Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts Inc
Release Date: 29th September 2017
Price as of Article: $59.99 USD, £54.99 GBP
FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch marks the first FIFA game to grace a Nintendo console since 2013 when FIFA 13 was released and it was severely limited. It did not include Ultimate Team and other major gripes led to poor sales on the Wii-U. Unsurprisingly, EA then decided not to bring the huge franchise back to the console again.
This time around a lot of people have been sceptical because of this history. EA themselves acknowledged that they took a different path, opting to develop a custom engine based on last years release on other platforms rather than try and squeeze the Switch to run on the new Frostbite Engine used elsewhere. This means the game looks and feels different than to other consoles and plays like one of the older releases in some ways but with a bit more polish. For me though this an amazing feat – a full fledged FIFA, complete with full controls, online play and yes – Ultimate Team – on your TV is great and on the move is spectacular.
Martin Tyler, Alan Smith and Geoff Shreeves return for commentary. This team have been working together on the game since 2013 and provide a solid and mostly accurate experience. During career mode you can have them use a custom name and there are a huge number to choose from. Another nice touch is the mid match updates you can recieve from other matches happening at the same time. For example, if a goal is scored the commentators will share these details. The music in the game is excellent, EA have a large category of upbeat songs that play and you can choose to mix and match, making your own playlist with your favourite tunes whilst in between matches.
Outside of commentary the audio in match is pleasing – the ball sounds great when hit, the crowd cheer you on and some of the larger teams have bespoke lines – for example whilst I was Liverpool the Anfield faithful chanted you’ll never walk alone.
The audio does a great job of immersing you in the game, adding to the feel that you are playing in a match that matters each time you lace up.
By opting to use a custom engine instead of Frostbite the game renders at a lower quality level compared to other consoles – you can detect it on replays and in crowd depth. On the flip side because of this customisation they have managed to have the game run in full 1080p when docked at 60fps and at 720p at 60fps when on the move.
The result is a very fluid set of visuals that are crisp at all times without any screen tear, lag or other issues you might expect if the game had been ported using the latest engine. All of the FIFA licenses that you have come to expect are here and you can play from a huge raft of teams at a large number of stadiums across the globe and the presentation here is top notch.
FIFA 18 feels crisp and quick, it is arcade like but this iteration doesn’t feel overly so as some previous versions have. As someone who has played Football games since ISS Pro that is my biggest concern – how will the game feel? Can you perform the same attack over and over again to score? Do defenders do some questionable actions? The answer is no, this iteration feels robust. The controls are smooth and responsive, it can take a few minutes to get used to the double joy con grip and I found the Pro Controller to be the best experience, it just felt completely right!
When in handheld mode the joy cons on the side of the console at first feel quite far apart, but actually after a bit of time this felt like a great way to play – you are close to the action and loading up a game on the move is just awesome.
Career mode plays like it does in FIFA 17 – you choose a player and get to focus on just playing them in their position at all times. Off the ball work is crucial and you get a sense of being this player, making sure you take the time you do have with the ball to best effect. In between matches you get the chance to train up your player and tend to your career, getting messages from your agent about loan or transfer opportunities amongst other things. You are also able to play as the whole team and can play the career as a manager tending to the wider teams business – a very cut down Football Manager if you will.
Journey mode doesn’t make its way over to the Switch making career mode the main single player campaign. Ultimate Team, the super addictive mode, is here. You build a squad by buying a pack or dipping your toe into a secondary trade market with virtual coins that are earned through playing and winning in leagues and cup competitions. The mode has an emphasis on getting a team that bond together based on factors such as country they are from, league they play in etc with a well oiled team often playing better than a stronger team. The online play here felt excellent. I experienced no issues and the mode features everything at its core. A few of the newest additional features are not on the Switch but honestly these felt like add-ons rather than essentials.
Seasons are back as well, both locally and online – this mode is great and due to EA’s strong FIFA support, clubs will go up and down in form based on real life performances.
When it comes to multiplayer we have the usual exhibition mode as well as tournament mode which is a fantastic way to play if you have a group of friends together. The Switch version gets an awesome exclusive mode in Local Tournament where you and your friends can get together and play against each other on your individual switches in a tournament – this really takes advantage of the consoles portable nature and I can see getting a bunch of mates together to play this way being extremely fun.
Playing against each other plays out really well using larger controls even when the screen is not docked. Using a single joy con each does change the game as you only have a single analog stick and one set of triggers meaning the game plays out in a slightly simplified format and things like finesse are disabled. It does give you a quick fix of FIFA but it’s not like playing together with a larger controller.
Multiplayer locally then offers you the most complete experience ever on FIFA with the most options, living up to EA’s claim that FIFA 18 on the Switch is the ultimate social experience. Where things do sadly go downhill drastically is when you get to online multiplayer – if you want to play against your friend one on one online, you can’t. There is no feature here to do so at all which is a massive blow and depending on your play preferences will either be a bug bear or a showstopper. Apparently this is due to Nintendo’s lack of built in party and co-op features. As we have seen with other games such as Mario Kart, there are ways around this but it involves the developer building something for it directly. I suppose some of the blame falls to either party here – Nintendo have not made it easy and EA have not gone above and beyond to fix this themselves for the game. I have hope that with the paid for 2018 Nintendo Service this may get fixed but as of now you can only play online with random opponents.
The game retails for full cost and on its face has some detractors when compared with the version on other consoles. On the flip side this game is a full FIFA experience complete with Ultimate Team and a solid Career Mode as well as being built with a custom engine and running extremely well. Add in the portability and the game has to be said to be the greatest portable football experience game ever made.