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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Vancouver
Release Date: Sept. 29, 2017

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PS4 Review - 'FIFA 18'

by Michael Keener on Oct. 30, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

FIFA 18 blurs the line between the virtual and real worlds, bringing to life the heroes, teams, and atmospheres of the world's game.

Buy FIFA 18

The first time you load up FIFA 18, you're met with one of the most gorgeous intro scenes and game sequences I've witnessed in sports games. Only a few Madden games in the last decade have built up heart-pounding moments like the rivalry between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. The match is tied, and cover star Cristiano Ronaldo is lining up the shot for a free kick. At this point, the player takes control of Ronaldo, and my kick takes flight over the goal — and into the crowd.

The visuals could be mistaken for a real sports event, and you'll feel like you have complete control of the ball and players. The passes between players is crisp and accurate almost all the time, which favors the offense. This can be a nightmare for defense, as passing in crowds of defenders can seemingly go unchallenged. You have a better chance at losing the ball while dribbling than you do passing through defenders.

Shooting is almost just as favored to the offense. Goalkeepers tend to be too slow to stop the shots, or the shots are too quick; either way, there's a mismatch. The intelligence of players to space the field and fill their roles is great. As long as you can keep the dribble away from defenders, you have an advantage.

This isn't a one-way street though, and it may cause frustration when you're playing on defense. The AI is smart and very textbook, but unless you can gradually isolate the ball and steal it away, you'll likely find yourself at the mercy of their shots and a few lucky slides. Sometimes, you can predict where they will pass and try to cut it off, but the awareness of offensive AI players far surpasses the defense.

I looked into the difficulty of FIFA 18, and some of the imbalance that I'm seeing between the offense and the defense, and it seems to be a common opinion among the community. At least the imbalance is both ways and doesn't favor the AI or the player. I expect some of these invisible sliders to be adjusted through future patches, just as EA's Madden 18 has been on top of the changes needed in that title.

Other than this, players can expect to find a complete overhaul in the dribbling, real player motion technology, and substitution methods. The passing feels more secure than dribbling, at least until you've nailed the dribbling moves. The control you have when shifting directions and cutting is incredibly responsive, but cutting back the wrong way or cutting too early is a sure way to get the ball stolen.

The newest trend in EA titles is the cinematic interactive movies. The FIFA games now feature "The Journey," and this year's saga is titled "The Journey: Hunter Returns," which tells the story of Alex Hunter's second year in the league. This year, he takes his talent to even better clubs, and you travel the world and meet some superstar celebrities like Rio Ferdinand, Antoine Griezmann, Thierry Henry, Ronaldo, and NBA star James Harden. I recently played through the Madden series' Longshot interactive story, and although I liked it, this style of story-telling is better.

You can customize Alex's clothes, hairstyle and tattoos to create a better connection to him. It's subtle, but that little amount goes a long way. The mode is broken up into chapters, each with short-term goals such as getting a certain match rating, taking so many shots in the pre-season tour, and winning the pre-season tournament. This makes the long-term plot points feel less like checkpoints and more like substantial moments in Alex's life that you can enjoy.

Career mode offers some more features for players to enjoy. You can take control of a player, fully customize everything about his appearance and play style, and work your way up from the bottom of the league while training and striving for success. Another option is to take control of a manager and handle all things involved with the club, such as contract negotiations, player signings, performance rewards, squad roles, and more. Regardless of which side you choose, you'll participate in awesome negotiating conversations at the head offices and interact with transfer negotiations. If you're into these modes and want to get the most out of them both, you can play a career as a player, and at the end, you can transfer him into a manager position.

For some, one of the most important aspects of FIFA 18 is the Ultimate Team mode. I'm familiar with the Ultimate Team mode in EA's other sports offerings, but I'm still learning this mode in FIFA 18, and I like everything I see. In Ultimate Team mode, you essentially try to buy and earn new players to join your squad, and you're constantly trying to assemble a Hall of Fame-caliber lineup. There are daily objectives to complete and weekly rewards in Squad Battles.

There's also a mode where you take on squads built by other people in the community, and the better you do, the better the rewards will be in FIFA Coins. You can compete in four matches a day, and at the end of the week, you hope to climb the ranks, which are tiered levels and range from bronze through gold, to Elite and numbered ranks. You can compete to be number 1 in the world, which has the best rewards possible. This is the most interesting and encouraging form of ranking that I've seen in a video game, so it's understandable that it generates a tremendously competitive scene.

This is the FIFA franchise's second time working with the Frostbite engine, which was used for all of EA's major franchises, such as Battlefield, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Need for Speed, and Star Wars Battlefront. This is no longer an experiment of trial and error, but instead a refinement of last year's release, while changing up or identifying some available opportunities. Crowd behavior has been improved upon, with 3-D rendering, individual crowd reactions, and dynamic chant support.

It's insane to see the crowd piling up as close to the stadium as possible as you make the game-winning drive up the field. It feels as though any second, they will all break down the barrier or storm the field in excitement. This is only amplified by the stadium improvements . There are now authentic sun positions, cinematic atmosphere grading, debris, and diverse commentary. The details of graphics, such as jerseys and animations, can only do so much without the crowd and stadium to build the atmosphere.

FIFA 18 is the most gorgeous-looking soccer title to date. This is the second time the Frostbite engine has been used for the FIFA games, so the change may not seem as dramatic, but the development team has been able to achieve what it wanted with the engine. The title features tight and responsive gameplay as well as better visuals. Additionally, the Ultimate Team mode is by far one of the most interesting and encouraging ranking systems I've seen in video games. For those looking to dive head-first into a soccer game, FIFA 18 is your best choice.

Score: 8.5/10

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