Update: A few more things we'd like to see improved in FIFA 18 – focusing primarily on some of the improvements to the AI.
FIFA 18 is likely to be one of the biggest-selling games of 2017, with EA Sports’ franchise always likely to top the charts when it arrives.
The FIFA 18 release date is almost certain to be towards the start of September, long enough after the new season that the company won’t miss out on that all-important Neymar move to Burnley (ahem), but not so late that you start playing in a season that seems like a distant memory.
We can say with utter certainty that FIFA 18 will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and we also know – thanks to a trailer and a confirmation from Peter Moore – that there will be FIFA for the Nintendo Switch. Yay.
Let’s be honest, if you wanted to know what was likely in the next Half Life then we’d be taking a big punt, but when it comes to FIFA 18, TechRadar can confidently predict a few things that you’ll see in the game along with a few more that will definitely be around (and we don’t mean ‘a ball’, ‘some players’ or ‘a referee yellow card animation that’s a bit crap and you will be so bored of by about October that you’ll want to smash your TV’).
We're massive FIFA fans, of course, but that means we're champing at the bit for some big meaty improvements this year after a few years of more subtle or chiefly graphical changes.
For once we expect, nay demand, that we get more than some tinkerings around the graphics and a new jockey system.
So let’s go through what we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know. Yep – no fake news here, just the facts Ma'am.
FIFA 18 on Frostbite
It's been a pretty divisive move by EA to move to a new engine for FIFA 17, but the lighting improvements and the various graphical tweaks have outweighed the annoyances (which principally were all around the modding).
Frostbite, for those that do not know, is a game engine developed by EA Dice and rolled out to the other EA studios including EA Sports, who now use it for their sporting offerings.
The new engine did make a difference in FIFA 17; moving corner flags might not have changed much beyond your sense of realism but the changing weather effects were definitely interesting.
FIFA 18 is not likely to stray from this engine, given that its predecessor was the first to benefit from the move it is hugely unlikely that we'll see a new engine for some time.
It's not perfect; you'll still see some slowdown at times and the odd 360 no look finish from the sometimes strange AI (see below), but it's proven perfectly capable of running nicely on the next gen platforms and that's the key thing for EA Sports.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next game in the long-running football gaming franchise
- When is it out? Almost certainly the end of September 2017
- What will it cost? Likely to be $60/£45/AU$59
- What platforms will it be on? PS4/Xbox One/PC/Nintendo Switch
FIFA 18 Nintendo Switch version
Yes, you read that right – you've tried the portable PlayStation versions and been left cursing the lack of buttons and those crappy joysticks, you've tried taking your gaming laptop on a train and been laughed at, now finally you can take your FIFA 18 skills out and about and still maintain your cool.
That's because the brilliantly portable Nintendo Switch will be getting FIFA 18. We don't know a lot of the details, and the big point of discussion will be just how good a version of FIFA 18 this will be.
After a trailer confirmed that FIFA was Switch-bound, we then got a confirmation from EA Sports that it would be FIFA 18, but we've been burned with Nintendo editions of the gaming stalwart before.
FIFA 15 for Wii U did not bring the latest gameplay or a major chunk of the feature set from the mothership version. And, having been once bitten, you can understand that there remains some cynicism about how good FIFA 18 for Nintendo Switch will be.
If it is the full version then we're super excited. If it falls short then it may well finally put a nail in the coffin of our dream of 'proper' FIFA on the go.
FIFA 18 FUT
So what do we 100% definitely know will definitely be in FIFA 18?
Well given that FUT (aka FIFA Ultimate Team) is the gift that keeps on giving for EA – as in giving them our cash – it’s a ‘banker’ for the next game. Expect a few tweaks and plenty of attention being lavished on this after FIFA 17’s FUT turned into the kind of cash cow that has a picture of it put up alongside its rosettes in a local butcher shop.
For those that don't know FUT, it's a bit like football stickers meets top trumps meets, erm, FIFA. You build up your team and if you hit the upper echelons you get bragging rights and a ten minute slot on Fox News to tell everyone how 1337 you are. Or do we mean Reddit? One of those.
FIFA 18 The Journey
We also know that The Journey – the cheese-tastic foray into ‘narrative’ that EA took in FIFA 17 – will make a timely return for Season Two. The original, of course, allowed you to take Alex Hunter on a journey to the very pinnacle of every youngster’s dream scenario – being a bonus card in FUT.
If we’re all really nice to EA and send them great thoughts we may even have that thing fixed where the manager praises you for the accuracy of your tackling while also criticising you for the accuracy of your tackling.
We left Hunter as he was called up to the England team – so you might expect to begin training hard to come up with your own unique celebration so you can follow in the footsteps of Peter 'The Robot' Crouch.
Actually we're really hoping for a bit more thought about the narrative and the opportunity to take Hunter's grandfather through the 60s – complete with referees that let anything go ("If he's not dead, it's not a foul.") and, obviously, playing in black and white and running into some of the super-stars of the era.
This won't happen. But a man can dream right?
FIFA 18 career mode
Career Mode has been given so little love over the past three years or so that we’re hesitant to suggest that EA will do anything significant this time around – even though it has a list of bugs, idiocies and downright strange programming as long as your new 7’6” centre forward with 90 pace and one star wrong foot skills.
If we’re wrong, and EA Sports acknowledges that this is still the very best bit of FIFA when it’s actually working, then we’ll look forward to players not getting homesick and leaving for the club over the road, youth players whose pen pics are the right ethnicity compared to their in-game avatars and computer AI that doesn’t suddenly decide on a whim to dance through your entire team and ram a shot into the flying pig that we just saw in the top corner of our goal.
FIFA 18: What we'd like to see
We're still hammering away at FIFA 17, with our crop of youngsters now bona fide superstars, but after months of play we're fairly confident that we have put our finger on a few things that we'd like to see fixed, tweaked or downright altered in FIFA 18.
Any wishlist is a bitter sweet thing – and ultimately our desire for change is born out of love for FIFA. We just wish it loved us back a bit more sometimes…
Gameplay and AI tweaks
This is the biggie; any FIFA player knows that there is an inescapable feeling that, at times, the AI is letting you score rather than your own skill actively earning you the victory. Which of course makes the whole thing feel a little, well, hollow.
What do we mean? Well after producing a litany of truly (and literally) unbelievable tackles to keep you at bay , you'll find – often in the 44th minute of a game that you have been pre-decreed the winner – that the AI makes a mistake so colossally awful that it's harder to miss than score. Or your 35 hit-and-hope arrows unerringly into the top corner.
Worst in a lot of ways, are the games when you're pre-decreed to struggle and, to a man, you face a team full of Bobby Moore/Pele era defending (look it up on YouTube kids), the opposition goalkeeper turns into Peter Schmeichel at his pomp (look him up on Facebook Video kids), or your 99 finish striker hits the post so often in the same game and with such rigor you start to wonder if he/she has some kind of wood fetish.
We get that this kind of season engineering can make things more excited, and we don't want to completely dominate, but we just want this kind of machination to feel a bit more, I dunno, organic.
Other key things that we, in the world of the Spice Girls, really really want. Are a bit of variety: it's all very well Barcelona playing the kind of tiki taka football that still leaves Pep Guardiola slightly dishevelled, but when Stockport on a rainy Tuesday are running literal rings around Manchester United you start to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there's not enough playing styles.
To be fair, programming a human like fallible AI is tough, but this is a fairly core part of the gameplay.
Sort out the skill levels
Veteran FIFA players end up with intimate knowledge of the sliders in order to tweak the skills, principally because the skill levels aren't quite where they could be.
You could feasibly throw this criticism at many games, and at least FIFA has sliders, but the biggest issue with the skills is that they try to make you better. All the skills and tricks you pick up to beat the AI become largely irrelevant on the skill level above.
Rather than gently prodding you to improve, it just teaches you a load of skills that become redundant. Like keeping hold of sprint for 90 minutes and only ever using through ball.
Fix the career mode quirks
We've touched on some of these, but career mode is not so much an unloved child of FIFA, but a child that has been chained up in the attic for several years becoming more and more feral and ultimately doomed to appear in a bad movie about redemption.
We were going to list all the problems, but it turns out that the internet is running out of space, so we'll just pick out some of our favourite idiosyncrasies and what we'd like.
- Homesick players shouldn't move to a club in the same country
- Loaning someone out shouldn't immediately reset their brain
- Loaning someone out, saving the game, recalling the player and seeing if their potential has improved is not a cool bug in the long run .
- Player pen pics should look like the in-game player. How hard can this be?
- Even FIFA at the height of its self importance would have baulked against making a team play five games in seven days. For the love of Maradona, EA Sports, please. Fix. Fixtures.
- Make the press conferences something other than pointless
- Get rid of the now a bit strange limit on how long careers can be. It used to be about available memory/storage, but surely that's shifted from the last-gen days?
- Use a bit more common sense in other teams' transfer agendas. Manchester United buying all of the strikers is bad enough. But then playing James Wilson as a sole striker exacerbates things.
- Bring in player chants
- Stop the commentators talking about your formations in every.single.game.
- Make the referees a bit less card heavy…
- Season requirements make very little sense. Bringing youth through is great – having to bring through two youth players and make them play 50% of the games every season is ludicrous.
- Understand when the title has been won.
- Playable reserve/youth games to test out reserves etc.
- Making free kicks in practice not utterly and entirely different from in the game
- Let us use skills to beat the AI. The world's most glorious dummy should not be easily picked off by a prescient computer.
- Please feel free to tweet more suggestions at us @techradar!