With the amazing but flawed PES 2018 leading the way on the bigger consoles, FIFA 18 has found a strange home on the Nintendo Switch. Despite poor first impressions, a deeper dig reveals a very competent football game, that somehow overcomes the most basic of design decisions.
Let’s get the big elephants in the room out of the way. Firstly the omission of the ability to easily play online with your friends is a horrendous, almost game breaking decision. Whether it was EA or Nintendo’s decision it is a disaster and had it been publicised beforehand would have sunk the game without a trace. The fact that it wasn’t, means at least some people have bought the game and are willing to give it a try. Hopefully, this could be patched in but I doubt EA will have the time with all the early complaints about the defending on FIFA 18. If you want to see anger, search #fifa18 defending on twitter. People aren’t happy.
If you can forgive the inability to play your friends online, even typing that sounds wrong in 2017, the second issue will be how the game looks. There is nothing wrong with the graphics, they just seem poor and unpolished in the match engine. You can’t put your finger on any one thing, there just seems a lack of polish on the player models and the kits in particular. The color palette is too primary and there is a lack of shading. Strangely enough, if you go into one of my favorite modes, skill games, the players are almost the match of the full-fat FIFA 18 on PS4 and XBOX One. There’s something about the 22 players at once that seems to either highlight the lack of detail or expose any technical shenanigans that are happening with the game engine.
Your first few matches will generally be a disappointing affair. The happiness at the snappy passing is let down by the strange dribbling and crossing mechanics. Anyone used to flicking the right stick in FIFA will be annoyed that it doesn’t seem to have any real effect here or when it does it is after you want it to. Beyond this shooting is also strange. Sometimes a shot will fly over the bar and other times it will trickle along the ground towards the keeper. Despite all this sounding awful, it may be just my opinion, because after a few matches you get used to these things and start to make allowances for them if you are further away from the goal you put a bit more power behind the shot and suddenly the game kicks into life. The keepers start parrying and punching the ball away and you get caught in the excitement of the game.
The previous horrible dribbling suddenly makes more sense as you realize that momentum and body shape play a more important role than the graphical representation of them suggests. In effect, you don’t wait to see an animation change happen on the screen. If you know an action should happen from what controller input you have pressed then trust it will happen rather than waiting to react to an animation. In truth, all that is wrong with the Switch version of FIFA 18 is that we have been spoiled by the previous versions on PS4 and Xbox and indeed by PES 2018. Where every animation is a ‘tell’ to what is going to happen, it means you spend more time looking for these than actually playing the game. Stop looking for these so closely and play your own game and FIFA 18 on Switch begins to truly shine.
Soon you will start to appreciate how good the animation actually is, especially in handheld mode. For some reason, the game suffers from frame rate issues while docked so playing handheld is the best way to play. Just because you are expecting some of the bells and whistles the series has had recently shouldn’t detract from what you have here. Soon the momentum will allow you dribble past opposition players and whip the new style crosses in. The crosses are more visceral. Depending what way your payer is facing and how hard the button is pressed, the crosses now seem to whip in at a greater speed meaning it is harder to time the header as the forward. Set pieces are another matter. The direct free kicks are hard to get correct but the crossed free kicks and corners are overpowered. Just put the cursor in a dangerous area and your attackers seem to easily get a header in. The only question after that is whether or not it is on target.
The game has the full complement of skill games, Ultimate team, online seasons and offline Career mode. No Journey and no ability to play friends online. If you want to play a competent FIFA on the go that may play a better game that it’s big brother then FIFA switch is for you.
This is the best way I can describe the experience of playing FIFA on Switch. It isn’t the full-fat FIFA but it is enough of FIFA that you can still sink hours into it on the go, just don’t be expecting any of the headline and advertised features of the PS4/XBOX version. To some, this may be a good thing.
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