FIFA 18 review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, PS3, Switch
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Vancouver
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-22
Online: Yes

Last year, FIFA 17 made a strong bid for the NBA 2K franchise’s perennial hold on the title of “Best Sports Game”. This year, I think it’s safe to say that FIFA 18 has knocked NBA 2K off its perch entirely.

Admittedly, this is partly because NBA 2K18 is less a basketball game, and more a pay-to-win microtransaction machine that happens to have a basketball theme. But even if it wasn’t — even if NBA 2K18 didn’t force you to grind your way through endless practices and workouts and try to extract real money out of you for a new haircut — I’m confident that I’d still say that FIFA 18 had surpassed its competition.

Much like last year’s outing, FIFA 18’s strength comes from a fantastic career/story mode. Picking up where FIFA 17 left off, FIFA 18 finds you guiding Alex Hunter through life as a footballer (to use his terminology), with the key difference that where last year he was an unknown teenager, this year he’s adapting to life as a budding star. The game, too, has adapted to Hunter’s newfound fame, with a story that spans multiple continents, and that shows him making the jump from club teams to mingling with the rich and famous. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, and NBAer James Harden make appearances, and even if they’re not exactly voice acting pros, their presence certainly adds to the feeling the game is trying to convey.

What’s more, the game doesn’t forget to make Hunter seem like a human being. You still have the family drama that was such a crucial part of what made the first game’s story interesting, and likewise, you still have the branching dialogue trees that impact how the game evolves. What’s new this time around is that the game allows you to change Hunter’s look — occasionally it even rewards you for doing so — and in the process, makes Hunter feel less like a blank slate on a screen, and more like a living, breathing character.

And, of course, the action on the field is exactly what we’ve come to expect from FIFA by now. Regardless of the mode you’re playing, the game delivers a pretty solid approximation of what you could watch on TV. In fact, when you’re playing in career mode, the game gently chides you every so often if you’re playing at an easier level than you should/could be. Case in point: after a game where I/Hunter scored at least a half-dozen goals, a reporter asked him after the game if it ever felt like he was playing soccer on too easy a difficulty level (I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly). FIFA 18 is committed to delivering an authentic — and appropriately flashy — experience.

I should admit, of course, that I hardly even bothered with the game outside of the career mode. If you’re wondering how this year’s Ultimate Team works, for example, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

But, like I said last year, my opinion on sports games comes down entirely to two factors: how good is the career mode, and how well does it represent the sport. And on both those counts, FIFA 18 delivers in spades.

Grade: A+