FIFA 18: Release date and features revealed

The summer football draught is almost over and a new season is nearly upon us. FIFA 18 won’t be there for the very start of the season, but a release date has now been confirmed – 29 September – and we can officially get excited for what’s coming. Even if Cristiano Ronaldo is now the new cover star.

Here’s everything you need to know about FIFA 18.

FIFA 18: Features

Aside from the return of FIFA 17′s best feature – The Journey (more on that below) – EA has been relatively tight-lipped on new features, but some information is coming in from people who have had hands-on time with the game at this year’s E3. Alongside the improvements to visuals and line-ups you’d expect year-on-year, a couple of things made me nod approvingly.

Smoother substitutions

Rather than a flow-breaking paused game, followed by a dull trudge through menus, FIFA 18 will offer suggestions for substitutions based on how the game is going. The AI will keep an eye out for tiring, yellow-carded or otherwise underperforming players and suggest replacements from the bench. See one you like, tap the corresponding combination of buttons, and your man will be on the pitch before you can say “get off the pitch you lazy jerk.” Or something a little more blue.

It’s a nice little change, that could make a big difference – especially in multiplayer where nobody likes to see someone spending ten minutes tinkering with their subs.

More atmospheric stadia

While EA has always strived for immaculately modeled stadia in its games for as long as I can remember, the feel has always been pretty similar venue to venue. Well now EA is trying to make different regions feel a bit different, with regions having their own personalities. Play in South America, and you’ll see bright hazy sunshine as well as confetti and banners in the stands for example.

On top of that, the fans themselves are better animated. They feel more like individual people now, and will behave accordingly, with fans rushing to touch the goalscorer who has poached that last minute winner. It’s a small thing, but when you’ve got this good at perfecting the football formula, small things make a big difference.

Dribbling has been improved immesurable 

Dribbling has been reworked to ensure that pure pace isn’t the best way to get past someone. It reportedly feels a lot more responsive, thanks to animations now being modulated frame by frame. It sounds like a PR announcment that wouldn’t make much material difference, but apparently it’s instantly prefereble to fiddling with button combos. 

Legends are dead. Long live Icons!

So Legends are gone. The incredibly rare legendary retired players you could recruit for your FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) are no longer on the table. The good news is that that’s because they’re no longer exclusive to Xbox. Icons will be available on any formats with FUT in place, and basically do the same things as far as we can tell.

FIFA 18: The Journey returns

Many raised eyebrows when FIFA 17 went all Telltale Games on us and introduced a story mode that concentrated as much on managing the media and off-the-pitch feuds as on kicking the pig’s bladder into the onion bag. Despite this, the experiment was a big success, and EA has confirmed that The Journey will be returning for a second season in FIFA 18.

The news came via EA’s Andrew Wilson, who claimed that more than ten million people have played The Journey to date. This means that the company will “bring players back to The Journey with season two.” The second season will feature new characters and new storylines, he added, which makes sense, because the same characters with the same storylines would be the same damned game.

Unfortunately, for those a bit sick of the sight of Alex Hunter, it’s going to be Alex Hunter. Basically, you’ll be picking up things where you left off, with Alex mulling over the move to one of the world’s giant clubs. Sounds considerably less interesting to me, but what do I know? The trailer is below, so you can judge for yourself.

Still, this is great news. As I wrote back in November with reference to my days producing football flash games, The Journey was weird but oh-so-wonderful. There’s plenty of room for improvement in season two, however, as I wrote at the time:

“It was fairly bluntly written at times (the storyline was signposted so clearly that any upcoming twists were visible from space), but my main bugbear was that the mode was so obsessed with getting you to its pre-scripted final chapter, it wouldn’t let you create your own fairy-tale moments. It had low points, sure, but they were only low points in the same way that Disney films warn of “mild peril” in the ratings box: mild turbulence on the way to the guaranteed happy ending payout. The mode, ultimately, was awkwardly held between the tension of being your story to make while rigidly forcing you to stay on rails until you reached the ending it had planned for you all along.”

If they can work towards fixing these issues, I’m very confident that the game mode can easily top the ten million plays it made on its debut in FIFA 17.

But if you’re reading this, EA, here’s my advice from an ex-games producer:

“There are a million potential stories of footballers to tell, from the journeyman bouncing from club to club, to the faded pro getting his last outing before hanging up his boots. From workhorse centre-halfs to pacey supersub wingers. I want EA to tell all these stories, but – and it’s a big but – I want them to simply build the framework and leave the finer detail to the fans.”

EA, you have my contact details. I will happily talk your ear off about this.

FIFA 18: Release date and formats

Surprising nobody, EA is sticking rigidly to its September release date formula, and this year’s feast of football will be with us on 29 September on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. 

Not all versions of FIFA 18 will be created equal, of course. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions not only use an older engine, but last year they missed out on The Journey leaving a lot of fans seriously disgruntled. The Switch version, it has been confirmed, will also run the old engine and doesn’t have The Journey, though it does have a version for inpromptu two player matches using the a Joy Con each, which almost makes up for the initial disappointment.

We’ll be updating this page as we hear more about FIFA 18 and what you can expect as the release date draws closer. Stay tuned!

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