I remember the days when FIFA games came out on Nintendo consoles every single year. It was a foregone conclusion. I still to this day have a number of them on the SNES, N64, and GameCube and it was after this that FIFA lost its way on Nintendo consoles. While they did still come out on the Wii, Wii U (only one), and the handheld consoles, most of them were just poor efforts in all truth. It’s for that reason that there is a lot of hope for FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch. The hope that maybe after all these years, us Nintendo fans will finally get another good FIFA game. So, have we?
First things first, this is not the same version of FIFA 18 you will find on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This version has been created with a ‘custom built’ engine and as such it does play slightly different. To those of you that are slightly worried by just the mention of that, fret not, because it still feels like FIFA. Fans of the series will immediately be able to get to grips with the game as soon as they start playing, unlike the odd tailored versions on Wii and 3DS back in the day. The pace of the game is slightly faster and as one would expect the physics aren’t quite as good here, but in all honesty, it does not make much difference at all and when you’re playing you probably won’t even pay any attention anyway. The game also runs at a silky smooth 1080p 60fps when hooked up to a TV and 720p 60fps when playing in Handheld mode. So far, so good.
Usually, I wouldn’t have to say this but because of some of the stuff Nintendo-owning football fans are used to over the past 10 years, I have to. Everything you can do in other versions of FIFA 18, you can do here. That means finesse shots, lofted through-balls, skill moves, celebrations, are all present and you don’t have to waggle a thing to make it happen. You can, of course, split the two Joy-Con and play two-player wherever you are – a great feature that only the Switch can do. The problem with this control scheme with this game is that you’re missing out on, what I consider, rather big gameplay elements. Because using just a single Joy-Con by itself means you no longer have access to a right analogue stick, two shoulder buttons and a D-Pad which are used for things such as skills, tactics and finesse and chip shots/through balls, among other things. So because of this, it’s certainly not the best way to play by a long shot (no pun intended). It is good if you happen to have a spontaneous game with your mate when you take your Switch out with you but for a proper game of football, you’re going to want to have a Pro Controller or both sides of the Joy-Con each.
In terms of content, there are features that are missing from the other current-gen versions of the game, but more on that later, let’s focus on what is here. Firstly you have your standard Kick Off mode which is what you’ll want to go on when you have your mates round for a quick game. Tournament mode lets you pick the nation and then the trophy you want to try and win with a varying amount of games. For example, if you pick England as the nation you can try and win the F.A Cup which is only six games long (if you pick a team such as Manchester United) as a knockout tournament or you could choose to play a league such as the Premier League which is 38 games and is points based. Women’s football, which was first introduced a couple of years ago, makes its first Nintendo appearance. In this mode, you pick your team and participate in an international tournament with 11 other teams from around the world. Skill games allow you to perfect each aspect of the game so you do better in matches. You are able to take part in mini-games for each of the main categories, passing, dribbling, defending, and shooting with each having bronze, silver and gold challenges to complete.
Next up we have the Career mode in which you create your own player and set off to try and conquer the footballing pyramid. You can either play as just your player, with the computer controlling the other 10 players or play as the whole team. During matches every action you do affects your overall rating for that match, so give the ball away often and commit fouls and your score will go down. Start passing the ball well, making tackles and scoring goals will cause your score to go up, and on top of that, it will also increase your stats as you have tons and tons of challenges to complete for all different types of players. So scoring goals will cause finishing attributes to go up, scoring with your head will cause both finishing and heading to go up. Assisting will cause passing attributes to go up. Tackling opponents will cause defending attributes to go up. And so on. The one bad thing about this mode is that in other versions I’ve played down the years, I would always enjoy playing this mode and increasing the stats of my player because I could then go online with my friends and play online be-a-pro matches, which sadly, are not present here.
The mode that probably every FIFA fan wanted to be included thankfully has been and that is, of course, Ultimate Team. It is a mode that probably surpassed even EA’s expectations in terms of popularity. Many sports games have subsequently copied it but none come close to the addictiveness of FIFA’s. You start off with a bunch of 50+ rated players with a handful of 60-something thrown in for good measure, you then need to win matches offline or online to earn coins that can then be used to buy packs that contain better players or spent on a particular player you are after in the transfer market. You can participate in Seasons mode which allows you to play online against others and progress up the league until you reach the very top.
It can get quite strategic if you want it to, as it’s not just about getting the best players in each position, you also have to consider the chemistry in the team too. So let’s take the goalkeeper, for example, he has a direct connection to the two centre backs (if you’re playing with a standard back four). If your goalkeeper plays in the same league as any of the centre backs, there is an increase in chemistry. If they are the same nationality, then the chemistry is even better. And lastly, if they play for the same club in the real world, it will be greater still. You effectively want to create a team full of these kinds of links. So the best teams would have great players, yes, but also the links with each other that will mean the chemistry of your team is as close to 100 as possible.
You can use Microtransactions to buy coins so you can buy the best players much earlier, but throughout all the years of me playing Ultimate Team, I have never spent a single penny and I don’t intend to do so as it is not needed, but it is there if you need it.
Now it all sounds good for the most part, but there are a few mishaps along the way. Firstly, Story mode which was introduced in last year’s FIFA doesn’t make an appearance here due to the game not using the Frostbite Engine. I don’t see it as a massive issue as I didn’t care much for the Story mode last year, but I know many people thoroughly enjoyed it so it is a shame it’s not here.
The presentation on offer here isn’t as good as on the other consoles, which is to be expected. However, let’s say you play a match with two teams from the Premier League, on the other versions you get all the fancy badges on there to show that it a Premier League match, here you just get the generic EA Sports logos and scoreboards. This is obviously not a massive issue but I don’t really see why they could not include them in there.
The biggest omission made by EA by far is the lack of any way to play with friends online. I know some might say it could be Nintendo’s fault but we have seen in games such as Splatoon that you can invite friends and play with them online. So I don’t see any reason why this simple feature is left out.
All in all, though, FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch is a really good football game and probably the one we realistically hoped we’d get when it was first announced. Those coming from the other systems might be a little put off because all the bells and whistles aren’t there but most of the important things are, and that’s what matters most. If you are deciding which platform to get the game on, you have to ask yourself a very simple question, are you going to play it on the TV or would you rather play it anywhere in the house and on the go? If you’re going to play it on the TV more often than not, then it’s no contest, get the PS4 or Xbox One version if you have either of those consoles. Hopefully, next year’s offering corrects any mishaps, but what you do have here is a game that is by far and away the best football game on a handheld device, nothing has ever come close.