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A lot of people have been curious about how much FIFA 18 on the Switch would be missed. EA has been mostly mum on details until this point; and with review codes not going out until yesterday, there's been a lot speculation on exactly it will be missing. Well now we know.
After spending a bunch of time with FIFA 18 on the Switch, I can confirm that it more or less rolls the clock back to FIFA 16—the final year of the Ignite Engine. Aside from The Journey, which was confirmed to be absent during E3, here's what's missing.
Everything That's Missing From FIFA 18 on the Switch
- Squad Battles and Weekend League: One of the newer features in FIFA 18 is Squad Battles—a rotating set of games in FIFA Ultimate Team where you can earn points and climb up a leaderboard for major rewards. Sadly, Squad Battles doesn't make the cut in the Switch version, and neither does Weekend League—a popular mode in which you win games to qualify for a weekend tournament with major prizes. What does make it? Squad Building Challenges and Daily Objectives are both still available, as are the Single Player and Online Drafts. Losing Weekend League and Squad Battles is a serious drag, though. It makes Ultimate Team, which was dicey to begin with on the Switch, an almost total non-starter.
- The Presentation: FIFA 18 on the Switch rolls back all the really nice additions to the presentation found in the other version, including the league-specific overlays for MLS, enhanced crowds, and improved celebrations. The crowd audio also regresses back to the more generic songs for MLS games (though you can still hear the "Gala-xy!" chants at Galaxy home games). Basically, the presentation is about where it was with FIFA 16.
- Transfer Negotiations and Release Clauses in Career Mode: This is a bit of a bummer: release clauses and sell-on clauses are missing from career mode. So are the owner mode-like financials introduced in FIFA 17, though they were kind of superfluous anyway. As you might expect, Transfer Negotiations are also back to being conducted via email rather than via cutscene as they are in the other versions. This is a loss, but I'm more disappointed that I can't trigger Messi's release clause and start some serious trouble.
- Certain Formations: Certain formations that are prevalent in FIFA Ultimate Team are unavailable in the other modes in the Switch version. That includes 4-1-2-1-2, which happens to be my favorite formation. What gives, EA? [Update: It seems that this formation is still in the Switch version, but it's called the 4-4-2 Diamond Wide. Not sure why it was renamed, but apologies for the confusion.]
Another weird thing: Tactical instructions are hidden beyond a "Customize Formation" option rather than getting their own tab. For a second, I totally thought that I couldn't tell my Strikers to "Get in Behind." I eventually found it, though. It was just very well-hidden.
In the interest of being Fair and Balanced, FIFA 18 does actually retain the LA Galaxy's Stubhub Center, which is interesting. It also keeps all of the licenses found in the full game, including J-League and the lowest division of the Bundesliga. But in most other respects, it rolls the clock back a couple entries.
But is it Good?
So here's the deal: I'm not sure that the kind of people who will buy FIFA on the Switch will care that everything I outlined above is missing. I sense a lot of first-timers coming into the series with this entry. Even Mike asked if he should pick it up; and as far as I know, he's never been into sports games until now.
What FIFA 18 on the Switch does get right are the technical aspects. It's the complete polar opposite of NBA 2K18 on the Switch, which crams everything in and suffers for it. It has a silky smooth 60fps framerate, everything loads incredibly quickly, and it's available in 1080p in docked mode. It also doesn't look half bad on the field. I mean, no, it obviously doesn't measure up to its counterparts on the other consoles, but it's far from ugly.
In terms of gameplay, it's kind of hard for me to get a read on this version. My sense is that it's also a step back to FIFA 16, especially in terms of how defenders react to the ball and off-ball attackers move up the field. It's definitely must easier to split the defense with a through ball in this one, as defenders don't seem to stick their foot out to stop it. It's fun and fast, but I feel like it loses a bit of the nuance of this year's version, which I think is actually quite good.
All of this makes it a stay away for hardcore fans; but for first-timers and families looking for some fun soccer, I think it works perfectly well as a stripped down port. My plan is to bring it over to my friend's house this weekend and teach him to play some FIFA, which will hopefully get him hooked on the series. If it works, then it will have definitely done its job.
In the meantime, I'll probably limit my FIFA Switch time to the occasional jaunt through career mode while I'm flying or something. There's no doubt about it: The "main" version on PS4, Xbox One, and PC is superior in almost every respect. It's prettier; the gameplay is smarter, and it has The Journey. But as a simpler port, it manages to retain most of what makes FIFA so great. And hey, it's portable.
It's just a shame that it's also $60.