First, let’s just get something right out of the gate – the version of FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch is different than the one you’ll play on either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
The game doesn’t include The Journey story mode that so many people got into last year, and a number of its Ultimate Team options are limited to online sessions, which might frustrate those of you looking to build on something. Also, online is a bit limited, as your sessions can’t even involve friends unless they happened to bring a Nintendo Switch with them,
This might result in a number of you writing the game off before you give it a chance, but hold on there. We’ve seen sports games in the past that differentiate from one another when it comes to versions available, so that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to write it off. FIFA 18 is different, yes. But for a first-time sports franchise on the Nintendo Switch, it scores where it needs to – and leaves hope that, next time around, EA Sports will give it the push it needs to provide it equal treatment.
First off, let’s talk about the gameplay, because that’s the factor that really decides whether or not a sports game finds its, ahem, footing. And I can honestly say that FIFA 18 just feels right on the Switch, whether with mobile play or having fun at home. The game feels quite accurate when it comes to not only handling of the ball, but also speed. In fact, to compare with the Xbox One version, it’s a slight bit faster, and that momentum could work in favor of the players.
The game holds up a respectable amount of challenge in its modes, even though there aren’t many to choose from – just Kick Off and Career Mode, really. But there’s enough here to learn about soccer’s sensibilities and really get into the rhythm of each match, just as you would with other versions of the game. It handles very well – even if you’re using a dinky JoyCon during a local two-player session. (More on that in a second.)
The game also has a refreshing presentation to it. Sure, the crowds could look better (it’s a slight flashback to the days of FIFA 16 on the PlayStation 3), but the on-field action moves at a crisp pace, with great player animations and detailed fields that really draw you in to each contest. The up-close replays are pretty natural as well. It’s a good looking game, even without the use of the fancy Frostbite engine, like in the other versions of the game.
FIFA 18 also benefits from superb play-by-play commentary, which nails the rhythm of each game, as well as awesome crowd chants and occasional musical breaks. It’s just about right when it comes to nailing down the ambience of the game – but that’s not a surprise since EA Sports has been doing this for years.
Now, as for the extras, well…they’re a bit on the short side. There’s no Journey, as we mentioned, and Ultimate Team does have its limitations. I would’ve liked EA to open this up more so players could have full-on access to its features, just like in the other versions. Hopefully we’ll see a turnaround next year.
The modes that are included are sufficient, but hardly in-depth. Kick Off takes you right into a match, while the Career Mode emulates what it would be like taking your team through an entire season. Not hyper detailed, but worthwhile enough to give a shot. Plus, it’s great to take on a lengthy plane trip when you need to pass the time.
As for online play, this is probably FIFA 18’s biggest limitation. There is online play, and it works very well on the Nintendo Network, but there’s no option to play alongside friends unless they’re connected to your Switch with another system. It’s frustrating, because this sort of game thrives on friend invites. Again, something to fix for the next time around.
At least the local play is something. Two players can hop into a match with ease using JoyCons or other controllers, and it’s a blast getting into a good round. We played in a local gathering place recently and found it to be fun, condensed screen and all. Like NBA 2K18, it has its moments when you play locally. I guess you have to find your multiplayer fun wherever you can get it.
FIFA 18 for Nintendo Switch is different. That’s not to say it’s improved in many areas, just different. More modes could’ve been added. Functionality could’ve been boosted. And no doubt something has to be done about online play.
But the game isn’t bad at all. For a debut soccer title on the Switch, it’s perfect for those looking to take their footy action on-the-go, and it delivers with a good presentation and a number of options to choose from, particularly if you love local multiplayer. (Online isn’t bad either, albeit limited.)
Some may feel compelled to “wait till next year” for the definitive soccer game to arrive but for those that need something now, FIFA 18 will let you get your kicks, without feeling like you wasted your money. Just remember, it’s not the complete game it needs to be. Yet.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.