Each and every year, EA Sports releases a new entry into its FIFA series. Alongside the expected updated rosters, EA normally tinkers with the engine to try and address fan complaints, and adds new skills or abilities to your offensive and defensive arsenals. FIFA 18 will once again bring more of the same, but they also made a big deal about the involvement of the game’s cover star, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer and back-to-back European Champion was said to have helped shape the experience. “Data capture of Ronaldo’s acceleration, run cadence, skills, and shooting technique were all recorded to bring veracity to his likeness and personality in FIFA 18,” the official site tells us. Likewise, we were told new dribbling mechanics would allow the best players to “take more defined touches, make tighter turns, and explode into attack more dynamically than ever before.” While all of this sounds wonderful, however, if the beta is anything to go by, then EA still hasn’t fixed the issues we’ve been going on about for quite some time.
You see, while the likes of Ronaldo, Griezmann, Messi, and Dybala will all benefit from these tweaks and additions EA has made to the engine, we’re still stuck with the dumb keepers we have been suffering with for years now. Despite EA making a big deal about changing keepers a few years ago in FIFA 16 with new and improved animations, the additions didn’t go far enough. Our goalkeeper still felt like a liability that you could never really rely on. Those who have poured countless hours in FIFA 17 will have suffered their fair share of embarrassing defeats following awful positioning, slow or just strange reactions, and, of course, parrying shots away they should really be keeping hold of. Too many goals have been conceded through the underwhelming keeper AI and, unfortunately, it’s not much better in the FIFA 18 beta.
A number of fans over on the subreddit are complaining that keepers still make questionable parries, are unable to save the still OP driven shots, and just generally being a little bit brain dead. With the outfield, offensive players having been tweaked, it seemed like the perfect time for keepers, and defensive play to also get a facelift, allowing FIFA to finally tackle one of its biggest balance problems.
For the past few years, FIFA has flitted back and forth on the balance between defenders and attackers. While FIFA 15 allowed many players to simply use the counter attack tactic, bring in speedy forwards and absolutely wreck their opponents, FIFA 17 shifted the focus to physicality over sheer pace. Defenders could muscle attackers off the ball thanks to the improvements made to the engine, and the counter attack team command allowed players to focus more on offensive play knowing they had a player sitting right back, protecting your vulnerable keeper. However, with FIFA 18, the pendulum has even further in the favor of offensive forces. While the dribbling improvements and all of that Ronaldo data surely has a part to play in it all, the game’s naturally slower pace puts defenders at a disadvantage.
Of course, adapting to slower gameplay is certainly possible, though it may take some time. Yet, the problem is compounded by the return of input lag and player change issues that plagued matches in existing entries in the series, particularly FIFA 17. Alas, it seems as though these issues aren’t going anywhere. Fans over on the subreddit have once again highlighted awful player switching making its return in the beta. Considering CPU defending has often been hit and miss in online games, being unable to change to the exact player you want at all times can literally be the difference between winning and losing, something too many fans have learned first-hand.
It’s not just on the pitch that FIFA 18 fails to fix longstanding issues with the series. Most FIFA fans have likely grown accustomed to the Ultimate Team menus, flitting between them to make transfers, adjust their lineups, and choosing a game mode. Considering how often you’re jumping in and out of menus, not only in Ultimate Team, but the Career mode, too, laggy menus are the last thing you want to be dealing with. And yet, at least in the FIFA 18 beta, they have once again returned. Of course, before going any further, it’s worth noting that the beta isn’t the final product and a lot can change between now and the full release, but if last year’s beta is anything to go by, most of what’s in the beta is there to stay.
While we’re still awaiting hands-on time with the final product, FIFA 18’s beta highlights the same old issues that EA has had with the franchise. It makes neat improvements, some of which, such as Squad Battles and Ultimate Team’s tweaked SBCs – which now feature locked positions that require players from particular clubs or nations – will be music to fans’ ears, but it leaves the basic, quality of life stuff behind. As eager as players will be to dive into new modes in Ultimate Team or to carry on Alex Hunter’s story, these recurring niggles will continue to lead to broken controllers and countless rage quits.