‘FIFA 18’ is series’ best, even if by default

'FIFA 18'
Courtesy of EA Sports 'FIFA 18' marks the first time that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo features on the game’s cover. Marco Reus covered last year’s version of 'FIFA.'
'FIFA 18'
Courtesy of EA Sports
‘FIFA 18’ marks the first time that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo features on the game’s cover. Marco Reus covered last year’s version of ‘FIFA.’

By Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer


FIFA 18 is like Cristiano Ronaldo. Both are currently the best the world has to offer, yet people perpetually claim that another player or another version is better. Last year’s FIFA 17 came with sweeping changes and — since it was also an EA product — massive issues. Fortunately, this time around, FIFA 18 is everything its predecessor tried to be and then some.

Part of these improvements begins with The Journey, a game mode introduced in 17 that allows players to immerse themselves in the life of Alex Hunter, a fictional soccer entity. Players not only see Hunter’s story unfold, but they get to control what he says and does, as well.

Despite a wide array of choices on offer, however, none of them truly matter. There is a standard list of objectives in every soccer match for Hunter to accomplish, and the choices that are available cannot be described as particularly significant. If Hunter plays so horribly the manager subs him out of the game early, nothing happens. If Hunter scores a hat trick every single game, nothing happens.

While this mode is more in-depth than what 17 has to offer, it fails to be anything other than a good story. That is all well and good, but FIFA 18 doesn’t advertise itself that way. It’s marketed as a choice-fueled narrative — which is true, unless anyone assumes that those choices actually matter.

The FIFA Ultimate Team mode also returns and finally offers a somewhat decent way to let someone who isn’t looking to spend their entire paycheck on pay-to-play currency actually compete. This has been a gradual change for the series, but it probably should not have taken five years for EA to finally make a version of Ultimate Team that is fair and balanced for those who do not want to indulge in microtransactions.

In the past, players funneled money into buying packs so that they could corner the market on the best players (such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar). However, the game mode has now added player icons from past generations to balance the competitive landscape out. The developers have also made it so that those who have played past versions of the game get special bonuses upon entering the game mode, like loan players. Overall, Ultimate Team is now more about who can play the game and not about who is willing to spend the most money on a game that many only play for a year.

Finally, the mechanics of the game no longer favor speed above all else. In the past, the player with the fastest team would always win by kicking the ball down the field and outrunning their opponent’s team.

Helping keep the game fun and fair is ball guarding. This feature — which Ronaldo himself helped bring to life — makes it possible to retain possession for more than a few seconds. Now, rather than having a high-quality defender just ram another player to steal the ball back, ball guarding allows the player to make more dynamic and quicker actions to avoid the defender stripping the player of the ball.

Overall, FIFA 18 is likely the best iteration the franchise has ever produced. Not many will agree with that, but those people confuse emotional attachment from playing FIFA as a kid or playing FIFA in a year their favorite team was good with the quality of actual game content. As far as that content goes, there are more women’s teams than in the past; there is a longer, deeper story mode and many of the issues that hallmark the series have been managed. So, I can’t see any reason why this isn’t the best version to date.