As legend has it, EA Sports’ “it’s in the game” slogan stems from a studio mantra: if something is in the game – be that game football, basketball or otherwise – then it’ll be in the video game, too. It’s a commitment to authenticity that has defined the Fifa series in particular throughout its long history, from its days as an underdog in the sports games genre to its seemingly unstoppable modern day dominance. Players, clubs, stadiums, kits, whatever else – if it’s in football, it’s in Fifa.
And so while it’ll take a seasoned football game veteran to spot the subtler changes at first glance, that dedication to complete sports authenticity continues with Fifa 18. Passes feel weightier and the ball feels more dynamic on the pitch; player movements are improved as animation technology becomes more advanced; the AI is better as well, giving a more realistic opponent to play against. That is, if you’re not hammering it online with random strangers or your friends. Even the minor league team kits get overhauled to accurately represent their real life counterpart. It’s a meticulous operation that, year on year, continues the illusion that you are immersed in a global sporting phenomenon.
Fifa 18 comes out in a couple of weeks time. As with last year, there’s now a free demo up on the PlayStation and Xbox stores to get a glimpse of what’s coming from the full release. A lot of its updates are cosmetic: it looks crisper and sounds better, with a new up-to-date soundtrack and improved commentary. It’s still absolutely packed full of content from all walks of footballing life, from international squads, to the Champions League, all the way down to juniors. And it comes with a slew of back-of-the-box soundbite updates that promise a better playing experience: dribbling is overhauled and iconic footballing legends like Pele, Maradona and Ronaldinho have made it into Fifa Ultimate Team, the addictive card game mode that took the football community by storm.
The demo includes a bunch of authentic teams to play as – including Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich – and a handful of different stadiums to play in. Plus it gives an enticing flavour of what’s to come in the next chapter of The Journey, the story mode that debuted last year with surprise success. Nobody expected that a story mode in a football game would be any cop, but somehow it was decent – despite being cheesier than a party-sized fondue. There are minor spoilers here as a result.
Protagonist Alex Hunter returns and, straight off the back of his success in last year’s journey, he’s on a high. At the beginning of Fifa 18’s demo he gets some good news: he’s being considered by Real Madrid in the latest transfer window and it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, even if his grumbly ex-footballer grandfather Jim advises caution. It’s not clear whether your decisions from Fifa 17 will play much of a part at the beginning of this next chapter, but the choices you’ll have throughout the new story are supposedly much more substantial in consequence. And so you play Alex out of his current squad in his final match; the fans boo tribally as you try complete a set number of challenges, such as scoring an equaliser. It’s emotionless, really, but this kind of narrative gives individual games a fun backstory.
Afterwards it gets extra dramatic as Alex’s manager bursts into his hotel room and desperately tells him they’ve been duped – there are no deals on the table and he’s got to go save his career before it’s too late. Then it’s curtains and you’re watching a teaser trailer for what’s to come in the full game. It's a short and snappy slice that is identical in concept to everything you played in the original Journey, but adds an extra layer of hammy melodrama that makes the soapy storytelling less realistic but all the more entertaining.
And so while there may be new mountains of new kits, new players, stadiums, clubs and player animations to ensure the “it's in the game” slogan is still driving the heart of the footballing experience, the Journey answers the most important question of them all: is it fun to play? Based on current findings, oh yes.
Played the demo last night. I've not played it much so I can't really give it a proper review as such. I like the feature they stole from PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) where there's an arrow under the player to show where the ball will go when you pass it as I could swear last season the ball used to end nowhere near where I passed it.
The crowd look more realistic as now the stadium is filled with fans wearing team colours. It Looked spectacular in the FIFA 17 but wasn't realistic. Quick subs is a nice feature where you can predetermine who you want to sub in and out of the game before it starts and when there's a break in play press a button and they come on. As for game play. it still feels the same on initial play but will have to give it a few more goes before I can make an accurate judgement. The Journey story mode looks really interesting. Looking forward to playing it before making Everton a great team again.
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