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FIFA 18 – First Impressions

Yes, it’s that time of year when EA Sports release their latest in their long running football (or as it’s known over the pond – soccer) series. In an increasingly challenging problem of bringing something new to each edition, EA have somewhat succeeded in most things but in others there is still room for improvement.

Now running on the Frostbite engine, first implemented in FIFA 17, there is a fluidity to the play, that previous versions struggled to maintain. This also allows a story driven campaign mode called “The Journey” which really is worth playing. Here we have the next volume of The Journey and it’s just as good, but more of that in a minute.

The game itself has added lots of little pleasing additions like real referee’s, a new team introduction manages to look more like a TV presentation and crowds look a bit more realistic; but one of the most pleasing aspects is that players act like their real counterparts. Raheem Sterling for instance has his velociraptor like gait as he runs (trust me that’s a good analogy), Mo Salah is absolutely rapid, Cristiano Ronaldo has his trademark open legs stance when he takes a free kick and his typical celebration. He won’t pass much if he’s in a goalscoring position either but it brings a realism to play that was even missing in FIFA 17.

Likenesses still range from the absolutely fantastic to the “dreadful, looks nothing like him or her.” Players like Daniel Carvajal of Real Madrid are uncanny whereas Dejan Lovren of Liverpool is laughable. I also said “him or her” and in the Women’s teams they are also very hit and miss, but it’s still an improvement on most. Whilst playing England v Netherlands it was easy to make out Ellen White and Toni Duggan for example. Whilst on the Netherlands – Shanice Van Der Sanden and Lieke Martins are wonderfully rendered.

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On the downside there is still a nagging annoyance of commentary not quite matching up with the action or suddenly cutting in, sounding disjointed. It’s plagued previous versions and it’s still something they haven’t solved properly. There is also an unrealistic look to all of the players in that they have one expression. Using Frostbite you would think there would be more facial expressions, after all they manage it in the story mode. There is still a lack of certain players not getting a namecheck especially in the Women’s teams, which is a shame.

There is one really nice addition in “quick substitutions” in where you don’t have to pause your game in order to make a substitution. Keeps the game flowing and is a very welcome addition.

So onto the Story Mode – The Journey and Part 2 – Hunter’s Return in which you continue the career of Alex Hunter and what’s quite brilliant is that it uses your settings and progress from Part One as they are stored in your account. You can start Hunter’s journey from scratch, also, if you so wish. For those of you new to “The Journey” we follow the young protégé Alex Hunter from his humble beginnings to his first club and season. There’s a really nice customisation in that you can have Alex play for any team and it’s incredible to see the players of that team interact with Alex. I’d encourage new players to do “The Journey” because it acts as a very good tutorial as to how to play FIFA. Instead of just doing the Skill Games they are incorporated into the Training sections of the story. It’s a clever device and the better you are, the better Hunter becomes. It’s actually quite something watching Alex and his friends play for your team during matches with full commentary. Hunter is also customisable in the clothes he wears on and off the pitch. You can also change his hair and give him tattoo’s unlocking new items as you progress. Whilst they’ve tried to keep the same look for continuity’s sake, there are slight improvements in facial expressions and textures for instance.

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There is so much more to FIFA 18 and in this short time I’ve played it, I’ve barely scratched the surface, but what I’ve seen I’ve been impressed with. Yes, there are still problems but the good far outweighs the bad.

Look out for a full review soon.