Sensible Soccer was the best football game I had ever played at one point in my life. I played it on an Amiga A500+ and spent most of my formative years engrossed in some league or other. One of my friends had a Megadrive and yes, whilst the graphics were, and I quote, “amazing”, playing Fifa felt like football on rails compared to the fluidity of Sensi.

This year, I played Pro Evolution Soccer, it felt like football should. I also played FIFA 18 and it feels very different.

Apart from the sluggish nature of the players on the pitch and the feeling that I was running in tar, there is the sense that I can run forwards, directly towards the goal and score far easier than I can create a play, bring the ball down the wing and cross it in to score.

I think it’s time to face up to the fact that EA is using FIFA as a sort of cash cow. A way to sell the same repackaged game each year to the same people that always buy FIFA and who always spend a fortune opening up FUT packs on YouTube. I cannot count the number of pack opening videos where someone opens up a Ronaldo or Messi and starts shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs or running out of the room.

It’s a sad state of affairs that gaming has become home to corporate greed. Gaming used to be the counterculture and now the money men are here. Triple-A titles used to be the cream of the crop but these days they are half a game with your original purchase and “lucky for you we have given you the option to purchase DLC on day one that will unlock the rest of the game. If you don’t want the full game then you don’t need to buy it, you will miss out on this great content though!” Gaming as a service I believe the money men call it.

There, that’s what’s wrong with FIFA 18, EA and the gaming industry as a whole. People have forgotten what gaming is about. It’s about having fun, on your own, with friends or online with strangers, how ever you play, it’s about playing a game for the pure joy of playing and having fun while doing it.

So, with all that said, FIFA is a good football game. It’s not as good as Pro Evo 18 at being a football game but it’s still a good game.

I contacted EA to request a review copy of the game and they were kind enough to send me a key. After the install, I was greeted with a very slick intro and menu screen. All the correct team names and player names were there and it looked and felt amazing. I have been playing PES for some time and I had become quite used to playing as London South or Bristol West. It was a very welcome change to see everything as it should be so I headed into a quick match because I just wanted to get to a kickoff.

FIFA 18 is powered by the Frostbite engine, it was last year but this year it has been refined and tweaked to make it even better, I haven’t played FIFA 17 to know much better but there were a fair few graphical glitches I noticed but on the whole, the graphics are fabulous. The animations are nothing short of incredible and from a distance watching Ronaldo in a cutscene you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching the real thing. In the stands, I could see fans moving about and Stewards keeping them in order. Everything feels right and I was very impressed with the soundscape which helped to create an atmosphere that felt genuine.

After a few matches in different countries, I noticed how different things look in Germany compared to South America for example and I think it would be a hard ask to improve the graphics currently.

The gameplay is fine if you only play FIFA 18. If you have the option to play PES 18 you will feel the difference immediately. Players feel heavier, you cannot change direction very easily, this may be more accurate but I am playing a game and gameplay should always come before realism in my eyes. I found myself shaking my hands after a few minutes of play I had been pushing so hard on my gamepad and when you add in the input lag the immersion was gone. Luckily the passing is spot on and once space has been created it’s not difficult to find your man with a good ball forwards. Crosses, on the other hand, are nearly impossible to pull off well. In countless games, I would say probably more than 70% of crosses are intercepted.

I don’t want you to think I don’t like FIFA 18, I do, I just think for everything EA has done well, they have let the side down elsewhere. For example, you can now quickly sub a player during a match, great no break, but, the players are running in tar so I need a break because my hands hurt.

Most of your shots will be stopped, even some absolutely amazing shots, the AI is a tad aggressive and keepers will always win a 50/50. That is if you can create any space at all because you will always be charged down by the nearest opposition player. You have to work to create space.

Off the pitch the main menu is a little overwhelming at first and finding out what type of game you would like to play shouldn’t be this difficult however, there are a lot of options and whilst I didn’t have time to complete the campaign I like what I have played so far of Alex Hunters story.

FIFA’s appeal for most must be the FIFA Ultimate Team game mode. It is very easy to lose hours scouring the transfer market and trying to buy up the perfect team. It’s not easy to get the balances right in this mode and there is something very pleasing about opening up the packs to find out what you have, to be fair, so far, I have nothing. My team is weak and the cards are not kind, however, it is a great deal of fun and probably the mode I am enjoying the most.

Master League and myClub return with an improved transfer system in place but this equates to new negotiations and whilst interesting I can see them getting boring soon. There are a lot of cutscenes for a football game but they all help with the immersion so I am not complaining.

In short FIFA 18 is a far more tactical and thoughtful game than FIFA’s of the past and its biggest triumph is FUT which is a fun and engaging mode of play. Ultimately, however, for all its slick interfaces, official licences and graphical superiority FIFA 18 is a football game and this means the one area it needs to excel in is on the pitch and unfortunately for EA, PES 18 has it well and truly beaten.

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