"What? FIFA 18 is the best FIFA ever, and it got a 10 out of 10?" Yes, that's right. In our opinion, this is the best FIFA that EA Sports has ever produced. It's a superb football simulator with refined gameplay where the player's creativity is rewarded with goals that look like they came from a real football match. It is also a game with spectacular graphics, marking the biggest evolution this generation, and it's full to bursting with content. FIFA Ultimate Team Mode has never been this good before, now appealing to both online and solo players. Even Career mode has been reinforced with several new features, but the big star here is The Journey. The story mode with Alex Hunter impressed us with some really cool moments, and we had a blast going throw it. All this wrapped up in through-the-roof production values. So, yes, FIFA 18 is the best FIFA ever.
Gameplay: Everything else is superfluous in a football game if the gameplay isn't up to par, but that's not the case, as FIFA 18 is an evolution from FIFA 17. In our opinion, FIFA 15 and FIFA 16 had some problems, and suffered from several gameplay changes made by EA Sports. They were not bad games at all, but there were issues. With FIFA 17, EA found its rhythm, and gameplay had once again become stable and fun. FIFA 18 is a continuation of this. It is a more complete, balanced, and polished version of what we saw last year, enriched with several new animations.
Everything works a little better. The difference between strong and lightweight players is clearer, as it is in terms of acceleration, dribbling, and pass quality. There is a more visible disparity in terms of player characteristics, which makes for a more realistic experience. This is also evident facing the artificial intelligence, where a game against Manchester United is not the same as facing Hull City (with all due respect to Hull).
FIFA 18 includes a new dribbling system, more sensitive to the nuances of player control. Dribbling powerhouses, like Messi and Neymar, are able to dribble and change direction with great ease, and a simple touch to change direction may be enough to leave a defender behind. Another novelty in terms of gameplay are the crosses, remade for better control. It is now easier to aim where the ball will be crossed - near, centre, far, or outside the box. It's a system that requires some getting used to, but we see it as a cool improvement.
There are many other new gameplay additions, such as allowing single kick-outs, quick substitutions without going to the menu, and the new animation system which allows for more fluid and dynamic reactions. More importantly, FIFA 18 is a solid experience. We haven't really encountered serious technical problems or strange glitches (which is not to say you won't find them, we just didn't), but that does not mean that everything is fine.
Passing has also undergone changes that we're not delighted with. Passes are now made for a colleague on almost every occasion, even if you're not necessarily pointing in their direction, whereas in the past there was a little more freedom in that regard. Of course, there are still manual controls, but we preferred the middle ground of previous games.
Graphics, atmosphere, and production values: With FIFA 17, EA Sports made the change to the Frostbite engine, allowing them to add cutscenes and greater visual detail. That was the promise anyway, but graphically it kinda looked the same. This year it's different. FIFA 18 has spectacular graphics, especially regarding lighting, animations, and detail. With support for HDR, FIFA 18 manages to look fantastic on a TV that supports the technology, which greatly benefits the new positioning of the sun in some stadiums. Playing at Leicester's King Power Stadium in late afternoon is a treat, especially in HDR.
FIFA 18 also includes many new cinematic sequences for before, during, and after matches. Many celebrations now result in cinematic sequences, such as the iconic celebrations of Cristiano Ronaldo, or celebrations with the crowd, with hugs between supporters and players. These sequences extend to Ultimate Team Mode and Career Mode, and of course, The Journey, but we'll get into the details in a bit.
Another new feature involves the environment in the stadiums, which is not only fantastic but also localised. The crowd is more detailed, now more alive thanks to new behaviors. If a player scores a goal, the closest supporters will run towards the edge, and if you play in Argentina, for instance, you will see several types of flags and effects that you won't see in the Premier League.
Add to that the excellent production values of FIFA 18. We are talking about a game that not only has excellent graphics, but also the biggest recreation of real-life elements we ever seen. Several stadiums, players, and coaches have been recreated individually, which adds even more authenticity to the game. Then there's the great soundtrack, a practical and appealing interface, and far too many other details to list here. But nothing shows the quality of FIFA 18 better than The Journey.
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Game Modes: The big highlight this year is The Journey: Hunter Returns. We liked its debut in FIFA 17, and we enjoyed the beginning of Alex Hunter's journey, but this second season is superior, and we really enjoyed EA's work in this regard. The cinematic sequences have greater visual fidelity, but more importantly, the story is improved. The way EA portrayed this season is brilliant, and there are amazing moments in this six-chapter adventure. You will find some surprises, even in the gameplay, that truly delighted us, but we won't spoil them here. In short, though, we're talking about a mode that is no longer a gimmick or an experiment. This is great extra value for FIFA, and it certainly helped it in reaching the score you see below.
Career mode was also the subject of some changes, mostly linked to the Frostbite engine. Negotiations now proceed much differently than they did in the past, since you can now negotiate with players through interactive cutscenes. You'll initially meet with the player's club to try to reach an agreement for the transfer. If you're successful, you will then meet with the player's agent and the player himself. Here you will determine the player's role at the club, the length of his contract, the inclusion of a release clause, their salary, and their signing on bonus. It's less linear than in the past, which can lead to some moments of tension. Some players asked us for larger signing on bonuses, which we were unable to meet, while others were so offended by our offer that they refused to continue negotiating.
This is an interesting new feature, although the absence of voices makes for some awkward moments. Still, you're not required to do this with every negotiation. You can accept some proposals immediately without going through these sequences, and you can task your second-in-command with dealing with these matters, setting only a minimum and maximum limit for the negotiations.
There are a few other changes in Career mode, some that were not communicated. For example, realistically, the transfer market for some countries goes beyond August 31, and this is now recreated in FIFA 18. Even after the transfer period was over we continued to receive offers from Russian clubs whose market closed later. The new system has also been reinforced with more animated sequences, and you will now see a new hire at a press conference with the club shirt. In short, the FIFA Career mode is now a little more complete and dynamic, even if under the hood works in mostly the same way.
Then we have FIFA Ultimate Team Mode. In essence, this is still the same mode, but with all the new features added in FIFA 17, and now in FIFA 18, it has never looked so appealing. There is plenty to do, both online and against the AI. In addition to introducing iconic players to all platforms (in the past these were exclusive to the Xbox consoles), you can now participate in the new Squad Battles. Here you will challenge squads made by of real football players, developers, and the best FIFA players. These teams will be controlled by the artificial intelligence, and the number of points won will depend on your performance and the level of difficulty chosen. In the end, it all adds up to a new ranking system, with great rewards for the best players.
You can also find more daily, permanent, and weekly challenges to meet, a more varied and complete Squad Building Challenge system, greater compatibility with the mobile app, and overall better presentation and polish than we saw in FIFA 17.
Career, FUT, and The Journey are the main modes of FIFA 18, but there are others. You can participate in new Skill Games, try out several types of online modes, and even organise tournaments with women's national teams. It's a shame that this side of FIFA has not evolved because there is potential here to do much more with women's football.
PES 2018 vs. FIFA 18: As you read this review and look to the score below, you may think about throwing PES 2018 out of the window and running to the nearest video game store. Don't. If in recent years you preferred the gameplay in PES, the chances are FIFA 18 won't change your mind. The same applies to those who didn't enjoy the previous edition. If FIFA 17 wasn't your game, FIFA 18 probably won't be either. There are two excellent football simulators in the market, and although FIFA is the more robust and complete experience, PES 2018 is also an excellent game. If Konami's game has been your bet, you should keep with it this year, and if you have doubts, there are demos available for both games.
FIFA 18 is a fantastic game. More refined and better balanced, this is the edition that marks the greatest advance in the present generation. It's also a massive game in terms of content, both in quality and quantity, with a lot to keep you busy until next year. Is it perfect? No, and there is surely room for improvement, but we believe that FIFA has never been as good as it is this year, and has never offered so much to its players. That's why, in our opinion, FIFA 18 is the best FIFA of all time.
This review refers to the PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions. Look forward to our Switch review nearer the launch day.