FIFA 18 (Switch) Review
Nintendo’s and EA’s relationship has been the butt of many jokes over the years. Maybe those jokes were deserved, but we have to give credit where credit is due. FIFA 18 for the Switch is a seriously great first effort on the system. FIFA 18 for Switch is as good as the console will allow it to be, but there are some weeds in this pitch that are going to give some people a few prickles.
Let’s talk about what’s not here on the Nintendo version of FIFA 18. Running on a custom engine and not the Frostbite engine that powers the game on the other consoles means that the game’s story mode “The Journey” has been excised. It’s by far not the only thing missing, but it is a huge chunk of the modern FIFA experience. This being said, just because the game isn’t running on Frostbite it doesn’t it mean we’re not dealing a full package, story mode aside. The game’s career mode is still here but it’s missing some of the new features from FIFA 18 on other consoles such as transfer negotiations. It’s a trend with the game; they’ve got all the modes but some of the new stuff is missing.
The key thing here is that this isn’t some dumbed-down port, although it might not look as good but it’s a full-fledged FIFA game, it’s not a “Nintendo” version with waggle controls or Miis. Because it’s on the Switch too there are some thing’s you’re just not going to get anywhere else, portable play being the obvious one. It’s by far and wide the best portable FIFA game ever, and because it’s on the Switch that means things like split Joy-Con multiplayer out of the box is supported and being able to take that wherever is pretty powerful. Playing in just the split Joy-Con mode isn’t ideal, especially since there’s a number of buttons missing but good in a pinch.
FIFA 18 on the Switch was never going to look as good as the more powerful consoles, not just because it doesn’t run on Frostbite but because EA has taken the better approach with porting the game compared to NBA 2K18. Instead of taking the same game, dropping effects, the resolution and framerate like NBA have done, EA took the game and built it around the system. The game runs at a full 60FPS no matter if you’re playing on the TV or in handheld mode. There are points where it drops during celebratory cutscenes, but that’s a deliberate move to make up for the tighter angle on the character models. The animation and player models are passable, players look a little dead inside and sometimes move like they’re trying to moonwalk into the sun, but for the most, it works.
Presentation wise it’s also as complete as the other versions of the game with a rich TV like presentation complete with great, varied commentary. While there are moments of that pre-canned feel for most of the match it feels authentic it what you’d seen on the TV. The game’s menus overlay and add the authentic feel and it’s all polished.
The game is fast and fluid, and it plays more like an arcade game than a proper football simulator. Having a history of playing football games over the years, this one certainly edges toward the arcade side, nowhere near something like Mario Strikers, but far removed from other versions of FIFA or something even more serious like PES. I won’t profess to be an expert in football games, but the game feels fun to play.
FIFA Ultimate Team is something people were really hoping that FIFA 18 had and happy to report its here. FUT is essentially fantasy football but you don’t really get to decide who is on your team, to begin with. You start off with a team of nobodies, a random name, and outfit and you’re thrust into the competition. You’ll have to earn coins through gameplay to unlock better players and unfortunately, it’s completely random. All of this is done online and the system requires you to be connected most of the time to get the most of out of it. The offline mode Squad Battles, the ‘tutorial’ to FUT is missing here and that’s one mode that should be considering your Switch won’t always been online.
You can get more unlocks by spending more money, but you don’t have to and if you enjoy FIFA enough you should be able to play the game enough to never bother with that. Ultimate Team is missing FUT Champions mode and Squad and Daily Challenges from the other consoles, it’s also worth noting you can’t take your other console’s FUT team with you on the Switch, nor can you use the app with the Switch version of the game. Restrictions like this will hopefully get buffed out in next year’s release.
While FIFA 18 on Switch takes terrific advantage of all the benefits that the Switch hardware brings like local multiplayer (and an exclusive Local Seasons mode) there are some real downsides with the game’s online modes. Basically, you can’t play with friends, its random people only. To make matters worse, when you do find someone to play with, you’re not even sure who it is. The game doesn’t tell you the name, their country of origin or anything. It could be CPU for all you know. We tried to set up a game with another reviewer and it came down to “I’m the blue team, did we match?” We’re not sure who to blame is here, Nintendo or EA, but it’s terrible and really detracts from the overall package.
FIFA 18 is a brilliant game for the Switch, it’s custom built for the system, it plays to the strength of the console’s local multiplayer and it’s, for the most part, fully featured. It doesn’t matter that the visuals don’t look as good because it runs great, feels great, and is fun to play. However this isn’t the perfect FIFA 18 experience overall; the online mode is bare-bones and is missing features even Nintendo wouldn’t even leave out and for a lot of people, that’s going to be a deal breaker.
If you can live with what’s missing in FIFA 18, you shouldn’t look past this terrific first effort by EA. Hopefully next year they can bring the Switch version up to complete feature parity because we can look past how it looks considering it is a good soccer title underneath.
- It's FIFA, wherever you are
- Runs as smooth as butter
- Perfect for the Switch hardware
- Missing stupid things in online
- Players look dead inside
- I'm old and know no one on the soundtrack