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EGX 2017: Hands-On with FIFA 18 (Switch)

The beautiful game meets the beautiful handheld.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this. I went to EGX with no idea it would be available to play at the event. It was only as I was awaiting my […]

The beautiful game meets the beautiful handheld. 

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this. I went to EGX with no idea it would be available to play at the event. It was only as I was awaiting my turn on Super Mario Odyssey that I saw it in the corner of my eye and suddenly thought ‘oh man, I’d like to have a go’, with no real fanfare. I knew it was coming to Switch and I also knew how EA Sports had treated Nintendo consoles in the past, ergo, with lacklustre attention and focus, forgetting an entire audience was out there awaiting a brand new football game on their console of choice. What we were always left with was half-assed updates and very little else. They didn’t sell very well because they weren’t very good, EA. Not because there wasn’t an audience.

So as the final game Sean and I played at EGX on day one, we ensured we didn’t leave without at least giving in a fair shake. And you know what? I’m glad I did. FIFA 18 on Switch is now pre-ordered because I absolutely loved it.

We were only given time to play a single match and the alarm bells soon rang in our heads when we were told we’d be playing the game on the handheld screen, each with a single Joy-Con. Sean and I looked at each other wondering how on earth we could play FIFA in our own way on these tiny controllers. Yes, you do lose an awful lot playing it on a Joy-Con, namely finesse shots and touches, full control of your teams tactics (what with the lack of a d-pad), the second man control that I’ve began to rely on ever since it was introduced into the game and a few other extras which we didn’t have at our disposal because the Joy-Con’s only have a two buttons on the top and not four. Immediately, we felt handicapped.

Naturally, playing a game a certain way is important to your enjoyment of it and we felt a little worried this would hamper the experience. And yet, what EA Sports have done with the single Joy-Con control has simplified the FIFA experience, right back down to its very core. You have pass, shoot, boost, tackle, long ball and through ball. You have the absolute essentials and more or less nothing else. Oddly at first, considering how simple it becomes eventually, it’s a little tough to get your head around. You do find yourself pressing the wrong buttons (the size of the buttons on the Cons could be a contributing factor to this, we discussed) when wanting to perform a different action.

If you can erase your muscle memory on how you play FIFA on those other consoles, you come to notice Joy-Con FIFA isn’t actually that terrifying a prospect and soon enough, we were tearing it around the pitch with little issue.

What FIFA 18 on Switch provides is the game you know very well and love to your bones, absolutely anywhere and instantly playable with a friend. It’s worth stressing that if you play the game in the Joy-Con grip you regain the full control set, along with playing with the almighty Pro controller (or of course in handheld mode). It’s only the singular Joy-Con usage that is restricted, but it’s hardly a deal breaker when you realise that for whatever reason, all that extra nonsense we’re all so accustomed to becomes superfluous when they’re not available to be used. It feels oddly satisfying being able to play FIFA again without having to worry about the extra level of in-game management you’re made to do to beat the AI or online opponents.

So I at least had a perfectly satisfying experiences with Joy-Con FIFA (worth noting Sean did not share this particular sentiment) and it will be interesting when taking FIFA online on the Switch if the game makes players aware if their opponents are playing with a certain controller or not. Will you get matched up with players based on what controller you’re using? We haven’t got long to find out, as FIFA 18 on Switch arrives this week.

I’m pretty darn impressed with how it feels. If you’re willing to give it a go after reading this, I reckon you will be too.

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