The beautiful game gets trimmed down.
When Nintendo officially announced the Nintendo Switch back in late 2016, many worried that developers like EA would skip over the device entirely. The two companies haven’t had the best of histories (EA famously abandoned the Wii U right after launch), leading to a lack of football games on Nintendo’s console. With FIFA 2018 on Nintendo Switch, can gamers experience the best of the beautiful game?
Entering this edition of the game, there needs to be a sense of realistic expectation. Nintendo Switch isn’t designed to replace the glitz and glamour of its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One brothers. Far from it, it’s clear from this effort that FIFA 2018 on Switch is more of a stepping stone to playing FIFA on the go – which goes some way to explaining both the pros and cons of this game.
Graphically, the game is fine. It’s certainly nowhere near the finesse of other outings – looking more akin to a last generation version of the game (Right down to the awkward animations). This works to the games benefit, as that flashy sideshow gives way to a solid gaming experience. By no means will the Switch version of FIFA 2018 blow your socks off – but when you’re playing in public, it will still get all the best glances from curious passers-by. Heck, I played it in a pub and plenty of people were excited to see the game working so fluidly. That’s the biggest draw of this edition of the game, and it delivers in spades.
Things only get a bit weird you dock your Switch console, at which point you begin to see the wrinkles emerge. Notably, some of the stadiums look a bit bland when playing on the big screen, washed out textures and some bizarre glitches can occur without warning. Really though the game focuses on performance and delivers strong, with docked and undocked modes remaining similar in experience. In short, it’s exactly what you expect it to be.
Likewise, the controls work incredibly well. Even when reduced to a single JoyCon, the experience holds up nicely. No matter which way you play, the game works as you expect – mimicking the other editions of the game. It’s nice that all options are catered for fully – the game really wants you to play locally where possible. It might be wise to invest in a pro controller if your hands are on the large side though, as the small controllers don’t lend themselves to intense long-term play.
In terms of things to do, there’s a surprising amount of modes that made the leap. Ultimate Team is here in its full glory – allowing you to construct your own team of misfits and managers. The online portion of this works incredibly well. surprisingly untampered with when it comes to the experience. Likewise, the game also comes packing full Online Season Modes, allowing you to work towards promotion against players of similar rank.
The online experience itself is fine for the most part (Although I did experience minor lag here and there), it’s nothing that the series hasn’t endured for years already. There’s no voice chat, no messaging service or any real way to communicate with those you’re playing against – which may irk some fans the wrong way. You also need to sign up to EA’s online service to get the online parts working. Without any kind of system integration – the online modes are kept as basic as possible – that feels really bizarre in a FIFA game.
The bugbears don’t end there sadly. The biggest missing feature comes in the form of “The Journey”, which is completely out of this version of the game. Depending on where you sit, this will be a huge loss or something you barely notice. For my money, it hugely steals from the games single player appeal, leaving the single player aspect feeling awkwardly shallow. Sure there are other modes but The Journey filled a nice hole – not being able to make use of it in this edition of the game is a huge oversight and leaves the offline sections of single player struggling to maintain interest.
Career Mode is also sadly stripped back from other editions of the game, rehashing the FIFA 2017 mode rather than the much improved 2018 edition. I was never a fan of FIFA’s career mode, largely because it feels incredibly dull after an hour or two and seeing it here only adds to this sense of disappointment. Outside of these two modes, the offline single player is really missing a heap of interesting ideas – it’s arguably here where the Switch version falls down hardest. It’s clear the focus of this edition is playing with others – which makes one omission incredibly noteworthy.
For some reason I can’t fathom, FIFA 2018 doesn’t allow you to invite friends into private lobbies. Neither in the main multiplayer lobby or in the Ultimate Team lobby. I looked high and low for this but couldn’t spot it. I looked online for help in finding it, it appears others have experienced the same issue. Realistically this handicaps the appeal of this version of the game more – robbing it of a fairly basic feature that many gamers would arguably use.
In all, FIFA 2018 on Nintendo Switch is a competent, if slightly predictable outing. Lacking the bells and whistles of its larger console brothers, this edition of the game manages to get the core experience right while leaving plenty of room for expansion. Certainly, there’s a solid base here and for veterans of the series, the learning curve is none existent. But therein lies the ports biggest problem – it lacks any true “killer feature”. Without “The Journey” and with a stripped back Career Mode, gamers are left with a watered down experience. It’s an issue EA should be looking to address in future years – as it leaves the Switch version of the game lacking in long-term draw outside of Ultimate Team.
If you’re looking for the core FIFA experience on the go, this is the best attempt yet. Breaking out the JoyCon’s and starting a Multiplayer session is easy as pie and playing on the go certainly has its appeal. But there’s a lot left unrefined here, enough that those who want to experience a proper single player may need to hold off. There’s nothing wrong with FIFA 2018 on Nintendo Switch, it’s just plays it very safe.