Does the Frostbite Engine Shine?
It’s year two of the Frostbite Engine cycle, after EA SPORTS first introduced it to us back in FIFA 17. I expected that year to be a transitional period, and that FIFA 18 and beyond would see the full effects and changes that the Frostbite Engine could have for the franchise. I purposely delayed on this review as I wanted to spend as much time as I could with the game, especially as I wanted to wait for the first major patch to hit. I wasn’t impressed with certain things, which I put down to it being just being released and the developers still needed time to iron out any issues post launch. The patch has been out a couple of weeks now and I’m still very mixed on how I feel about it.
The first thing that I wanna discuss is the pacing of FIFA 18. If you’re a veteran FIFA player then you’ll notice a change this year, but I’m not sure if it is for the better. FIFA for me has always been fast gameplay, you can literally go from one end of the pitch to the other in a matter of seconds. This year, it does feel slower, but not in a realistic way. Of course, both games have their own USP but if you look at the pacing of PES 2018 this year, that’s spot on. It does feel like EA tried to go for a more simulative approach but couldn’t get it right for some reason.
One reason that I was waiting for the patch to hit before I give my full thoughts on the game was because of two key gameplay elements. Goalkeepers and Shooting. When I received my review copy, both elements of these were a disaster. Shooting was way too easy and goalkeepers… well, they may have not even existed. The patch was released and to be fair to EA, there were some key improvements, but Goalkeepers still get beaten far too easily for my liking, especially when you are shooting from distance, regardless of who is controlling the ball.
Speaking about controlling the ball, EA have done some work in terms of individuality, but it’s too much on an individual basis for me to really enjoy. If you’ve got the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Sterling in the game then you’ll notice the difference. EA have nailed the runs of some ‘Superstar’ players, but sadly, haven’t paid as much attention to anyone else in the game. For years now I’ve felt like most players play exactly the same as each other, and when you compare it to PES’s individuality, you just cannot help be disappointed with what is on offer this year.
For most of its flaws, FIFA 18 however is a good football game. Whilst I think passing still ‘sticks’ a bit too much, you can do some lovely give and go passing moves in the game. Dribbling is one of my favorite gameplay elements this year. Whilst not as free as I’d like it to be, if timed right, you don’t have to use the right stick in order to beat players now. Pace is also a strong advantage in FIFA 18. If you pacey players in your squad, expect them to beat defenders easily and not get caught up!
Defending is something I also have very mixed thoughts on. Fair play to EA, they seem to have made it a lot more manual this year, which is something that the community have been shouting about for years. I like it, to an extent, and I shall tell you why. For 90% of the game, defending is an art. You can defend as you see wish, which is great. However, there are moments where FIFA 18 will decide to make defending non-existent. Nothing you do will stop your opposing player get through and score (with a little help from the under-par Goalkeepers) and it leaves you feeling rather frustrated that you’ve had nothing to do with the goal you conceded.
If you were to mark FIFA 18 down on it’s authenticity, it would get a 100% every time from me. They have the budget to secure all the best licenses, and they show it with their in-game presentation. PES and Konami can not even try to match this at the moment, and EA have stepped up their game once again with what is on offer with FIFA 18. It looks like a real football match, from start to finish, and credit has to go to the team for the hard work that they do in order to make it look so authentic. One thing that I would say needs improving for FIFA 19 and beyond is the commentary. It’s starting to get rather stale. Whilst I still love that my second name ‘Neaves’ is in the game (Konami, take note!), the new lines aren’t making up for what is getting repetitive now year after year. I’d like to see a new commentary introduced, such as Jamie Carragher, who would add much vibrancy to the role rather than the ‘boring’ Alan Smith.
Overall, FIFA 18 does offer up a good game of football, although it does have its flaws. I’m not an Ultimate Team player at all so I can’t really comment on what is on offer there but from a mode perspective, Career Mode and The Journey have both been improved. The Journey Season 2 is great, but I have to wonder where there will still be any re-playability when you have finished it. Whilst I’m really enjoying it, I’m not too sure I’ll go back for more. Career Mode is also improved, but no where enough for me. Negotiations is the headline feature this year, and whilst that is good (and the new cutscenes look lovely), it’s not enough for me to keep coming back for the duration of the year until FIFA 19.
Oh and one last thing EA. Do something major with Pro Clubs for FIFA 19!