FIFA 18 - The Biggest Justification for the Nintendo Switch

Oct 20,2017


There is an old saying about the cameras: the best one is the one you have now. Unfortunately, it is rarely said about video games. Despite the rapid development of smartphone and tablets, mobile games has rarely exceeded relatively simple puzzlers and platformers, and there is still a long way to go to compete with console or PC iterations.

Entering the Nintendo Switch, a console that finally offers that commitment, and FIFA 18, is perhaps the most important test to date of the Switch’s potential as a serious contender for gaming beyond Nintendo’s own limited if often delightful offerings and indie favourites like Stardew Valley.

On Xbox One and PS4, FIFA 18 has once again become the best outing of the franchise to date. It looks very extravagant, including full motion capture of some larger names, such as the new franchise star Cristian’s Ronaldo. The AI is smarter, dribbling tighter; inevitably, a smattering of new features, and excellent, cameo-packed follow on to last year’s cutscene-heavy The Journey, in which players created  the career of rising Premier League star Alex Hunter.

The Switch iteration has always been a test. Nintendo's portable machine is apparently unable to handle EA's Frostbite engine, so FIFA on Switch has its own proprietary version, and no Journey. The graphics are simpler, especially noticeable in textures (blades of grass; the fabric of players’ shirts) and lighting. But the graphics have a crisp and bright feeling - the real player faces are all there. Although the early versions were somewhat plagued by graphical bugs, these were resolved. In short: you will not really care because the gameplay is all there.

On the pitch, FIFA for Switch feels very similar to the full-sized console version - it's a deep and gloriously entertaining football simulation. Any comparative limitations in graphical power can be easily compensated by the ability to improve your career mode from the dock and keep playing on the go. It is deep and satisfying; prepare for endless questions from commuters(“Is that FIFA? How is it?”) as they are envious. Even the split Joy-Con multiplayer game is a pleasingly diverting option that will not ever replace the local multiplayer game on consoles, but will let you continue the long train journey.

In fact, FIFA for Switch is a victory, a validation of Nintendo’s vision: just like smartphones, the consoles are getting the same, separated by a few small differences in looks and power. Nintendo's bet is that the ability to play in portable mode outweighs the lack of a 4K option. Moreover, gamers are increasingly divided into two subsets: the online player base who can pour hours into Ultimate Team or Elite: Dangerous, and the time-starved, mobile gamer,, wwho may not have time for a 6 hours Destiny raid but finds too many smartphone games shallow and empty.

The Nintendo has to face the challenge to sell(fifa coins) enough consoles for more developers to follow EA Sports’ example.  (And to fix its online experience, and seriously, the Wi-Fi interface is criminal in 2017 and the lack of SIM connectivity options feels like an oversight.) It will take plenty more franchises to close the gap with the other console manufacturers. But if if presented with the option of a 4K iteration or one I can play anywhere?  I know I will choose the latter.