Feature Article

FIFA 18 Continues To Strive For Realism, But At A Cost

Own goal?

Over the past few seasons, FIFA--like the football world itself--has become increasingly obsessed with Sky Sports: with snazzy transitions, over-dramatised transfer deadline day coverage, incessant live updates, and below-average punditry. FIFA looks dazzling, but some would say EA has neglected the on-pitch action in favor of replicating the view from the gantry. The last two years have seen PES eclipse EA's colossus once the ball's at your feet. PES's offensive and defensive play might not look as impressive as FIFA's, but it is closer to the dreams you tried (and failed) to act out as a kid in the park. It's smoother, quicker, and far less frustrating.

For its part, EA seems conscious of FIFA 17's problems. At a recent preview event, FIFA 18's senior gameplay producer, Sam Rivera, explained how FIFA 18 would be "more responsive," how fluidity was one of the main gameplay pillars the team wanted to improve on this year, and how they didn't want you to feel like you were constantly wrestling with your controller.

"The visuals affect a lot, the gameplay affects a lot, but the other thing that [the audience] really want is that they can perform what they have in mind easily without having to be fighting with the controllers or remembering complicated mechanics," Rivera told me. "I just want to shoot, shoot now, I don't want to shoot in two seconds, I want to shoot now, I don't want you to take a step and then shoot, I want to shoot now. That control is what we know they want and this is exactly our focus in this FIFA: To make sure that it's responsive, that it's fluid, and that the user is in control of the situation."

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Unfortunately, in my two hours with the game, FIFA 18 didn't seem to align with these promises. Passing was still as limp as it has been for the past two years (after all, driven passes were only a welcome addition to FIFA 16 because standard passes have felt anaemic since the same year), and dribbling remains as clunky as before. More fluid movement helps FIFA appear smoother than ever--players move more realistically and the transitions between animations are less jarring--but painful input lag and the world's heaviest touches mean it still takes far too long for your intentions to be translated to the pitch. Once again, then, the enhancements help how FIFA looks, but not how it plays.

Crossing has been improved, at least: previously, crosses would loop high into the air and take far too long to reach the danger area, by which time both the attacker and defender would have positioned themselves directly underneath the ball so who got their head to it first would be determined simply by the players' respective heights. Now, standard crosses whip with a finesse and pace that is both closer to real life action and far more satisfying to strike. The improvements mean old-style low, driven balls in are cut, with high crosses (similar to FIFA 17's loopy attempts) and ground crosses the only remaining modifiers. My two hour demo suggested crossing--along with long shots--might have swung back to being a touch overpowered, but with over three months to go until launch, these balancing issues will hopefully be ironed out.

I want to shoot now, I don't want you to take a step and then shoot, I want to shoot now.

FIFA 18's senior gameplay producer, Sam Rivera

Other than that, however, I'm struggling to recall a meaningful way in which FIFA 18 evolved on its predecessor. Lighting and the appearance of crowds have been improved, but these have no effect on the game you're playing and only further reinforce the accusation that EA has become increasingly obsessed with style over substance. That EA is striving for a realistic appearance is no secret; indeed, Rivera himself told me that the team's primary ambition was to make a FIFA match indistinguishable from what you'd see on TV.

"It's a very fine line … [but] the main goal is that if one day you put a reel of a football match on the TV here and then you put FIFA here, that it looks the same," he said. "However, it cannot play the same because one is 90 minutes, one is 12 minutes; one is meant to be fun and the other one is meant to be competitive and professional.

"So there's a fine balance in there, and yes we want the game to be fun as well, so in that process we have to take certain decisions. For example, if our defensive AI--some people complain about it and I understand why--but if we made AI that was perfect, then you would never be able to score goals. They are always tracking you down, they are always in front, they are so responsive, so reactive, so the game would so close and [there would be] no goals, no fun. So we need to find a way to simulate the mistakes that people make in real life to put them in the game as well. Maybe they need to be a little more exaggerated to make sure in six minutes you see them, but yeah ... it's a balance and our goal is to have an authenticity while keeping a fun game."

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Trouble is, for too long now, EA has prioritized authenticity over immediate input response and satisfying moment-to-moment gameplay--two key areas its competitor shines. While PES is willing to sacrifice immaculate presentation in service of this, FIFA is not. I'd hoped FIFA 18 would see EA reign in its preoccupation with video-realism and focus on making the game feel smoother. Indeed, Rivera seemed acutely aware of FIFA's flaws and EA is making all the right noises when it comes to improving fluidity. But, so far, that has been translated only in appearance, and not in gameplay. It seems making the game beautiful isn't enough to capture the magic of The Beautiful Game.

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Oscar Dayus

Oscar is GameSpot's Staff Writer, and as the youngest member of the UK office he's usually the butt of the joke.


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Avatar image for ratverlegh

Look at this.....

"So we need to find a way to simulate the mistakes that people make in real life to put them in the game as well. Maybe they need to be a little more exaggerated to make sure in six minutes you see them"

Scripting explained by Rivera himself.

I hate this company more every year. always lies and denying scripting is in te game. But now they just said it themselves.

One thing is they lied, which everybody but a few blind fanboys knew for a long time. But sedond; he said, we need to try to find a way to simulate mistakes people make in real life. That is what they think would be good. To influence the game.


We make our own mistakes.

**** EA!!!

Please 2k make a football game!

Avatar image for barcaazul

What is true that PES lost its way on PS360, but the last two years have been very good, especially last year.

Realism is nice, but I play on a zoomed out view that makes it a bit pointless anyway.

Its good to see others finally sporting the more fluid game play of PES over slick marketing. Well done

Avatar image for thezlatan

I'm so glad someone has the balls to tell the truth about Fifa!!!

I agree with everything in this article with my whole heart!!

Since when are sales figures a measure of a games greatness...

The Toyota Corolla is the best selling car in the world.... how many billionaires do you see driving them???

Fifa is great at marketing thats it I played 16 fifas I should know... picked up PES one day and never looked back... you gotta ask yourself if Fifa doesn't even care that its competitor is better to play...why should we pay them to make it... we're gonna end up with the most realistic look game... er... hello WE WANNA SHOOT WHEN WE WANNA SHOOT!! is that so hard....!!!

Avatar image for eternity888

well said!

Avatar image for yazman666

Just commented on eurogamer about an article saying the game is better....i stopped buying FIFA on 2011 , not worth the money every single year literally same game and then ppl complaint about COD being an annual release.

Avatar image for Pooya1881

its like saying that a battlefield game should play like CS because that had some fluidity, in the sense that u could actually walk through solid, and could should through walls.

just because you get used to something doesnt mean its good, i remember playing winning eleven, which was like a predecessor to PES and playing the first couple of PES and then didnt play it until 15 came out and by the second game i was good to go and won most matches against a friend who played PES every year.

that is not how you develop games, Football doesn't play like that in the real world, sure if ur really good at FIFA you can do impossible things too but scoring a goal where defenders just crash into each other and stupid keepers every other matches is a story on his own!

having the same engine and gameplay every year and just updating the squads and kits is just a glorified update, something that PES fans fall for every year and stubbornly argue that its wrong.

next time you see a PES fan, ask him how is the fouling and card situation in PES16 or 17 :D

Avatar image for godfather830

This is nothing new. It's always been like that: Fifa is a simulation, PES is an arcade game.

Fifa has always sold better, so... maybe soccer fans prefer realism?

Avatar image for kahxyz

@godfather830: Football*

Avatar image for Prats1993

@godfather830: Soccer fans prefer realism, video game fans prefer fun. I'll take the latter.

Avatar image for id123456

I want to shoot now, I don't want you to take a step and then shoot, I want to shoot now.

said every fifa player ever

Avatar image for okzombie

Fifa 13 is the last fifa i bought. Everything after is shit..also they removed gamelobbys and focused on egoistic activities and profits

Avatar image for soul_starter

PES 2016 was nowhere near as good as Fifa 16 or 17 and although PES 2017 was better, it still lagged so far behind FIFA it is unbelievable that both are fully fledged, AAA released. The stadia, the players, the teams, the ability to set prices for players (PES 16 lacks this most simple feature lol), the button lag, the almost impotent AI...I could go on ando n. Don't get me wrong, PES 16/17 are really fun when in attacking flow but that's all they do better. Fifa is superior in defence, looks betters, feels better and just has had more effort put into the presentation and the simple touches.

Avatar image for nabuccodinosaur

@soul_starter: How is FIFA superior in defence? In PES, manual defending works miracles in hustling every lose ball or obstracting clearances, standing tackles are an amazing tool if you have a good sense of timing and using a defender as a sweeper against a a set offense is really satisfying if you know what you are doing. That's just my opinion, but PES 17 played in +2 game speed by 2 good players is a top notch gaming experience compared to FIFA 17.

Avatar image for maitkarro

Are you imbeciles, you can't get responsivness if you go with realism, look at Dark Souls the gameplay is nothing about realism, you got twitch movements, what you want to do you get to do in a blink of an eye. If you go for responsiveness nobody is able to react to your movements, there aren't some kind of superfast superhumans playing soccer.

Avatar image for Sepewrath

Style over substance is becoming an industry wide issue.

Avatar image for danyjr

@Sepewrath: Not just gaming industry. ANY industry, even the politics of our times have become style over substance.

Avatar image for Daian

@bongaboi: your point is rendered moot by the use of that slur.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

I'm sorry Oscar Dayus but I did a double take when I saw the writer pic... you look 16

Avatar image for jabardas

i really hope they change things online , im tired of playing in slow motion even having a 100mb speed or go to play and have fun but not behing able to end a single game because the other guy gts 2 goals and gets out

Avatar image for expredator

@jabardas: lol

Avatar image for deactivated-5a1d4b615a3a3

I prefer the authentic football approach FIFA takes over the arcade fantasy football PES adopts

Avatar image for crusadernights

Avid FIFA player here. I always buy it pre owned cuz EA can't be bothered about the online gameplay mechanics. It's all about fast pacey players like Musa who dominate game.

In ultimate team, the new trend is to Pause the game as soon as it starts, and switch your wingers to strikers. Chemistry means f*ck all in ultimate team.

The game is hindered with input delay lag, handicap, rubber banding and momentum BS.

I hope EA loses the license to make FIFA games and is taken by a more competent developer/publisher.

Avatar image for Daian

@crusadernights: not gonna happen.

Avatar image for PrpleTrtleBuBum

They should just make two separate games, or add real arcade/sim settings in the game. I do miss some of the wacky and gamelike features some of the older games had like controls that respond when I press a button, but at the same time I don't want to play a full-on party fest with a flaming ball and scoring arbitary amounts of goals based on my style.

I think the "We want you to think it's a TV game, but at the same time the matches will only last 12 minutes" is a comment way off. It just proves they are trying to eat the cake and keep it too. Years after years. Thank God there's PES to keep some competition going. NBA Live managed to stagnate to the point that when 2K came, EA was surprised with pants so low they just decided to give up. Of course, now they're trying a comeback.

Avatar image for TruSake

@PrpleTrtleBuBum: I agree, they need to sell FUT and Career as separate games. Each for $30. And the consumer only upgrades yearly to the version they want.

Avatar image for Guimengo1

So, no surprise and yet another lackluster year. They should return to their pre-2002 arcade form, not try to play with PES and get lost in the middle.