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FIFA 18 Review: EA Sports has massively stepped up their game in the battle with PES 2018

Here's what we thought of this year's highly anticipated football game

FIFA 18 is finally here – but is it any good?

We’ve broken down every facet of the game – from graphics to gameplay – to see whether EA Sports has done enough to oust PES 2018 this year.

Remember, be sure to check out our PES 2018 review for an in-depth look at Konami’s masterpiece.

Let’s kick things off.

Graphics

FIFA 18 is once again powered by the Frostbite engine, only this year it’s been tweaked and refined.

Yes, it’s still probe to weird glitches and bugs, but on the whole, it’s tremendously impressive.

Improved lighting and player models are the most noticeable improvements.

Star players such as Cristiano Ronaldo look almost lifelike in the replays, while an improved animation systems allows for more realistic movement across the board.

Stadiums are teeming with intricate details, too – whether it’s cameramen snapping away near the stands, or stewards containing the bustling crowds.

Cristiano Ronaldo starred in the FIFA 18 reveal trailer

EA SPORTS
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Cristiano Ronaldo starred in the FIFA 18 reveal trailer

Speaking of which, crowds have had a huge boost this year – with more sophisticated models and animations.

The result is that you can now celebrate with them – watching as they scramble down the stands to try and reach you.

EA has subtly changed how the stadiums are lit – so if you’re playing in South America, a hazy, sun-kissed look helps it feel very different to if you’re playing in Manchester.

Managers have been given a much-needed spit and polish, too – now looking almost as good as the players themselves. They’re still not quite there, but it’s a huge improvement.

When compared with PES 2018, EA’s game holds up well. There’s more sheen and gloss in FIFA 18, but PES offers cleaner, more crisp visuals.

There’s no ‘one is better than the other’ this year, it just comes down to preference.

Gameplay

After spending a lot of time with PES 2018, FIFA 18 feels ever-so-slightly more sluggish in comparison.

There’s a touch of input delay, which takes away from the sensation of control – so it doesn’t feel as responsive as Konami’s game.

Players feel heavier and so sprinting down the touchline and changing direction can take some getting used to.

There’s far more emphasis on passing the ball around and creating space than getting it to your best player and bombing down the wing.

Crosses have been reworked, allowing for whipped balls in, while through balls – although hard to get right – are incredibly satisfying to pull off.

FIFA 18 arrives on September 29 and the web app has launched now

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FIFA 18 arrives on September 29 and the web app has launched now

New features such as quick subs (a press of R2 / RT when prompted can instantly swap a player in) are welcome and help stop annoying breaks in play.

Shooting is responsive and rewarding – although do be prepared to have plenty of shots blocked from the rather aggressive AI.

There’s no denying FIFA 18 is fun to play, but it doesn’t quite give players enough room to show off what they can do.

In PES you’ll often have a huge amount of space to make those darting runs with Lionel Messi, or charges down the wing with Neymar.

In EA’s game, space is a commodity and you have to work so much harder to create it.

Package 

This is where FIFA 18 really blows PES out of the water. From what we’ve played of The Journey: Hunter Returns, we love it.

You can check out what happens at the start of Alex Hunter’s new adventure here.

In short, expect more meaningful choices and the ability to shape how the young star looks.

Career Mode has been revamped to now use Frostbite-powered cutscenes, while Ultimate Team returns in full force – complete with new pack animations and refined gameplay.

PES may not have The Journey, but it’s still crammed with features.

There’s a new mode supporting 3v3 and 2v2, allowing you to team up with friends or other users to compete against the world.

Random selection match lets you play with teams made up of players from different clubs, while a new UI lays everything out in a more accessible way than last year.

Hunter Returns allows to customise Alex Hunter’s appearance

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Hunter Returns allows to customise Alex Hunter’s appearance

Master League and myClub return with pre-season tournaments, an improved transfer system and new presentation elements, including pre-match interviews and locker room scenes.

There are also a number of legends available to play with – including Diego Maradona (fresh off the back of an out-of-court settlement after claiming Konami used his image rights without permission).

All in all, it’s much better than last year’s offering.

Verdict 

FIFA 18 is a far superior game than FIFA 17 – but there are still some issues.

Frostbite, for all its good looks, still brings with it numerous annoying glitches and errors. We hope EA patches these in the coming weeks.

However, when it comes to gameplay, the shift towards a more tactical experience is welcome – encouraging you to really think about the game, and rewarding you amply when you do.

Improved lighting effects allow for more realistic stadiums

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Improved lighting effects allow for more realistic stadiums

We’ve haven’t had a long enough go on FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch, but from what we’ve seen, it’s an incredibly impressive package, too.

PES 2018, on the other hand, is vastly different – offering a faster, arguably more fun, football experience.

So, what did Dream Team think?

Andrew Butler and Talal Musa sit down and chat about all things FIFA 18.

Andrew Butler: Hi Talal, thanks for joining me in this slightly alternative format of writing what we’ve said out loud in real life.

Talal Musa: Absolute pleasure. It’s a bit meta, but let’s dig into FIFA 18 shall we?

Andrew Butler: Sure. I’ll start by saying the game felt, well, very similar to FIFA 17.

I guess there’s not a great deal you can do to change a game that was widely praised, and a game that I personally enjoyed very much.

From a gameplay perspective, the game felt slightly slower than last year’s, which is probably due a little bit to the new friction software they’ve implemented – they’ve made the grass feel slightly stickier, I think, so the passing feels a touch slower initially.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be the figurehead of the new game

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Cristiano Ronaldo will be the figurehead of the new game

I got used to that very quickly though, and it was nice to see that they’ve also sorted out the slow player keeping up with the fast player issue.

At least now if you play with Per Mertesacker, you won’t somehow be able to keep up with Lionel Messi.

Talal Musa: Yeah, I agree that it’s not changed a great deal.

What was immediately noticeable, though, was just how much weightier the players and ball feel.

It’s perhaps not as fast as FIFA 17 but that’s no bad thing.

Plus, EA confirmed they’ve tweaked long shots – so it’s even more satisfying, and easier, to score from outside the box.

A new replay angle – a sort of dynamic, Matrix-style camera – lets you enjoy your favourite moments from the match again and again.

A welcome addition.

Andrew Butler: A couple of quickfire points I’d make – they’ve ‘fixed’ the penalty issue, so you don’t have to run up to the ball now to start a penalty kick, which is much, much better.

One man kick-offs have been introduced, which is cool to see as a football fan, and the inclusion of ‘quick substitutions’ is also a neat addition – though I’d have to play it a bit more, as it seemed to throw up some interesting choices for automatic subs, so whether or not I’ll use it remains to be seen.


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Talal Musa: Yeah, I agree. In theory, a quick-fire subs function is a master stroke, but when one of my players was injured, I was disappointed when the quick-sub option wasn't the most appropriate suggestion.

Andrew Butler: We got to play a little bit of The Journey 2. Alex Hunter's back, of course, but it looked very promising from what we saw.

There seems to be loads of new storylines, you can customise Hunter, and your game will probably be different from your friend's game.

The only frustration of The Journey last year, which I thought was excellent, was the fact that realistically you basically always ended up lifting the FA Cup, and you got a 75-rated FUT card.

It'll be interesting to see what EA Sport have done with it this season.

The Journey 2 is set to be bigger and better than last year's debut season

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The Journey 2 is set to be bigger and better than last year's debut season

Talal Musa: Yes, there needs to be more player choice and consequence -it all felt too linear last year. From what we've seen it looks as though EA has taken this on board.

Sure, we won't be looking at Mass Effect-level of freedom, but there will be branching storylines and, I bet, multiple endings, too.

Andrew Butler: You know way more about engines and gameplay and all that - what did you make of the way the Frostbite engine has improved the game?

Talal Musa: The first thing that hit me was just how much better the player faces look. There's bags more emotion and life in every one of them.

This is largely down to an improved lighting model, which makes light react more realistically to the skin. Elsewhere, sweat drips down players' faces, while animation has been refined resulting in smoother transitions between movements.

It's all very impressive indeed.

The Frostbite engine allows FIFA to look more realistic and gives greater physical presence.

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The Frostbite engine allows FIFA to look more realistic and gives greater physical presence.

Andrew Butler: We haven't played too much Ultimate Team but if the rest of the game is anything to go by, this looks like another hit.

Of course we've only played a few hours of a preview build, so there might be issues that become more obvious when the full game comes out.

Talal Musa: Yeah, I think FIFA fans are going to be very happy.

Andrew Butler: Cheers Talal, it's been a pleasure. Fancy a game?

Talal Musa: Unfortunately, we haven't got a copy of the game yet. But if EA want to send us one well in advance, feel free.

Andrew Butler: Oh yeah. Pint?

Talal Musa: Nah. Fancy a gym sesh?

Andrew Butler: *walks out*


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