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FIFA 18: Demo first impressions, and why I am not going to buy it

We’re back for another year of FIFA! Well, I lie, I won’t be buying it after this demo. EA released a free demonstration available from the PlayStation store; having played it here are my first impressions.

Is FIFA 18 any different in gameplay from FIFA 17?

Not really. At its best, FIFA 18 plays almost identically to FIFA 17; at its worst, it is a clunky mess. One fact the demo force-feeds you is that dribbling has been overhauled and redone. Just by playing the game I can tell you that the skill dribble (holding L2/LT on the controller) feels unresponsive, and dribbling in general seems wobbly.

I fear that the defending has also been made weaker. Having played an unjustifiable amount of FIFA 17, I had thought the only way to make the defenders weaker would be to make them wheelchair bound. Do I have proof that it has been made worse? Defenders seem less agile than strikers and the standing tackle only works periodically.

More evidence that the game has been made weaker is that against the computer, set to the hardest difficulty, I had English hero John Stones (a defender) up front to emulate the two-goal glory he achieved against Feyenoord last week. I won 3-0, but Stones only scored one, which upset me.

If you need yet more evidence, you may remember going down to 10 men in FIFA 17 and still being able to put up a good fight. I went down to 10 men against my brother and he battered me 5-0 before we “made a mutual decision” to end the game in the 39th minute.

You may say “James maybe you’re just really good at the game?”, to which I would respond that I was good at FIFA 17 (Division 1 Champion, check me), and, if FIFA 18 was sufficiently different, then I would have to adjust to a new style of play (as I did between FIFA 16 and 17).

All of this is unimportant, James. Tell me, is the dab back as a celebration?!

Indeed it is; and I must say that it has been improved, with two men dabbing together instead of one, which I am certain would make me giggle endlessly in a game of Pro Clubs. This, however, has come at a price, as everything does with EA. The “double-arm swing” no longer looks like an eruption of energy, with only one arm being swung at times and the swings slower.

The “big man” is only performed by one man instead of four (in the two times I attempted it before grieving its death) which ends up making the one player performing the celebration look ridiculous. The “spin on the floor” also doesn’t zoom in anymore, meaning you cannot see the curious expression of glee on the player’s face.

Well, at least my favourite celebration has improved, is the low driven shot as overpowered as it was in FIFA 17?

Absolutely. This was classic in FIFA 17, you get to the edge of the box, double-tap square and, if you put it across the goal, you would always score. Rather predictably, it was a low driven shot that I scored with John Stones (he has a shooting stat of 35…).

The goalkeepers are still legendarily bad and fail to save shots that you would expect a blind man to save. Annoyingly, they sometimes don’t bother to dive which makes me wonder why I played them in the first place.

Is “The Journey” with beloved video game hero Alex Hunter getting a worthy sequel in the demo?

Given that the gameplay is pretty much the same as last year, the same problem of dependence on the AI remains. I lost the game in the demo because my team decided that passing around the back was more worthwhile than going forward, even when 3-0 down in the second half. I can tell you that there is more luck involved in being successful in The Journey than there is in poker.

The Journey was a novel concept in its first year, however, it was an incredibly shallow experience. I may have given it too much credit in my FIFA 17 review. In fact I did test, in one game, whether scoring an own goal would warrant a mention of it in the post-match interview, however the interviews lacked variety and everyone forgot about “teenage star Alex Hunter” scoring five own goals in one game.

The Journey very quickly became repetitive, as do commentary lines and “unique” animations in-game. While the game strives to be like real life, even the dullest mind won’t be tricked into that.

FIFA needs to take a year or two off. It needs to fix up its gameplay massively, instead of purely focusing on the presentation. I would urge you to purchase PES instead. If you need more convincing to make such a purchase, my review of the game will be out eventually. Do not believe the hype that even Ultimate Team may promise. From my observation, people always seem to be more invested in building their team than actually playing the game…