Fifa 18

The league of ex­traor­di­nar­ily highly paid gen­tle­men

Games Master - - Contents -

The foot-dudes are back and you’d bet­ter be­lieve they’re kick­ing that ball about again.

“It’s pos­si­ble to pick a sin­gle mode and pour hun­dreds of hours into it across the year”

If you’ve any in­ter­est in foot­ball what­so­ever, FIFA’s re­turn­ing cam­paign mode The Jour­ney will en­thrall you. After his break­through sea­son, teenage star Alex Hunter’s time at a top-flight Bri­tish club is up when a bun­gled trans­fer sends him some­where that was never in his plans. Once again you’ll live the tur­bu­lent life of an elite foot­baller, ful­fill­ing man­ager tar­gets in matches, im­prov­ing your tech­nique in train­ing, and mak­ing ‘cool’ or ‘fiery’ re­marks, both in amped-up press conferences and dur­ing ten­der do­mes­tic scenes. Hunter’s as­cent to mega-star­dom is the stuff dreams are made of. He ap­pears on chat shows, hangs with basketball stars on rooftop LA clubs, FaceTimes Pre­mier League leg­ends, and at one point shills his way through a Coke Zero ad. It’s the in­sider’s per­spec­tive that makes The Jour­ney special: the emo­tional trauma of a ca­reer-threat­en­ing in­jury, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of hand­ing in a trans­fer re­quest, the heart-to-heart with a failed player-turned coach filled with re­gret. This of­fers tan­ta­lis­ing in­sight into foot­ball not as a game, but as an in­dus­try.

The op­tion to ply your trade in sev­eral other coun­tries rather than toil away in the Pre­mier League also gives The Jour­ney fresh­ness – all that sun­shine makes a pleas­ant change from dreary af­ter­noons in Wat­ford. There’s a re­duc­tion of filler matches, too. Tasks, such as com­ing on as an im­pact sub 20 min­utes from time to grab the win­ner, or telling the boss which player to bring in dur­ing the trans­fer win­dow then form­ing a tele­pathic part­ner­ship with them, pro­vide tense chal­lenges and help set it apart from Be A Pro.

Okay, per­for­mances are more wooden than a post-match in­ter­view with a red­wood (on one oc­ca­sion a world-fa­mous foot­baller sticks his head round the door while you’re chatting with the boss and says what ba­si­cally amounts to “I like play­ing with you, bye,”), and Ron­aldo chan­nels Tommy Wiseau in his spo­rad­i­cally in­to­nated cameo, but the thrill of in­ter­act­ing with the game’s greats off the pitch is elec­tric. Twit­ter men­tions, team of­fers, and an ever-grow­ing trans­fer sum take Hunter from boy to brand. Plus there’s cus­tomi­sa­tion. The Hack­ney na­tive can rock golden boots, neck tat­toos, goa­tees, and afros. You feel ev­ery inch the strut­ting foot­balls­man

FUT fetish

Of course, you could al­ways ig­nore all that. With FIFA 18, it’s pos­si­ble to pick a sin­gle mode and pour hun­dreds of hours into it across the en­tire year. Take Ul­ti­mate Team, in which you pur­chase play­ers and build dream squads. Now there’s even less em­pha­sis on the ‘pur­chase’ part thanks to new Fea­tured Squad Bat­tles in which you com­pete against the AI-con­trolled ranks of real foot­ballers, pro gamers, and celebri­ties. Win and you’ll get card packs with­out spend­ing a penny. It’s a time in­vest­ment, but pay­outs are sur­pris­ingly gen­er­ous.

Bet­ter-or­gan­ised daily and weekly ob­jec­tives, mean­while, award cur­rency

for com­plet­ing tasks and of­fer an­other po­ten­tial rev­enue stream. Ap­ply a fit­ness item or as­sist a goal with an Ar­gen­tinian, for in­stance, and you’ll earn gold on the spot. Whereas be­fore you al­ways felt some­what pres­sured into ei­ther play­ing on­line or fork­ing over real-world funds, now there are wel­com­ing in-roads. Fi­nan­cially and features-wise, it’s the most gen­er­ous Ul­ti­mate Team of­fer­ing yet, fur­ther ce­ment­ing it as a ver­i­ta­ble game within a game.

Truth be told it’s made sin­gle-player ca­reer modes re­dun­dant. Here you’ll ei­ther man­age or play in a team across mul­ti­ple sea­sons, send­ing scouts to re­port on prospective tal­ents, de­vel­op­ing youth per­son­nel, ex­tend­ing con­tracts, and giv­ing game time to fringe play­ers be­fore they sulk off. It all feels glo­ri­ously of­fi­cial, from rolling reports on fix­tures to new video se­quences of trans­fer coups un­veiled in press conferences, but it lacks The Jour­ney’s drama or FUT’s ad­dic­tive grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Win­ning solves ev­ery­thing. Win and you’ll gen­er­ate money; win and you’ll at­tract play­ers; win and brand ex­po­sure takes care of it­self.

Im­proved trans­fer ne­go­ti­a­tions do add wel­come com­plex­ity, how­ever. The thrill of pulling off un­likely sign­ings is now rep­re­sented by scenes in which your man­ager meets with play­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in his of­fice and pro­poses a fee, salary, re­lease clause, and goal bonuses from a di­a­logue wheel (al­beit silently be­cause there’s no voice act­ing, which adds a cer­tain Lynchian qual­ity). You’ll rarely nab a bar­gain, which makes all the ex­tra ef­fort a bit su­per­flu­ous when you’ve got the op­tion of del­e­gat­ing it to as­sis­tants, but fight­ing through each deal’s de­tails in a board­room bat­tle like a fish­er­man reel­ing in a catch makes play­ers feel harder-earned as a re­sult.

Deft and right

If you’re won­der­ing why we’ve left it to the end to talk about how FIFA 18 ac­tu­ally plays, well, it’s be­cause you al­ready know. It’s the usual great game of foot­ball. Granted, there are some sub­tle im­prove­ments. Bet­ter drib­bling re­places re­dun­dant no-touch body feints on LB/L1 with close ball con­trol that al­lows you to deftly nav­i­gate tight spa­ces. It means you can play through dan­ger rather than around it, and al­though the tech­nique loses ef­fec­tive­ness against the om­ni­scient AI, it makes go­ing up against hu­man op­po­nents more dy­namic. In one on­line match an op­po­nent packs his box with de­fend­ers, and where in pre­vi­ous years we’d pass it around the out­side be­fore giv­ing up and at­tempt­ing a shot from dis­tance, now we can twin­kle-toes our way through the crowd.

This links up with more ex­plo­sive player speed. Wrong-foot a de­fender and you can quickly put space be­tween you and them, which leads to a more elas­tic game re­ward­ing clever mo­ments and pun­ish­ing mis­takes. It changes how you ap­proach cer­tain play­ers – you’ll want to sit a yard off Messi and Ney­mar, for in­stance. Smaller re­fine­ments in­clude crosses now whip­ping in with in­tent, and the in­creased ten­dency of shots and vol­leys to nes­tle in the top cor­ner, mak­ing the ac­tion slightly more ex­cit­ing. Nim­bly Cruyff-turn­ing a de­fender and un­leash­ing a bul­let past the keeper feels sub­lime.

The Jour­ney and FUT are the key ar­eas of de­vel­op­ment, though. While FIFA 18 qui­etly plays a more de­tailed game of foot­ball, it’s modes that truly put it a league above PES 2018. As a pack­age this is un­par­al­leled. It’s deep, au­then­tic, and im­mensely en­joy­able re­gard­less of how you spend your time in it.

With the new close drib­bling tech­nique, An­toine Griez­mann’s boots hold balls bet­ter than a sticky cir­cus jug­gler.

Li­censed Pre­mier League gaffers re­turn. Ex­pect that list to rapidly lose rel­e­vance as ev­ery­one gets fired for fail­ing to reach un­man­age­able tar­gets. Unique Player Mo­tion cap­tures the dis­tinct move­ment of big-name foot­ballers such as Ron­aldo and Robben....

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