Most critics would agree that the FIFA franchise has struggled to keep up with arch-rival Pro Evolution Soccer over the last couple of years. Despite having those all-important licensing rights to major clubs and leagues, PES has offered a much more complete gaming experience. FIFA have been playing catch up and introduced major changes to core aspects of the gameplay, for example, last year’s attempt to revamp defensive positioning. Unfortunately, these changes simply made tall, bustling strikers who were good in the air capable of converted 9 in 10 crosses. So EA has really been under pressure to breathe some life back into their franchise – and whisper it quietly – early reviews suggest that they may just have succeeded. Gameplay Is Now Superbly Balanced One of the unmistakable criticisms of recent FIFA games has been a strange sense that the player didn’t really have a huge amount of control over their players. There was just a feeling that AI teammates would perform at random unless they were ranked as an elite player, and then they’d just be unstoppable. FIFA 18 is unmistakably more balanced. This is evident from all aspects of the actual match play be it from off the ball movement, totally revamped dead ball mechanics, and perhaps most significant at all a much less predictable opposition AI that plays to their own strengths. To put it simply this no longer feels like a game of chance which would be more appropriately found residing at Platinum Play online casino! The absolutely gorgeous graphics certainly play a major role in enhancing player control. Now when you instruct a speeding winger to cross the ball low and hard they actually will do so immediately rather than take a delay for the animation to catch up. Just like a real match, this split second response makes matches far more never-racking and realistic. For the most part, players actually do now resemble themselves – the special modeling is no longer just the preserve of the likes of Neymar and Pogba. ‘The Journey’ Delivers! It seems like FIFA fans have been clamoring for years for EA to really incorporate an interesting storyline based game mode. Finally, with this year’s much improved The Journey players can now enjoy helping young Alex Hunter on the path to glory. Generally speaking, it’ll take most players about a dozen hours to complete the storyline which may not sound much but it is incredibly good fun! Off the pitch events and rivalries actually do now make a difference on the pitch. At its best, this game mode resembles a kind of modern-day football themed soap opera with the player given masses of options to customize Hunter’s appearance and attitude. Don’t think that the storyline is all about dull contract negotiations between games. Hunter is much more interesting than this and gets up to all sorts of antics (impromptu street football in Brazil anyone?). Plenty of big names also make a cameo here and there along the storyline – and even though it could have been really cheesy instead it actually breathes a much-needed dose of fun and fresh air to the FIFA series. Players have plenty of possible responses to adjust the direction of Hunter’s story, all handily managed via a conversation wheel. So Have EA Published The Best Football Sim Ever? Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA have always maintained their own sense of partisan loyalty among gamers. Sure the rivalry may not be quite as intense as once upon a time – the games actually play much alike nowadays – but FIFA 18 has certainly managed to make huge improvements this year. The flaws in recent years have been due to poor integration of good ideas into the gameplay. With considerable care, they have now been balanced in such a way as to deliver a far more complete and enjoyable release that any football fan will be bound to enjoy. As for the best ever? That may be slightly overhyping FIFA 18 but there’s no doubt that EA has set the benchmark for what players will now expect from their football gaming. The latest installment of The Journey is exactly what many fans have been wishing for and serves to demonstrate that there’s still plenty of room for quality single player gaming. Our hunch is that within a couple of years we may see a special edition of FIFA that develops this role-playing aspect into a stand-alone title – or at least we can dream anyway!