FIFA 18: Despite Poor Keeper A.I., Scoring Explosion is Actually a Positive Sign for This Year's Entry

FIFA 18: Despite Poor Keeper A.I., Scoring Explosion is Actually a Positive Sign for This Year's Entry

EA's quick move to address the surplus the scoring underscores how far the pendulum has swung.

This has been the most common sight so far in FIFA 18: An opposing player pushes to the edge of the box, buckling the knees of hapless defenders as they go. Then they whip a screamer into the back of the net, leaving the goalkeeper flailing helplessly.

Goals have come in bunches so far in EA's soccer sim, which launched last Friday. Top players quickly realized that FIFA's power shot is overpowered in this version, and they responded by leaning into it hard. As a result, it's not uncommon to see players regularly scoring long range golazos.

This is a direct reaction to FIFA 17—a defensive slog in which goalies were notoriously overpowered. EA responded to fan complaints by tuning down the goalkeeper artificial intelligence; which, in conjunction with smoother, more nuanced dribbling, has made 6-3 games a common sight in Online Seasons and elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, fans have gotten a little tired of watching opponents score effortless goals from distance.

This has sparked something of a debate within the FIFA community, with proponents of the current style arguing that naysayers should simply learn to defend—the FIFA equivalent of "git gud." But the general concensus that FIFA 18's keepers aren't good enough and need to be addressed.

EA has responded with a title update, which went on live PC this morning and should be out on console very soon. In addition to the usual bugs, it will be buffing the goalkeeping and reducing the shot accuracy, winning praise from fans.

EA's quick action should mitigate the cheesier elements of FIFA 18's gameplay, but that doesn't mean offense is going to suddenly fall by the wayside in this version. It's clear that EA considers this as a corrective for the slower FIFA 17. Indeed, you could say that FIFA is going back to its roots, as the series has been more focused on end-to-end action than its nearest competition: Pro Evolution Soccer.

The trick is to strike a balance. Today's title update is a necessary first step, but it will probably take a bit longer to really find a happy medium where keepers don't feel overpowered. Until then, the golazos will continue to flow in FIFA 18.

FIFA 18's Not Alone in This

FIFA 18 is not along in its struggle to balance offense and defense.

Sports games developers have long had to contend with the problem of keeping the defense balanced while making sure that people are still having fun.

In Madden NFL, that struggle is manifested in making the passing and running games are robust and enjoyable while ensuring that it's possible to get stops. In NBA 2K, it's about balancing the shooting. In NHL, it's balancing out the penalties and the goaltending.

Often, offense ends up winning out just because it's more fun to score. Developers will even skew the balance toward scoring just to make sure that everyone is enjoying themselves.

Scoring is fun!

That in itself is not a bad thing. Offense is fun! Scoring goals is fun! It only gets to be a problem when it starts to feel cheap.

FIFA 18 players are justified in feeling frustrated because they have no direct control over their keeper. They have to play perfect defense; and if a skilled opponent manages to get open, then it's almost a guaranteed goal. The same can be said for Madden when certain money plays always work, or when the pick and roll is too strong in NBA 2K.

So developers do their best to make sure that offense is fun without compromising the defense too much—a delicate dance in the best of times.

Launch is always the most awkward period for games like these, as new features introduce new variables, which invariably throws the balance out of whack. It's not until a few title updates have landed that a sports game has really found its footing. Until then, fans have to make the best of it.

I'll say this for FIFA 18: Cheesy as it can feel at times, it's a heck of a lot more fun than it was last year, and that's owed at least in part to EA opening things up. That offense is so powerful right now is a natural consequence of the pendulum swinging back from the defensive slog of the past two games. EA just needs time to correct it.

In the meantime, you might want to brush up on your defending. You're gonna need it.

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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