Game Review: FIFA 18 (Switch)

Game Review: FIFA 18 (Switch)

It’s been four years since an iteration of FIFA has graced a Nintendo console. The 2014 version of EA Sports’ popular soccer franchise hit the Wii on September 13, 2013, skipping the Wii U entirely. Right out of the gate, the big question is whether FIFA 18 on the Switch marks a successful return for EA Sports to Nintendo platforms? And honestly, the answer is a little complicated.

The controls on FIFA 18 for Switch feel comfortable and familiar to previous iterations of the game. There’s nothing really new here and that’s a good thing. Even the Joy Cons allow for an enjoyable experience.

The first thing you notice about FIFA 18 for the Switch is the most obvious – soccer on the go. And perhaps this is the finest feather in the games’ cap. You are now able to enjoy your favorite soccer teams while you are mobile. Fancy a match or two while sitting in your car? You can now do that. Want to customize your favorite squad as you grab a bite to eat? You can do that. Interested in firing up career mode while you lay in bed? Done. FIFA 18 on the Switch really allows you the convenience of being able to play when and where you want. It’s quite a comforting feature indeed.

Expect to see your copy of FIFA 18 running at 1080p docked and 720p in handheld mode while running at 60 FPS. The game looks quite nice here in handheld mode. Just don’t go pretending it will look like the XBox One version.

However, as inspiring as that feature is, the game has a fair amount of drawbacks to it. The most notable is the lack of EA’s Frostbite engine. This game engine has been used on various EA titles in the past including the Battlefield series, Need for Speed series and was introduced last year to soccer fans in FIFA 17. What it brought to the table wasn’t so much a radical overhaul of FIFA titles of the past, but an improvement on the little things and details. With Frostbite, lighting is significantly better, player models look more crisp, atmospheres in the game feel more real and the collision detection seems much more nuanced. Frostbite was the polish and shine that really brought out a lot of the quality in the game.

As someone who played and enjoyed the Xbox One version of FIFA 18 (which includes the Frostbite engine), the lack of it for the Switch means you won’t be playing as Alex Hunter in FIFA’s Story Mode called “The Journey.” Producer Andrei Lazarescu mentioned at E3 that “The Journey is powered by Frostbite. When we looked at the platform and its unique features, we made the choice of custom-building the game.”

It’s the “custom-building the game” part of the Switch version I found most problematic during my time with it. There’s no transfer negotiation scenes you can expect to see on the other consoles, the presentation and environments feel dim and reduced and the team sheets enhancements of the game on the PS4 and Xbox One have been removed for a simplified version. There is no real player motion, no difference in team styles and the collision detection can be downright laughable at times. It’s a 2017 version of a sports game that feels like it belongs on an Xbox 360 and not on a next-gen console. It looks a little different. It feels a little different too. Chances are that if you’ve played the game on other consoles, this is going to take some time getting used to.

FIFA 18 boasts an impressive 700+ playable teams and over 30 leagues. Spoiled for choice, you are. The biggest notable addition to FIFA’s ever-growing roster of international leagues is 3. Liga – the German Third Division.

I haven’t even mentioned the online features yet, have I? Well, prepare to be a little sad. You can’t play online with friends or compete with soccer fans around the globe. The ability and infrastructure just isn’t there with Nintendo’s online services. You can enjoy local multiplayer in the same room. But if you are someone who enjoys your sports games online, this could potentially be a deal breaker for you.

If you don’t find the lack of online features to be a deal breaker, it’s not completely bad news then. FIFA 18 on the Switch still gives you a very enjoyable Career mode, a streamlined Ultimate Team, and the same bells and whistles you’ve come to expect from EA’s soccer brand. It all just comes at a price.

Though it feels too similar to FIFA 17, career mode on FIFA 18 for the Switch is still where you’ll find a fair amount of depth. Sign players, hire scouts, build a youth development system. This is where you build your soccer dynasty.

The Good:

Fun, portable soccer experience
New German Third Division
FIFA’s return to Nintendo

The Bad:

Lack of Frostbite engine
Lack of online features
Looks and feels dated

Final Thoughts:

Having put dozens of hours into this game, I’m not sure I can justify the $59.99 tag attached to it. Especially considering the PS4 and XBox One version are out there for you to enjoy at the same price. For FIFA 18 on the Switch, it ultimately boils down to how important the handheld aspect of the system is for you. If you intend to keep your Switch docked, this version of FIFA 18 is probably not going to win you over. If you, like me, intend on being able to enjoy intense soccer matches while on the move, there’s still a ton to like about this game.

Soup Verdict:

An old favorite that needed another dash or two of salt.