Out-foxed by PES?
PES this year seemed to have one of the most incremental updates imaginable. Does FIFA 18 also abandon innovation for a year chilling on the beach?
FIFA continues to really push ‘The Journey’, which this year is subtitled ‘Hunter Returns’, and continues off from where young Alex left off in last year’s game. Fresh from winning the FA Cup, the youngster is then theoretically lured off to a major European club by his greasy agent, before it all falls through at the last minute, with Hunter having to rebuild his career (and his relationship with his dad) in the MLS. It’s an interesting approach (no doubt also done to bring in more American fans), but the twists and turns are mostly unexpected.
The story quality is higher, but EA don’t stop there, bringing in moral/ story choices like a Telltale adventure, and the objectives are now more sensibly spaced across a chapter, and encourage you to be a team player, rather than focussing on individual skill. It’s a much improved mode that I played through to completion (a couple of dozen matches and a few hours of cut-scenes) before even really getting going on the rest of the game.
Let’s talk about pace. It’s something that comes up time and time again in FIFA reviews, and has done for years. Generally this has just since the game lurch back and forth between too fast and arcade-like and too slow and tactical. This year, EA have finally found a better (if not quite perfect) balance, and as a result, just about nailed the gameplay. Players, with the enhanced animations are now capable of reacting less like a dead donkey, and more like a trained athlete. And so lunging for the ball, quick turns or bursts of speed are far more feasible and likely, which means that there’s no need for excessive speed when operating at full pace.
Having said that though, FIFA, like PES, has decided to give certain players ‘real’ attributes, and the same problem exists. It’s not clear who has this turned on, and who doesn’t. And the reality is, these players become superstars, as most of them will outpace even the best defenders, or run circles around midfielders. Other minor improvements have major impacts on the game. It’s now easier to loft balls and apply curve to them, which adds some more verticality to the game, and increases the options available to skilled players.
Defence, however, doesn’t quite work as well. Last year, the AI was so much improved it was almost better to let the computer take care of things. EA has scaled things back quite a way, but unfortunately hasn’t actually improved upon the tackling mechanics, which are more timing-based than PES, and feel clunky in comparison. The AI is also a little unreliable at times, with goalkeepers often appearing incapable, and some wide gaps between the difficulty levels, particularly at the bottom end. EA have realised these issues already though, and a patch is apparently on the way.
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