One of the things that's surprising about FIFA 18 for Nintendo Switch is that Electronic Arts designed a unique version for the platform. While the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions share the same technology, the Switch edition had to be built from the ground up for the platform. Early impressions pointed to it being a port of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of FIFA 18, but it's not quite that either. You already know FIFA 18 is missing features like The Journey or squad battles in Ultimate Team, but what is missing from a presentation standpoint?
Digital Foundry took a look at the recent FIFA 18 release on Switch, comparing it other version of this year's release. The closest analog seems to be the Xbox 360 version, though the tech is improved.
"At its core, it's clear that the Switch version has much more in common with the Xbox 360 game we tested, though the visuals are given a healthy boost in several areas that help to give the game a more modern look. The level of detail is increased across the players via higher resolution textures and normal mapping, which adds more depth to facial features like skin and hair, bringing these a touch closer to the PS4 and Xbox One versions," writes Digital Foundry's David Bierton.
Digital Foundry says the foundations of the Switch version are definitely in the last-gen versions of the game, but with improved lighting and other effects. They point to similar core assets, like player models and the animated 2D sprites that make up the crowd, with identical cameras and camera controls for replays and pre-match shots. The lighting is beefed up and the shaders add more depth to the players, the pitch offers 3D grass during replays, and there's some high-quality depth of field going on.
"These changes help to position the Switch version somewhere in between the Xbox 360 Legacy Edition and the mainline PS4 and Xbox One releases, though aspects like bloom lighting are absent on Switch," says Bierton. "This makes FIFA 18 an intriguing Switch release, showing that the console has the capacity to provide a nice upgrade over the last-gen versions of the game in several areas, but perhaps lacks the horsepower to scale down the current-gen Frostbite engine."
FIFA 18 Switch runs at 1080p when docked and while the image quality is solid, anti-aliasing is absent. The Switch can go portable though and at 720p undocked, the game looks great. Gameplay is a consistent 60fps in both modes, while replays drop down to a 30fps target for additional effects.
In the end, Digital Foundry feels FIFA 18 on Switch is a solid start for the franchise on the platform. There are clear limitations though and they ultimately feel the game works as a companion title for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
"We feel that it would be more accurate to call it an enhanced, customised version of the last-gen Legacy Edition, with visual tweaks and gameplay adjustments new to this version," says Bierton. "As it stands, the Switch version doesn't quite work as a replacement for the PS4 and Xbox One games - it's best to think of it as the best mobile football game available, and one that just happens to work quite nicely on your HDTV too."