Football greatest's competition kicks off on June 14 in Russia, but you don't need to wait until then to start your World Cup saga. FIFA 18's new free expansion for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is now available, via an update, on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, adding a new game mode with plenty of content all based around the international competition.
The entire presentation in this game mode replicates the official visual style for the event, including menus and interface, and that authentic look grants this content update a very specific flavour, however, EA Sports went even further. All nations were entitled to up-to-date kits, national anthems (or at least part of them), and licensed players. At the moment the rosters are not yet the official ones, but we believe EA will change that before the tournament itself kicks off.
Another point in favour of the presentation is the crowd, which was re-worked in a specific way for each country. Each crowd sports their nation's jersey and facial paint, but also specific accessories, including flags, banners, and even caps. Denmark has hats inspired by Vikings while Brazil has straw hats and wigs, for example. All this adds to an excellent atmosphere during the games, which is enriched with specific songs for each nation, and even special behaviors depending on the opponent. Spanish supporters whistled Cristiano Ronaldo's shots during our Portugal vs Spain match, for example. On top of that, all 12 official stadiums were meticulously crafted for the game.
Also adding to the excellent production values are the new commentaries, once again provided by Martin Tyler and Alan Smith in the English version. The two commentators share several stories of the World Cup between themselves, and also make specific comments for each nation and even matches, comparing Cristiano Ronaldo to Eusébio if you're playing with Portugal, and referencing the Iberian rivalry between Spain and Portugal during that specific match.
Our only disappointment regarding the presentation is the lack of recreated coaches, as here they're visualised with the standard models for FIFA 18 coaches. In addition to this little disappointment, we must also mention some inconsistencies among the crowds, such as some fans wearing a country's jersey and another's facial paint, for example.
In 2018 FIFA World Cup you can participate in several game modes. There is the official tournament, which is a replica of the event itself with the 32 nations in their respective groups, and a custom mode, where you can create new groups with all nations in the game - a feature that will be particularly interesting for Italian players (too soon?). We would have liked the option to play the full qualifying round for the World Cup, but alas that's not in the expansion.
In addition to these modes you can participate in online matches, and even tackle a specific version of Ultimate Team Mode. This version of FUT includes the players of the 32 teams that will be in the World Cup alongside several iconic players drawn from the history of the competition. Here you must consider a new chemistry system which, instead of operating through clubs and leagues, considers nations and co-federations. You can then participate in several tournaments in FUT Draft and try to meet specific challenges, just like in the regular FUT. A special bonus for this version is that when you buy a pack for the World Cup FUT mode you will also get an equivalent pack for the traditional FUT.
2018 FIFA World Cup Russia is not quite as good as a game created from the ground up especially for the World Cup, but it comes very close. It's so good in fact that we believe EA Sports would have been entitled to ask for some money for it, but considering the fact that it's a free expansion we have to say that we're even more impressed. If you're thinking of buying FIFA 18 just to play World Cup then the game at full price might be a bit too much, but given how late in the footballing year we are we're pretty sure you'd be able to pick it up pretty cheaply if you wanted to. If the price is right then we think it'd be worth it, and on top of all the World Cup content you'd be getting probably the best football sim ever made (at least until next season, that is).