FIFA 18 Review
With every passing year, the release of FIFA feels more and more like an event. Soccer’s real-life stars line up to talk about their in-game rating, to inspect their FUT cards and to emphasize their love of the brand. All the time, the line is being blurred between the sport we enact on our screens, and the real sport itself.
In FIFA 18, that’s never more evident than in the return of The Journey, the story of eighteen-year-old sensation Alex Hunter, now in his second season of professional football. Over the course of six chapters, EA unrolls the red carpet for its famous supporting cast who are faithfully motion-captured for their starring bow. From Ronaldo to Muller to Griezmann and a certain Gunners legend, the A-listers join Alex on a globetrotting adventure that feels like a big high-five to soccer itself.
Using the Frostbite engine for its sophomore year, EA is clearly confident that they’ve got the technology to flex their storytelling clout. Cutscenes strafe the edges of the pitch like something out of the Goal! movies, swanky after-parties zoom in on a star-struck Alex, and press conferences and player presentations give you a taste of the good life he is leading. EA has had fun blurring the line in other ways too, and a mock Twitter feed references ex-players like Alan Shearer and Andy Cole, and even the UK Daily Mail journalist Ian Ladyman.
All told, it’s an impressive production that runs well over ten hours and features key timed decisions that have irreversible effects. Alex gets the bulk of the screen-time, but EA isn’t afraid to pull a few surprises and even introduce playable characters when you least expect it. Midway, an overly soppy domestic dispute threatens to rob The Journey of its footballing focus, but taken as a whole, the story is great fun.
It’s also suitably bigger than last year, and by rights, it’s got more to do. You can now switch up Alex’s hair, give him new clothes and get him inked. Later on, you get to choose a big-name striking partner that you must build a rapport with on the pitch, accompanied by some fun 1v1 challenge games that lend a competitive edge. It’s unlikely you’ll hanker to play The Journey more than once, but as a solitary mode in a game full of different modes, it’s a staggering achievement and made all the better by FIFA‘s new and improved visuals.
Honestly, it’s hard to overstate what a visual leap forward FIFA 18 represents, and this translates into the game proper. A mo-capped Ronaldo skips forward in his inimitable style and hits a free-kick with a knuckleball technique eerily and impressively similar to real life. Arjen Robben twinkle-toes forward on the flank, left wrist flapping. Neymar has a nest of frosted tips and finally looks the part.