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FIFA 18’s other Offerings Remain Unchanged

Electronic Arts’ FIFA series has a remarkable  tendency to become the only video game that players need for months at a time. Perhaps even more so than Call of Duty, FIFA’s collection of modes, particularly Ultimate Team, is both demanding and rewarding, giving the most dedicated virtual soccer stars the chance to prove themselves against the most skilled teams around the world. It can all be a tad overwhelming for newcomers, but FIFA 18 manages to cleverly ease players into competition in a way that few sports game ever do. As you’ll read in our FIFA 18 review, it doesn’t dumb down the experience for longtime fans, instead offering a deep and accessible soccer game that can be enjoyed by just about everyone.

The Journey continues

Last year’s FIFA 17 introduced us to “The Journey,” a story-based mode following the career of young soccer star Alex Hunter. It ended in celebration, and the young champion again finds himself directly in the spotlight for this year’s sequel, “The Journey: Hunter Returns.” Struggling to handle his newfound fame, Hunter finds himself at odds with his teammates – including, at times, best friend Danny Williams – as he attempts to both increase his celebrity status and win a championship in his follow-up season. From the opening moments of The Journey, Hunter is considering a transfer to the MLS in order to become the definitive star of the league, and the tension can be cut with a knife when he’s interacting with his teammates and manager.

There is still plenty of actual soccer to be played in The Journey, and you can take to the field as either an entire team or solely Hunter, who earns points for making good decisions and plays during a match. However, the mode isn’t really about the action on the field: after nearly every match and even some training drills, Hunter will be chatting someone up. Occasionally it’s a member of the press and you’ll have to choose between three dialogue options à la Mass Effect  or Life is Strange, but they’re often more consequential.

Where the cleats hit the turf

Once you actually step foot on the pitch and face off against another team in FIFA 18, it’s clear why so many choose the series as their go-to game. From dribbling around opponents to sending a tricky through-pass to an open teammate, everything feels buttery smooth, with a sense of weight and momentum that makes it easier to plan your attacks and choose when it’s time for a slide tackle. Shooting is a bit finicky, as the window between kicking a soft shot along the grass and launching a ball into the stands is extremely limited, but each goal feels earned. Crossing over to a striker waiting to knock the ball into the corner of the net is still a rush after hours of play. Occasionally, we did run into issues with contextual presses leading to inadvertent passes, as crossing and lobs are handled by the same button, but it’s an infrequent occurrence that rarely affected the outcome of a match.

Last year’s game moved to DICE’s increasingly popular Frostbite engine, offering more realistic visuals and animations, and they’re in full effect in FIFA 18, as well. Apart from a few minor characters in The Journey, the facial detail is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, with sweat glistening on otherwise matte skin. Even the tiny zippers on Hunter’s hoodies are rendered incredibly well. During matches, it’s a little easier to tell that the athletes are video game characters when they’re seen in close-up shots, but it’s impossible to tell when they’re in action.

Even more ultimate

The series’ most popular mode, Ultimate Team, once again returns in FIFA 18, but it comes with an addition that makes the mode feel more welcoming to new players. “Squad Battles” allow teams to compare their performances against the same opponent, with those racking up the most points earning themselves a place on the leaderboard. After a few hours, the highest earners are awarded additional Ultimate Team currency and card packs containing star players to improve their teams. It will certainly still take some practice to get onto the leaderboard, but those who prefer single-player modes never have to face an opponent online this way.
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