7 big things we’ve learned from playing FIFA 18 for the first time

Cristiano Ronaldo FIFA 18

EA’s digital heavyweight is making its return to consoles and PC in September – and Ben Wilson has spent a day playing it. Here’s all the key scouting intel 

FIFA 18 has just been announced for every format under the sun, and it’s out on September 29 – but FourFourTwo are fortunate enough to have already played it. We got to go hands-on at a secret Stamford Bridge showcase, ahead of its reveal at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles. 

Is it good? Well… yes. Is it better than PES? That’s hard to say without playing the latter, but it’s definitely learned some lessons from Konami’s success – such as the need to offer more team, and player, individuality. Here’s what we took away from our playtest of the game; including the return of a FIFA 17 favourite, exactly as predicted by us just a few weeks ago

1. The Journey is back – and so is Alex Hunter

Just as we’d hoped, story mode The Journey is back for a second season, with the very likeable Adetomiwa Edun stepping back into the boots of Alex Hunter. Only this time, you get to choose the brand of those boots, as Hunter is fully customisable.

You can unlock and select all manner of clobber for him to wear in cut-scenes, and pick from an array of hairstyles – including Paul Pogba’s infamous leopard-print mohawk

You can unlock and select all manner of clobber for him to wear in cut-scenes, and pick from an array of hairstyles – including Paul Pogba’s infamous leopard-print mohawk, or having ‘HUNTER’ shaved into the back of his head. Those cut-scenes will be more impactful that last year’s, too, with EA promising that the mode will now take you across “the world of football”. A sneak peek shows Hunter looking out over Los Angeles, while target artwork shown to FourFourTwo also teases Brazilian favelas. Street football back in FIFA? Yes please.

2. PS4 is getting Ultimate Team legends, at last

We didn’t get to sample Ultimate Team during our first play of FIFA 18, with EA insisting there are plenty more details to come on its most popular mode at a later date. But the publisher did drop a spot of bad news for the green teamers among you: Ultimate Team legends are no longer exclusive to Xbox.

That means the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp are finally headed to PS4 and PC, with one additional name also confirmed: three-time world player of the year (original) Ronaldo. (Meaning that, yes, you’ll be able to feature a forward line comprising The Two Ronnies.)

Dennis Bergkamp FIFA 17

Bergkamp's FIFA 17 card... soon to come on PS4 for FIFA 18

EA also says it’s bringing an even more exciting mix of Squad Building Challenges to FUT. Expect more details on the mode ahead Germany’s Gamescom trade show in August.

3. Loads of little things have been fixed – including penalties

Yes! Spot-kicks are no longer broken. FIFA 18 retains a similar penalties model to the one from last year, where you amend your run up beforehand, then direct your shot on the approach – but it’s much more forgiving. So you no longer spank the ball towards the corner flag as punishment for pressing too far right or left.

Stuttering animations in open play have been eliminated, too, with everything looking – and feeling! – less juddery. Players adjust to the ball in real time, making for a much smoother gameplay experience, particularly when changing body shape to attack long balls or crosses.

Cristiano Ronaldo FIFA 18

On the subject of which, crosses are less floaty, and more curved, making them harder to defend. Through balls are deadlier, too. It means a ton more chances, and therefore goals – but EA promises that defensive play has been upgraded too.

4. AI teams finally mix things up…

One area PES has outplayed FIFA of late is in the realm of AI tactics. While Pro Evo’s teams adopt varied, lifelike strategies against you, EA has often struggled to differentiate Barnet from Barcelona. In theory that’s finally been changed, as every side in the game is attributed with specific offensive and defensive philosophies.

Barça now feel like a markedly different prospect to Chelsea’s overlapping wing-backs and physical centre-forward play

Barça now feel like a markedly different prospect to Chelsea’s overlapping wing-backs and physical centre-forward play. And, as has been the case under Jose Mourinho, Manchester United take an eternity to build attacks, but are difficult to break down.

We won’t get carried away about this element until we’ve had a chance to try, say, a Steel City derby or Airtricity League six-pointer, but it’s certainly one of FIFA 18’s most promising design decisions.  

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