Sure as night follows day, every year a new FIFA comes around, but this year was extra special, as it marked the second year for the franchise on the Frostbite engine, and as we all know a second year means a slightly polished one. FIFA 18 took what was good about 17 and made it even better, and with its competitor PES improving so much in recent years, this is just what it needed to do: produce a fun and exciting football simulator for fans to really sink their teeth into.
As is always important in a football game (or any game for that matter), FIFA's gameplay improved dramatically this year, mostly because the differences between players was clearer than ever. Strong players could easily outmuscle weaker ones, for instance, and players all have their individual movement features as well, with EA meticulously crafting the running styles of players like Sterling, Ronaldo, and Robben to make sure they were authentic.
Crossing also faced some major changes for the better, as choosing where you placed the ball and at what height/power became much simpler, as did dribbling. With frame-by-frame movement, subtle direction changes could leave a defender behind and have you weave around players if you knew what you were doing, especially with those as skilled in the art as Neymar. Smaller additions like quick substitutions were also neat, but not as much as the bigger, game-changing additions.
The Frostbite engine's power also meant increased visual fidelity, which was built upon here with some extra details for good measure. You could play with confetti still on the pitch, for example, and the atmosphere inside a lot of stadiums was now more electric than ever, featuring as much difference in personality as the players.
While The Journey, much like Alex Hunter himself, was still finding its feet in the first year, the second year's iteration saw improvement all over the pitch, as it not only looks better but is a far more convincing football narrative. Throughout six chapters we saw a new side of Hunter with better customisation options and even a few surprises, forming a mode that we thought added significant value to the game rather than just being an added gimmick.
It wouldn't be FIFA without Ultimate Team though, and despite this being the same core principle as it's always been, there were some noteworthy changes, like Squad Battles. These require you to challenge squads made by developers, real players, esports pros, and more to try and beat the AI-controlled side, all of which adds to an engaging and satisfying ranking system. All in all, we found ourselves hooked by all the things to do in FUT this time around.
One last big change we couldn't forget about this year, of course, is that FIFA is available on the Nintendo Switch as well, meaning that we can take (almost) the full experience with us on the go. Sure, some minor features like Career Mode cutscenes didn't make it in, but being able to take FIFA on the go and use local multiplayer with the Joy-Cons is wonderful. This particular version was custom built and not the same experience as the one offered on PS4 and Xbox One, but the lightning-quick load times on the Switch made it ideal for gaming on the go.
In short, all of the areas of FIFA are added to and/or improved with this year's iteration, so much so that we ambitiously labelled it the 'best FIFA ever' in our review. For loyal fans this is a refinement of all the previous years, with a little extra on top, and for newbies this is the perfect time to jump in and enjoy the beautiful game.