FIFA 18 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Tomas Barry 02.10.2017

Review for FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch

Excluding the legacy editions of FIFA 14 and 15 on the original Wii, it's not since the rather neglected FIFA 13 on the Wii U that EA has released a mainline FIFA on a current Nintendo home console. That edition was quite poorly received, largely because it was clear that version wasn't being given the attention it required. While fans could accept an out-of-date engine, it was the absence of major modes such as Ultimate Team, as well as the fact that it was a carbon copy of FIFA 12 in technical terms, that signalled a less than ideal arrangement. Fast-forward to the present, and there are some parallels for FIFA 18; namely, how do you provide an up-to-date experience on lesser-powered hardware? And how does one suitably accommodate Nintendo's eccentricities? In this case, the feasibility of tiny individual Joy-Con for two-player matches, and, of course, the less-than-ideal online environment.

Since football is football, let's jump right into what clicks about FIFA 18 on the Switch and what doesn't. On the pitch, it performs rather well, as long as we temper our expectations. The Switch version runs on a custom engine, apparently derived from the FIFA 16 Ignite engine, which provides a fluid and lively experience that, at a glance, could be mistaken for the more powerful versions based on the Frostbite engine.

It's not a million miles away from a visual point of view, with very crisp and vibrant visuals, and no signs of slowdown or strain. You can't scrutinize every blade of grass in the same way, and players do lack the cutting-edge animations that avid FIFA fans will be accustomed to on other systems, but there's no doubt that this still makes the grade. That's especially true considering this is a portable version of FIFA. When playing in handheld mode, FIFA 18 looks rather brilliant, even if the screen size does lead to some uncomfortable squinting, which isn't exactly alleviated by bringing the screen closer in.

Screenshot for FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch

In handheld mode, it's also a slight struggle to be precise, since the Joy-Con controllers are so small. The shoulder button arrangement feels far too cramped for those accustomed to bigger pads, as it doesn't have the real estate of a PS4 or Xbox controller. This results in difficulty when trying to combine shoulder button inputs, which, personally, lead to a more diluted style of play simply to avoid the physical pain. This is probably the sort of compromise that most will accept, given that the only real handheld alternative is a dire mobile device version, but it's a shame that even a configuration switch can't solve this lack of precision control when playing with that handheld control scheme.

The less said about the single Joy-Con experience, the better. Good luck with that. Unless you're seven years old, it's unlikely to be bearable for longer than a few minutes, even with the simple controls. The biggest issue of both handheld controls and single Joy-Con is that the analogue stick itself is too small, and all too often, due to its smaller range, lofted through-balls get cannoned off wildly in the wrong direction. It's possible to improve, but it's far from ideal, as the best through-ball often feels off-limits because of this struggle for grip and angle precision.

Screenshot for FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch

Thankfully, in docked mode, playing with a Pro Controller, FIFA 18 is a great experience. The extra details (observable when blown up to 1080p in docked mode) really do shine, giving it a crispness that elevates it visually beyond the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions by some margin. Despite the custom engine, which really is being used as a stepping stone before a fully-fledged Frostbite version is implemented, the quality on the pitch, both visually and from a gameplay point of view, feels surprisingly in touch with its big brother, without quite offering the same technical range for ball control delivered in more powerful editions.

Disappointingly, though, despite this achievement on the pitch, there are other departments of FIFA 18 that come up a little short. Some of these are in the name of transition, which seems acceptable, but others seem like more complicated issues.

Relating to the former, the Career mode of FIFA 18 on Switch is not even the same as FIFA 17's; rather, it's based on the year prior to that, which seems a little lazy. Elsewhere, on the Ultimate Team front, while it's here in fundamental form, it lacks the new Squad Challenges, Daily Challenges, and the FUT Champions mode, which can be found in other versions. In other words, everything being introduced to the Switch version of FIFA 18 is derived from old code.

Screenshot for FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch

Although there are plenty of nice aesthetic enhancements to give it a leg-up on legacy editions, anyone who has played the series on and off in the last half-decade will know where the corners have been cut. There are more significant missing features, such as the returning story mode seen on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, which means that even with the specific unique additions, such as the local seasons mode, fans with high expectations will end up feeling a little short-changed. Let's not forget that this edition costs the same as the others.

There's also a lack of flexibility within Ultimate Team. Despite the need to register with EA, you can't build a team on other versions and then take control of them on the Switch. This is exactly the kind of vision fans had for a fully-fledged version that can be taken on the go, so it's a big shame it couldn't be made to happen this year. There's no doubt this will be made a reality in future editions, and it's likely that time was a factor here, but that won't exactly lessen the blow for those with that dream in mind. It's certainly great to see the mode return to a Nintendo system, but many would have hoped for a less streamlined version, again clearly based off of old versions of these long-standing staples of the brand. Next year, we're told.

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Unfortunately, though, there's an even more disappointing drawback in play with the Switch version of FIFA 18. There is no way to invite your friends to an online game, and thus you're stuck playing strangers in terms of online play. This just seems utterly ridiculous. Although with Nintendo's very lacking online infrastructure (so far), it is difficult to know exactly why this utterly integral component of FIFA was omitted. Did EA underestimate its importance? It's very unlikely, and that's all one can really say about it with any certainty.

However, it's definitely the case that its absence could prove costly for both parties. It's not a good indicator that the Switch is going to maintain parity of quality and experience in terms of gameplay and features moving forward. It's quite obvious that EA Sports relies heavily on the tools Sony and Microsoft provide in terms of online infrastructure, so it's bewildering (though not exactly surprising) that they've struggled with a different set here. Major improvements must be implemented in next year's edition, by which time Switch owners will in theory be paying for their online service.

Screenshot for FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It's difficult to reflect on FIFA 18 for Nintendo Switch. On the one hand, this is definitely the most fully-fledged portable version of FIFA ever. When docked, it performs extremely well, delivering crisp 1080p, 60 frames per second visuals, with enough extra polish to keep it in touching distance of the more powerful consoles. However, it's disappointing that old code couldn't be given the same touch-ups that FIFA 18 received within modes on other consoles, particularly when it comes to Ultimate Team. Add this to the cramp issues for handheld and Joy-Con control methods, and the lack of friend invites for online play, and it seems that a lot of wind has been taken out of the sails. Committed FIFA fans could quite rightly argue this shouldn't be a full-priced release, especially if next year's edition turns out to be that much better. However, there's no doubt that many football fans will still see this an essential buy.


EA Sports







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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