Written by Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
Football is the first sport I grew up with, and the only sport I actually played myself for a long time. Thus every year when September gets close I get really hyped for the new FIFA game. Even though each year there aren’t any major changes, somehow I keep getting back into the game like it’s some sort of crack. While FIFA isn’t necessarily a RPG, with the Ultimate Team mode there are some RPG elements in the game that are one of the features that I return for. But the question always remains, is this FIFA better than last year? Let’s find out.
Last year a new single player career mode was introduced into the game called ‘The Journey’. In this journey we follow the life of Alex Hunter and his career path to becoming a pro player. In FIFA 17 this game mode was very interesting to see, as a nice change of pace instead of the regular career mode where you don’t really follow a story. You still play the game in a career perspective where you manage the team rather than a single persona. While the story of Alex Hunter stopped at a cliffhanger in FIFA 17, and I wasn’t a fan of that, I still think it’s a nice change of pace to actually follow a story for once in a sports game.
The question every year remains: is the game improved over the last, or are the new ball rolling physics and the way the players move over the field worse than before? this is basically the big annual question, since the game doesn’t improve much in regards to the graphics, the game play is one of its key features in the game. And just like any other online game, there is always some sort of a ‘meta’ how the game is played. Be it through high balls, or dribbling, there is always something in a FIFA game that overshadows the other play styles. This time around they focused on making the defending a little harder than before. Instead of the computer being a very big factor in giving you a hand, everything has been made a lot more natural, where the player actually has to put more thought into defending, and not mindlessly let the computer controlled players try to take the ball back.
The pace has also slowed down a lot, and passing over the ground has been significantly improved. If you aren’t familiar with sports games of EA, let me give you a brief introduction to how the players are given their own unique stats that make some blink out over the others. For every possible thing you can think of, the players have been given a value. This value goes from 1 to 100, and the highest values mean the players excel in that particular thing. This can be used to form your own unique team, especially in the game mode Ultimate Team where you create your own team and use players that have some chemistry into a new fully new fantasy team. Since the pace has slowed down a lot, dribbling has changed a lot as well, and I have always been very into the tactical play style of going past multiple defenders instead of playing the ball wide and giving a high ball to score the ball that way.
Ultimate Team is what gives FIFA the RPG-esque features that make the game very interesting. You start out with players that play in the smaller teams in every football oriented country you can think of, and slowly work your way up by earning coins through games, or by using the marketplace and working your way from up there. There are also microtransactions available that let you buy packs, with the chance of getting better ‘cards’ or even special ones that are better than the normal variation of the player. But you cannot just put every player you want into a team. Players need somewhat of a connection, be it either playing for the same country or playing in the same league together. Bonus points are also given if they play at the same club, which increases their chemistry together. This mode alone is the one I keep returning for every year, because who doesn’t like to work its way up from the ground, instead of having the best possible team and crushing everyone that is just starting out?
FIFA 18 hasn’t seen a lot of changes compared to FIFA 17. The graphics haven’t been given too much attention, and even the gameplay feels somewhat similar to last year’s game. The big question remains, is the game worth it? Well, I feel like this year’s game is a bit of a tough one to recommend. While the game has changed for the better, I do not feel that the changes are major enough to justify the price tag given to this game each year. If you mainly play online, it is always debatable if the price tag is worth it, and I suppose it is. Since you get to play with the majority of the players, and still get that new challenge each year that keep the game fun. But if you are more of an offline player, and mainly play the game for the career, the game hasn’t changed all that much. I think it’s better to get the game at a discount rather than just buying it right away. EA always likes to patch the game which shifts the meta away only a few weeks after launch, and the same has already happened. While the game can always get better for this, in its current state the game feels like it hasn’t improved a lot over last year.
Verdict: 3.5/5 – FIFA will always be fun in the eyes of a football fan. While the game didn’t change much from last year, I do think the few improvements make it a fun game to play. While the graphics haven’t changed all too much, and the physics don’t feel all too different either, I do think this game is justified as a 3.5 out of 5. It’s not the perfect football game, but it’s still the best around.