FIFA’s history on Nintendo consoles is shaky, with past releases often inferior, dated shadows of the games on PlayStation and Xbox. Unfortunately that trend continues with FIFA 18 on Switch, a passable on-pitch experience that is sadly stripped back and devoid of so many of the features that make the franchise currently so appealing.
FIFA 18 on Switch is at its best when playing a straight-up match, but that’s largely because it offers little else. Mechanically it has more in common with last year’s game: the pace and control is similar, and as such, dribbling isn’t as responsive as it is currently on PS4 and Xbox One. Players feel heavy and are slow to turn too, so the sluggishness is even further exaggerated.
In contrast, the ball feels light, like one of those cheap footballs you had as a kid. Hit it sweetly and it’ll rocket towards the goal, but it loses momentum quickly and long-range shots dip far sooner than expected.
That said, if you do fire a shot on target, expect it to go in because goalkeepers are woefully inept. More often than not they’ll fumble the simplest of saves, and anything from distance seems to blindside them as they stand rooted to the spot as the ball sail past into the net.
Obviously, it still feels like FIFA – the controls are mapped the same way and as such the method of attacking, defending and scoring is much the same across all versions. True, the prospect of playing a proper football game on the go is exciting, but when the experience is so inferior it’s not enough to forgive its shortcomings.
Aside from the matches themselves, many of the features in the full-fat FIFA are cut back or missing entirely. The Journey – FIFA’s single-player story mode – is absent, and while its inclusion isn’t to everyone’s taste, it certainly adds depth and variety to the overall package. Career mode is present, however, yet it’s more inline with last year’s effort. That means this year’s headline additions, such as transfer negations, are missing, and so once again, it feels a little stale from the get-go.
FIFA Ultimate Team is included, but similarly is lacking some of the newer features. Squad building challenges and single-player draft make the cut, but they’re aimed at seasoned FUT veterans already familiar with the modes intricacies – who, in all likelihood, are already enjoying the better overall experience the game offers on other consoles.
FUT’s entry-level mode, Squad Battles, has been left out, which is a crazy decision. Familiarising yourself with FUTs finer details by taking on teams built by other players without embarrassing yourself online seems like the perfect mode for bringing in new players on Switch and its absence is baffling.
Similarly, multiplayer is a mixed bag due to missing features and hardware limitations. The most damning of these is the inability to play online matches against friends – a fault which apparently lies with Nintendo. Playing against mates is one of the main reasons for FIFA’s success, and without bragging rights at stake, competing against randoms online just doesn’t have the same appeal.
Of course, you can still play against friends locally, by either connecting multiple consoles or huddled around a TV if you’ve enough controllers, and it works well. You can also split the Joy-Con and play in tabletop mode, but the reduced number of buttons severely limits how you play, with skill and finesse shots glaringly absent. Considering FIFA 18’s focus on the attacking, the inability to execute these fundamental plays impacts the experience dramatically, so it feels more like a failed experiment than a viable way to fully enjoy the game.
Ultimately, FIFA 18 on Switch is a story of what could have been. Watered-down game modes give the whole experience a feeling of it being a work-in-progress rather than the complete package offered in the PS4 and Xbox One version. If you only want a quick FIFA fix in single-player or local play, the Switch version delivers. But it’s such a diluted, Sunday League experience it’s impossible to recommend if you’re already playing on home consoles.