The behavior of EA, in the months prior to the launch of FIFA 18, was at least ‘suspect’. Unlike the usual bombastic proclamations, dedicated to features that pad in hand would have proved anything but revolutionary, this year EA Canada was full of information about the new features of the game. The feeling, then, that the meat to fire was more, compared to the latest releases, it began very early and, after the release of the game, has turned into certainty: Fifa 18 is simply one of the most revolutionary chapters of the football saga of EA.
As usual, my analysis will focus on the test of the field: the various modes, although they too implemented, are still a side to the ‘game’ itself. To be clear: if the ‘match’ of Fifa 18 was done badly, it would not matter to have the best FUT you’ve ever seen or an engaging and cinematic ‘Journey’.
Appetizer: the Journey, the FUT, the Career and the Online Seasons
Let’s start with a quick analysis of the most updated modes in FIFA 18. Indeed, EA Canada this year has been doing well away from the green rectangle, going to refine some types of games that are scoring the last FIFA. So returns ‘The Journey’, the narrative-film mode in which we will follow (impersonating in most cases, but no spoilers) the vicissitudes of Alex Hunter, a young British promise ready to establish itself in the firmament of world football. After the adventures of his first professional season seen in Fifa 17 Hunter faces his second year of career. The main changes concern the possibility of going out of England (to settle in some of the most prestigious clubs in the world: PSG, Bayern, Atletico Madrid or … Los Angeles Galaxy, still nothing Italy, therefore, predictable, given the lack of rights for the Serie A) and customizations (from the look, to the strong foot) to be reserved for Alex.
Overall, the steps forward from the directorial point of view are decisively noted the story of Hunter is more engaging and better narrated, even if some annoying incongruences remain (such as the missing dubbing of real players who, therefore, will not speak in Italian) -, but forget the possibility of making choices that really move the balance. The ‘tracks’ to follow are there and are quite strict. Also in the field, unfortunately, there is no great freedom: ‘Il Viaggio’ gives the best of itself when faced by setting Alex as a striker. The other positions, in fact, return some difficulties too much in reaching the objectives of the race and in being correctly deployed by the virtual coach.
On balance, therefore, there is a step forward, however, not yet ensuring sufficient freedom, it is not a real revolution. ‘Il Viaggio’ can be considered as a pleasant alternative to the actual offer of the game. Nothing more.
Ultimate Team is the type of game that is most exciting Fifa users in recent years. The ability to create their own team, combined with the dynamics of the collection of figurines (of players, kits, contracts and various skills), has proved to be a real gold mine for EA. Not surprisingly, therefore, the effort of the software house to further deepen this mode. No real distortion, but some useful filings, among which stands out the offline version of the FUT Champions called Squad Battles (in which we will be called to beat 4 teams of real users, but maneuvered by the CPU, in exchange for rich prizes). The greater complexity of the Pink Creation Challenges is also interesting (in which the requirements to be met have become more stringent).
The career mode somehow obscured by the power of the FUT returns strongly above all a marked improvement in the transfer market negotiations. On the one hand there is a greater realism of AI, which acts by really enhancing the teams it manages, on the other there is a new way of conducting our negotiations (more articulated and varied, with lots of videos of the coaches and Presidents involved). In short, some other steps forward, but that does not make Fifa a true managerial.
Seasons online, finally, returns in the traditional guise, without any ‘jolt’ if not in the ability to play the cups continuously. As anticipated, the pivot of the evaluation of Fifa 18 can only be based on a careful analysis of the game, the game itself, the simulation. It’s always like that, but this year even more, given the real revolution made by EA Canada.
Let’s say it right away: Fifa 18 directs the saga to the right direction, but it is far from perfect and, certainly, is one of the most complex chapters of the series (both for the amount of elements to learn, and for the profound differences compared to the past).
There are things that work very well, in Fifa 18. Others that are limping a little, others that are still more troubling. Nothing perhaps the time (practice more patches) can not heal and that, however, does not affect the feeling of having in his hands one of the most promising Fifa in recent years. But let’s go in order.
The Frostbite Engine after the debut last season takes full possession of the Fifa series. And it does so by recording with great evidence in a little ‘all game modes, in the field and not. In ‘Il Viaggio’, in fact, it becomes the protagonist of the raising of evident quality of the narrative cut-scenes, while in the Career it has been well implemented to realize the films of the transfer market negotiations. Obviously, however, his most important work is carried out on the field and, in most cases, he really disengages himself.
The Fifa 18 athletes have finally reached a realistic heaviness long pursued in the series. It must be said that, in recent years, EA Canada has repeatedly tried to put more emphasis on the size of the players, but the results have always been interlocutors. Too often, in fact, the most technical and fast players have been in an exaggerated way while the power of the first peaks and the central defenders has rarely shifted the balance. This year the music is different.
First of all, it is good to clarify it, the first essential element of Fifa 18, from the point of view of physics, is the excellent differentiation of athletes in the field. Over the years the EA saga has given lessons to everyone in this area, but this year they touch really high peaks. And this is largely due to the Frostbite. Once again Fifa is able to customize the qualities of the different players who, with the same ‘overall’, will still be very different in their approach to almost all actions in the field.
If all this works so well it is thanks to the skilful use of the Frostbite Engine of this edition of Fifa.
Virtually all types of body have their own raison d’etre and with a little practice they can give excellent results during matches. There is not a single type of player that can always make the difference: if you remove the 4/5 semi-gods (starting from Ronaldo or Messi) able to be effective almost in any position of the field and grappling with any one action, for all the others it will be necessary to focus strongly on what they do best, to obtain excellent results. It goes without saying that trying not in the strings of very strong players will often lead to better results than would happen if the attempt was conducted using more modest players, but, to aim for the top.
The contrasts shoulder to shoulder, the protection of the ball, the ‘elbowing’ to contend for the high balls: everything is finished and extremely controllable. Virtually every component of the physical game can make the difference and must be taken into account while playing.
But even the fastest race and game have enjoyed a clear restyling from the physical point of view: the ‘weight’ acquired by the players, as well as affecting the duels of strength, has evidence with evidence never even noted on the race, on ‘ acceleration and above all on braking and changes of direction.
In short, the development of the Frostbyte applied to Fifa, has led to a great deepening of the physics of the players, making it necessary to master with skill all the possibilities of movement, since none is now without importance. Some ‘curious’ collisions still occur and some bizarre impact, but, numerically, the situation is much better than in recent years.
It is the attack phase that most benefits from the ‘physical revolution’ of Fifa 18. The choice of EA Canada was, in fact, to make the new chapter of the game one of the most ‘offensive’ ever. Mastering the plethora of possibility of attack will not be easy, but once done, the opposing defenses can be torn to pieces.
As mentioned above, all the qualities and possibilities of the players in possession of the ball, this year really count: here then the need to explore them completely, without always being able to resort to only a few ‘tricks’ valid in all circumstances. Of course, there are always more effective and often decisive actions, but never as now the real secret lies in mastering the variety that EA has placed at the feet of the attackers. Only in this way, in fact, there will be some possibilities at the highest levels. This alone, in itself, is an excellent result.
Another important goal achieved by EA (perhaps the most important) is to finally have given the player in possession of the ball the ability to manage the pace of the game. From this point of view, the last PES had clearly the best on Fifa: the titles of Konami were able to return better ‘football feelings’ precisely because of the possibility, given the attacker, to hold the ball calmly, guiding the play times as desired. Exactly like it happens in real football.
Fifa always much faster and faster has always lacked respect to this fundamental simulation, but, with this chapter 2018, begins to correct itself from this point of view.
Of course, we are only at the beginning: in Fifa 18 who attacks no longer has the worry of a ‘hot ball’ between the feet and can really decide how to operate accelerating or slowing down the action, through prolonged possession, a lunge or a more pronounced phrasing -; the game, however, still travels at too high a speed and, above all, this possibility of easier ball control (as we shall see) has been obtained by excessively weakening the defensive phase.
Some improvements but we can not yet be satisfied until the end was also reserved for the AI teams in attack: the movements of the companions of those who bring the ball have certainly improved and more aware, but this only happens in determining circumstances (to example the insertions on the bands), while on other occasions the quality level is still revisable (still have teammates who ask for 1-2 and then take deep, regardless of offside, is unacceptable).
Thanks to this mix of depth and variety, Fifa 18 is able to offer an offensive experience of the highest level. Today, managing the ball is gratifying and interesting: the possibilities that there are offers are varied and have turned towards realism. Every action we are going to build must be well planned to be effective: this means that we must take into account the team we are maneuvering, the player in possession of the ball, the scheme adopted and of course the opponent (his team, his form ).
Important finally even the fatigue factor: managing a player at 1 ‘or 90’ is very different, although you can still improve as to ‘personalization’ of fatigue, given that today seems a bit ‘too much to witness a’ general collapse ‘(which is independent of how much the individual players have actually spent during the game) near the triple whistle.
If Fifa 18 has reached unexplored heights as far as the offensive phases are concerned, the downside is linked to the defense. In the new chapter of the EA title, in fact, stopping the opponent’s actions is really a too heavy problem.
On the one hand this is the result of all the excellent work done on enriching and giving meaning to each component of the offensive phases: as in real football, in short, the attacker always has the opportunity to mock the defender in 1 vs. 1 and only a large organization of the backlog can stem the opposing maneuver.
There is however a ‘dark side’ of the choices made by EA regarding the defense: if in Fifa 17 the ‘automatic’ interventions of the AI were invasive, assisting the user too generously, in Fifa 18 it was overwhelmingly passed at the opposite end. The problem is not the extreme reduction of AI automatic actions, but the almost inexistent reactivity and awareness of the players in the defensive phase. The real problem is that the AI of Fifa 18 has completely lost the fundamental of the marking.
back line will be too passive and inattentive. This problem is evident when faced with a defended attack: just a movement without a ball from the attackers, because the defenders lose them. It is as if the AI only dealt with checking the area of the field of competence, paying attention to the ball at the same time. This is not right. The efforts that are experienced in the final thirty meters of the field are repeated, as soon as they are implemented, further away from the door: there is no chorality in the defensive phase or in any case it is not even remotely comparable to that which characterizes the attack maneuver. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the main reasons why the ball management in FIFA 18 is so pleasant and ‘free’, but it is too high a price to pay.
EA has absolutely embarked on the right path, but has exaggerated with some ‘tools’ used.
To increase the struggles of the defenders there is also an athletic component that sees the tips always favorite in the progression and in the reactivity (also ball to the foot) with respect to the defenders. In the open field there is no story: the tips will jump very fast and it will be very difficult to even unbalance them if you can create a contact. Even in the strait can be pains: the various modes of dribbling and fake, this year, all work properly and a small movement will suffice to provoke a wrong reaction of the defender which, then, will take centuries to regain a correct positioning, making it escape the opposing tip.
It is about learning to defend again, resetting everything that has been learned in recent years. On balance, it seems that the best attitude can be to use a median to shield their defense, trying to intercept the opponents passages, having the readiness if it were exceeded to go to the control of a defender, to carry out a tackle on who received the sphere.
The problem is that the overly cheerful markings, as we said, ‘pair up’ with the complete lack of AI assistance even in the ‘filter’ phases. All this as we shall see combined with the effectiveness of the passages, makes that breaking the maneuver of a skillful player becomes at times virtually impossible. What is needed is a shrewd mix of coverings and aggressiveness, in the constant search for a balance and a defensive density that are very difficult to obtain. You have to close the lines of passage, force the inattentive defenders of the AI to reduce distances from opponents, try to unbalance the opponent and then enter the tackle only when you are at the proper distance to intervene (in this sense something makes the new possibility to hold down the contrast key, to slow down the execution of a few seconds).
Never like this year kick-off has such a strong importance: sometimes the start-up phase is so crucial that it seems to play Madden, not Fifa! Surely the work that EA will have to do in the near future will be focused on defense, which will be recorded and made more reactive.
The condition of goalkeepers does not help again the defense. The extreme defenders alternate large parades with extremely worrying empty passages. If in one against one even disengage even more effectively than necessary and if in the parades on the shots from the medium-long distance well listed, anything else should be done when they are struggling with conclusions on the first pole, the high cross and the outputs.
The first post is definitely a chasm where the goalkeepers follow pitilessly to be punched, while on the cross even those comfortable to control -, in Fifa 18, exploded a tendency to reject fist really worrying (which, combined with the lack of responsiveness of the defense , will ensure that the attacks have ‘second chances’ in series). Even the low outputs (those that are realized by pressing Y / Triangle) are problematic: goalkeepers are very slow and take too long to throw themselves on the ball. In this way they are very often anticipated. In the year in which the filtering balls easily surprised the defenses, having the most reactive ‘numbers 1’ would have been very important.
Much better, however, go the parades without taking: finally the number of ‘repulsed on the feet’ of the attacker has dropped and the goalkeepers seriously try to ‘throw the ball to the side’, to avoid comfortable tap-in. On the other hand, a new tendency for the goalkeeper, which leads the extreme defender to be ‘punctured’ by shots directed at the body, is produced by making ‘dirty’ detours that will still roll the ball towards the goal line.
Overall to defend the goalkeepers of FIFA 18 it must also report the excessive accuracy of the shots, which with too much ease will be able to be powerful and very angolatissimi.
Still a sore point. The referees strike in negative for their lack of uniformity both according to who referee, and within the same race which leads the player to never know with certainty how to interpret the race. The delay in the reporting of the offside is also useless and annoying, the management of the advantage rule is problematic.
Throws and passes
The physics of the ball has some more problems than that of the bodies. The distance shots are always better achieved: the variables have grown, the effectiveness and the spectacularity are guaranteed. By impacting the ball with the correct body posture and the right timing, we will be able to hurl real outbursts towards the opposing goal.
The ’round’ conclusions also work and the ground shot has been well adjusted (excellent innovation by Fifa 17). There is still some way to go, however, for the conclusions on the fly: not even with the new course of the Frostbyte, in fact, the Fifa players find this fundamental easy. Too many times a conclusion on the fly will see the ball skyrocketed essentially due to the bad posture of the player.
The head shots have received a decisive refresh. The key to everything in addition to the characteristics of the players involved in the break seem to be timing and direction of touch. It must be said that you can get great satisfaction both in concluding in the door, and in doing from ‘tower’. Directly connected with this new course of head shots is the new mode of cross, much more intuitive and rewarding, which will reward the good insertions of our teammates.
The most significant step backwards is the long balls. Once again there is no real possibility to take advantage of long casts (which are not the high filtrates, but are made to cover small distances) to overcome the opposing defense by tens of meters. In addition and this is the step backwards the effect of the ball is that of ‘balloon’ (too slow and ‘soft’ in its trajectories) that we saw in the first chapters of the new Fifa course and that, today, makes again peeping out. This is not an exaggeration like a decade ago, but there is something wrong.
Big improvements as anticipated relate to ground passages instead. It is not so much about the infamous ‘ping-pong passing’ typical of less experienced players (which also, at times, can be used not so much for its particular effectiveness, as for the slow reflexes of the defenders), as for the possibility of using normal and above all filtering passages without excessively suffering the pressure of the adversary and making use of the reduced reactivity of the defensive lines.
There are times when a well-timed attack, which makes passages with the players in the right balance and exploits the ballless movements of the AI, will get the better of each defense. At the height of a maneuver of bypassing and insertion, there is the possibility of carrying out filtering passages that, thanks to the combo erroneous markings slowness in the exits of goalkeepers will often result deadly.
Personally, I have always loved the tactical preparation of the matches, experimenting on the modules and the orders given to the individual players, so as to obtain what was desired on the field. Fifa 17, in this sense, had been able to give great satisfaction while I have some doubts about Fifa 18.
First of all, I must admit that I am still very cautious in my experiments: the defensive phase is too complicated to make possible particularly imaginative tactical solutions even now. Also because, as we will see, this Fifa 18 seems to suffer from a more marked script, in certain passages, than its predecessors, so that the tactical creativity risks to overly upset the work of the AI.
In any case, there are too many limits in tactical management this year. No news about the editable entries of the tactical team attitude, as well as no renewal in the orders to be given to individual players: this is already bad in itself. In addition there are large limits in the placement of players on the tactical field: the system forces to keep wide distances between the various players, so even if only to change the role of an individual, it will be necessary to change the arrangement of many other players. An example: using the 4-2-3-1, if you want to make the two central midfielders of the medians (going from CCD to CDD and CCS to CDS, to use the initials of the game), you will have to lower towards your area of rigor. Until last year, no problem, but this year it will not be possible if before we have not even backed the defensive plants, as if there were a ‘judicial conflict’ between the various athletes in the field. It is evident that all this reflects on the distances, attitude and occupation of the whole team’s field.
Fifa 18 is the most complete, rich and deep Fifa of all time. This by virtue of a great physical improvement which has reverberated above all in an extreme differentiation between the various players that has made it possible to make all the approaches to the construction of the action effective. There is so much to learn and remember in Fifa 18: at least three types of ‘basic’ dribbling all important -, fakes and movements related to the type of dribbling, new head shots, many tricks, new crosses, new shots …
This richness and variety, supported by a more governed playing rhythm by the team in possession of the ball, means that every game at Fifa 18 becomes a gratifying challenge to be unpredictable and able to master all the tools at our disposal.
The downside concerns the defensive phase, in which the elimination of AI support combined with the extreme physical and tactical penalization of backward players makes things very difficult. We need to re-learn to defend, but it will not be easy considering the scarce tools available.