FIFA 18. The Journey made its debut in FIFA 17, and Alex Hunter is back again with a bigger, better and more enjoyable story, featuring a whole host of famous names including this year’s cover star, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ultimate Team now has offline Squad Battles for players who cannot commit to playing Weekend League, while Icons like Ronaldo and Diego Maradona are now on both Xbox and PlayStation. The first Squad Battle of the season featured a specially chosen team by Antoine Griezmann, with the gamer taking on his 99-rated version alongside Thierry Henry. Career Mode continues to be as engaging as ever and utilises the Frostbite engine better this year with extra scenes for transfer negotiations that add entertainment and realism when trying to sign a new star striker for your chosen side.
But where FIFA 18 impresses most is not the improved gameplay, additional features or lifelike presentation. It is in the small things. The minor improvements which just make the game flow better. Automatic substitutions are an excellent addition to online and versus play, keeping the game flowing rather than having one player pause the game to make a simple change. Pausing is now more streamlined, while returning to games when unpausing provides a little countdown timer so you can prepare yourself for when the action resumes.
EA Sports has listened to its huge community with these additions, and this can be seen in the fact that inactive players now get disconnected from games if they fail to attempt to control their players. No longer will your opponent put the controller down when they are losing, while pausing the game is almost redundant with the new automatic substitutions.
But most of all, FIFA 18 is simply a better football game. No other video game gives the same level of detail or feels more realistic than FIFA 18. For many years, EA Sports’ slogan has been ‘It’s in the game’. This year, it really feels like you are.
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