FIFA 18 gets a free World Cup mode in May

Are you already looking ahead to FIFA 19? Well, stop it! There’s life in FIFA 18 yet. Ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, EA has announced that FIFA 18 will be getting a monster update dropping on 29 May – and it’s free, too.

Landing on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch (sorry 360 and PS3 owners), the update brings authentic teams, kits, stadia, badges, and – of course – the trophy itself. It’ll let you play from the group stages all the way to the final in Moscow, and there will be custom tournament options too, so you can play your “what if Scotland qualified” fantasies out. And yes, there’s a World Cup Ultimate Team, which was a treat for me last time as it emptied the pro players from the main game allowing me to reach the dizzy heights of Division 2.

And if for some reason you don’t already have FIFA 18, continue reading for everything you need to know…

FIFA 18: Features

Aside from the return of FIFA 17′s best feature – The Journey (more on that below) – EA delivered a number of improvements over FIFA 17.[gallery:1]

Smoother substitutions

Rather than a flow-breaking paused game, followed by a dull trudge through menus, FIFA 18 offers suggestions for substitutions based on how the game is going. The AI keeps an eye out for tiring, yellow-carded or otherwise underperforming players and suggest replacements from the bench. See one you like, tap the corresponding combination of buttons, and your man will be on the pitch before you can say “get off the pitch you lazy jerk.” Or something a little more blue.

It’s a nice little change, and makes a big difference – especially in multiplayer where nobody likes to see someone spending ten minutes tinkering with their subs.

More atmospheric stadia

While EA has always strived for immaculately modelled stadia in its games for as long as I can remember, the feel has always been pretty similar venue to venue. In FIFA 18, EA tried to make different regions feel a bit different, with regions having their own personalities. Play in South America, and you see bright hazy sunshine as well as confetti and banners in the stands for example.

On top of that, the fans themselves are better animated. They feel more like individual people now, and will behave accordingly, with fans rushing to touch the goalscorer who has poached that last minute winner. It’s a small thing, but when you’ve got this good at perfecting the football formula, small things make a big difference.[gallery:7]

Dribbling has been improved immeasurably 

Dribbling has been reworked to ensure that pure pace isn’t the best way to get past someone. It feels a lot more responsive, thanks to animations now being modulated frame by frame. It sounds like a PR announcement that wouldn’t make much material difference, but it’s instantlypreferablee to fiddling with button combos. 

Legends are dead. Long live Icons!

So Legends are gone. The incredibly rare legendary retired players you could recruit for your FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) are no longer on the table. The good news is that that’s because they’re no longer exclusive to Xbox. Icons will be available on any formats with FUT in place, and basically do the same things as far as we can tell.[gallery:2]

FIFA 18: The Journey returns

Many raised eyebrows when FIFA 17 went all Telltale Games on us and introduced a story mode that concentrated as much on managing the media and off-the-pitch feuds as on kicking the pig’s bladder into the onion bag. Despite this, the experiment was a big success, and EA brought back The Journey for a second season in FIFA 18.

Unfortunately, for those a bit sick of the sight of Alex Hunter, it’s more Alex Hunter. Basically, you pick up things where you left off, with Alex mulling over the move to one of the world’s giant clubs. The trailer is below, so you can judge for yourself.

As I wrote back in November with reference to my days producing football flash games, The Journey is weird but oh-so-wonderful. There’s plenty of room for improvement in future versions, however, as I wrote at the time:

“It was fairly bluntly written at times (the storyline was signposted so clearly that any upcoming twists were visible from space), but my main bugbear was that the mode was so obsessed with getting you to its pre-scripted final chapter, it wouldn’t let you create your own fairy-tale moments. It had low points, sure, but they were only low points in the same way that Disney films warn of “mild peril” in the ratings box: mild turbulence on the way to the guaranteed happy ending payout. The mode, ultimately, was awkwardly held between the tension of being your story to make while rigidly forcing you to stay on rails until you reached the ending it had planned for you all along.”


But if you’re reading this, EA, here’s my advice from an ex-games producer:

“There are a million potential stories of footballers to tell, from the journeyman bouncing from club to club, to the faded pro getting his last outing before hanging up his boots. From workhorse centre-halfs to pacey supersub wingers. I want EA to tell all these stories, but – and it’s a big but – I want them to simply build the framework and leave the finer detail to the fans.”

EA, you have my contact details. I will happily talk your ear off about this.

FIFA 18: Release date and formats

Surprising nobody, EA is sticking rigidly to its September release date formula, and this year’s feast of football arrived on 29 September on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. [gallery:6]

Not all versions of FIFA 18 were created equal, of course. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions not only use an older engine, but last year they missed out on The Journey leaving a lot of fans seriously disgruntled. The Switch version, it has been confirmed, will also run the old engine and doesn’t have The Journey, though it does have a version for inpromptu two player matches using the a Joy Con each, which almost makes up for the initial disappointment.

We’ll be updating this page as we hear more about FIFA 18 and what you can expect as the release date draws closer. Stay tuned!

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