To deny that Nintendo has had a rocky road when it comes to FIFA games appearing on their various consoles would be like denying an apparent own goal. There have been ups and downs since the first FIFA appeared on a Nintendo console in 1993, and now the success of the Switch has finally gathered enough momentum to win the series back for one more kick-off. The question is, did they send their A or B team?
Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s great to see a FIFA game appearing on a Nintendo console once again. The last game to appear on any Nintendo console was FIFA 14 back in 2013 on the Wii U. Nintendo fans have been starved of some footy for a long time, but here it is – FIFA 18… or so the title would have you believe. You see, FIFA 18 isn’t quite ‘FIFA 18’. Think of it as more of a hybrid between FIFA 18 and FIFA 17, missing all the bells and whistles that have made the series such a popular football game in recent times.
FIFA 18 on the Switch is the poor man’s version of the game.
The Nintendo Switch version has a customised engine designed specifically for the console that takes advantage of its unique setup. This means that porting everything isn’t an easy task – especially when you consider the global success of the console and how important it was for EA to get their game onto the unit as soon as possible. The Frostbite engine is nowhere to be seen, but surprisingly they’ve done a fantastic job in terms of pushing the Switch specs. FIFA 18 runs at 1080P when docked, and 720 in portable mode and both at 60FPS. There are some drops when you see celebrations or replays, but it’s actually quite the achievement when you consider the time frame involved. Unfortunately, that’s as far as the great accolades go, as everything else is really watered down.
EA having trouble understanding the offside rule
FIFA 18 on the Switch is the poor man’s version of the game. The first thing fans will notice is that the story mode, The Journey, is completely missing. It’s a big chunk of what makes FIFA 18 such an interesting prospect on other formats. There are other missing bits or older features that never made it. Career mode is there, but it’s based on the setup you would have seen in FIFA 17, hence anything new in FIFA 18 is absent. Ultimate Team also makes a showing and is fun to play, but the newer additions (such as squad battles) are not there. What did make it across are the FIFA Points – their little loot system whereby you can use real world money to unlock a pack of cards. Yes, you can grind to earn it, but a glance at all the missing modes is a reminder that they did not forget about the one thing that matter to them – making money off you first and foremost. Screw the important content missing. It’s scaly because it gets worse.
Are you excited to play online against your friends? Well, drop that thought right away. You’re going to play randoms, okay? Yes, you will. You have no choice. You will eat what I feed you. ‘Mind-numbing’ is a nice term to use at just how daft it is that you can’t play your friends online, though I could think of many vulgar words. Either way, it is what it is and FIFA is back on a Nintendo console.
When you get down to playing matches it’s actually quite fun. Get stuck in career mode with your favourite club and help your team win any of the official regional cups. I found the controls to be precise and actually, for the first time, enjoyed playing a Switch game using a Joy-Con setup rather than the Pro Controller. It just felt more sluggish using a Pro Controller, and the game looks beautiful on that small screen. Goalkeepers, on the other hand, are unfortunately not quite as beautiful. They’re incredibly stupid and scoring a goal is not a difficult task. It’s great for football n00bs to feel like gods, but it messes with the difficulty balance. Increase the difficulty to make up for the pathetic goalkeepers and the rest of the team will tackle you to death and you’ll never even see that ‘perfectly balanced’ goalkeeper ever again.
The strength of the Nintendo Switch version lies in its portable formula, and here I feel it’s a real powerhouse.
On the pitch, the player likenesses resemble the more popular players really well. Making out Lionel Messi, from Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suárez is easy to do, while some of the less popular football players look okay but not great. That said, compare the finer graphical details to that of last generation consoles and it looks much better on the Switch, but not quite as good as the other current generation formats. It’s like they found a balance between the two. You’ll play in sun, rain and snow and the crowds in the stadium actually look pretty good, when you consider the lack of power on the Switch. I did bump into a few bizarre glitches, and I took images of it below. One incident had the ref blowing his whistle, thereafter the players turned into zombies and just stood there aimlessly looking at him without giving me control over anything and required a restart. The second one was quite weird as the spotlights in the stadium were replaced by a white font with the word ‘AI’ ironically being displayed. So yes, things aren’t running perfectly either. There is some good here too, and it can’t be experienced anywhere else as it can on a Nintendo Switch.
You’re not taking it on-the-go anywhere else
The strength of the Nintendo Switch version lies in its portable formula, and here I feel it’s a real powerhouse. The fact that you can play a game of FIFA 18 anywhere you want with a friend, due to having two controls on-hand at all times, is something that’ll never get old. It just works. It’s a feature, unique to the Switch, I can see fans of the series making good use of portable mode and I found that I enjoyed it the most. Unfortunately, I had no one nearby to test out a local one-on-one game where players have their consoles linking wirelessly, but it’s there if it’s something that appeals to you.
FIFA 18 should be seen as a stepping stone in the right direction. This year it’s not the game fans would want it to be, but if they include those missing bits next year and improve on an already impressive portable presentation it’ll be a football match made in heaven.