The FIFA World Cup is coming to Russia for 2018, and FIFA 18 has released a major update to celebrate. I put the new content through its paces on the Nintendo Switch. Here’s what I thought of everything World Cup in FIFA 18.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developers: EA Vancouver, EA Romania
Publisher: EA Sports
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
The price is right
First off, the FIFA 18 World Cup 2018 update is free. So long as you are connected to the internet, the game will push out all the new World Cup content as a regular patch. When I logged in to FIFA 18 for the first time on Nintendo Switch, the update was installed and ready to go.
This garners some good will toward publisher EA, who could have easily decided to charge for this content. The last time the World Cup came around in 2014, EA released its tie-in as a completely standalone game from that year’s core FIFA title! That’s quite a difference from this year, where simply owning FIFA 18 is all you need.
Path to glory
The FIFA 18 World Cup update features a tournament mode with all 32 qualifying countries. If your home nation did not make the tournament, you do have the option to substitute them in. Players are free to create an alternate reality where their nation of choice becomes the next World Cup legend.
I decided to keep things accurate for my first tournament. For ancestral reasons I went with Germany, my perennial go-to team in the World Cup. Play begins at the group stage and streamlines straight through to the finals without much additional fanfare.
I thought the simulation aspect of the tournament went by a little too quickly. By that I mean that in between my own matches the rest of the brackets filled up so quickly that I didn’t really get to enjoy the drama of watching the World Cup “story” unfold. I really would have liked to see the bracket reveal itself just a little more slowly before cutting away, so that I could savour the storyline.
I can appreciate though that other gamers would see this as a plus, eager to just begin their next match. I could also of course go back and study the brackets after the simulation was complete as well. Regardless, in just a few short play sessions I was able to take Germany on a repeat performance of the 2014 World Cup.
World Cup Ultimate Team
Ultimate Team mode also receives an overhaul with the World Cup 2018 update. Players can build their fantasy FUT squadron using players from all 32 qualifying teams. World Cup icons from throughout the history of the tournament are also available to bolster your squad.
The team chemistry system has of course been tweaked under this format. Instead of clubs and leagues, chemistry-related bonuses are endowed based on players nationalities and confederations. This can make for exciting and powerful new player combinations that may not have yielded the same efficiency in standard Ultimate Team mode.
As the tournament progresses in the real world, dynamic items will also be made available in Ultimate Team. These items will be based on actual player performances in the World Cup Tournament. These dynamic items should spice up gameplay and lend an extra sense of relevancy to Ultimate Team mode as the World Cup progresses.
World Cup Ultimate team features several game modes. There are both single player and online tournaments, as well as drafts. Players can also engage in squad building challenges to earn even more FUT rewards.
New places to play
FIFA 18 doesn’t just bring authentic World Cup nations and rosters to the game, it also includes all 12 Russian stadiums where the matches will take place. From Fisht Stadium in Sochi to Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, every genuine location for World Cup 2018 has been recreated.
I enjoyed the feel of a different atmosphere with each match I was taking part in. It was fun to see which city I was playing in and use the seating capacity of the stadium to get a general feeling of the importance of the match I was about to play. I’m also looking forward to recognizing some of my favourite stadiums from my time in FIFA 18 on television as the World Cup begins.
Playing at home or on the go with Switch
It’s no surprise that the graphical fidelity of FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch isn’t quite on par with other platforms. This is primarily due to the system being unable to be render FIFA 18 on the Frostbite engine. The hardware of the Nintendo Switch required EA to compromise with a unique engine that would suit the platform better.
Of course this is hardly surprising. Gamers are generally aware that the Nintendo Switch is a unique platform. What the Nintendo Switch lacks in processing power, it makes up for with its own exclusive capabilities, such as the ability to travel in handheld mode.
I really appreciated this feature when I was playing FIFA 18. I frequently started playing World Cup matches on my train commute to work. When my stop came I was able to put the game into sleep mode. Shortly after I would pop the console onto the dock and pick up right where I left off on the big screen, pro controller in hand.
I did experience one glitch where FIFA 18 crashed on me when exiting sleep mode. The console rebooted and I was forced to replay the match I had already started. I can’t say for certain if this crash was software related, or if the fault was in the Nintendo Switch hardware itself. For this reason I’m not going to presume to lay the blame on FIFA 18.
The free World Cup 2018 update for FIFA 18 is a fun way to get into the tournament action. The authentic players, nations, and stadiums make creating your own World Cup story a pleasure. There is notable sacrifice in graphical quality made when playing on Nintendo Switch, but the ability to take FIFA 18 on the go is a worthy trade-off.
+ World Cup 2018 update is free
+ Substitute non-qualifying countries into the tournament
+ Authentic World Cup 2018 stadiums
+ Play on the go with Nintendo Switch
– Lack of Frostbite engine on Nintendo Switch
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5