This year's soccer game from EA Sports improves on virtually every aspect of the world's most popular game. From more intuitive controls (and faster player speeds over last year) to multiple modes and extraordinary production values to tighter AI (artificial intelligence) and support for many different platforms (even older ones), EA Sports has its finest "footy" game to date. The modes may not be radically overhauled compared to FIFA 17, but the extra attention given to The Journey mode really pays off. The young prodigy Alex Hunter returns in his second season -- along with a star-studded cast of players including famous football talent like Ronaldo -- as he considers next steps and must make meaningful choices on and off the pitch. From Brazil to Los Angeles, you'll experience the trials and tribulations of an up-and-coming soccer star in this chapter-based, emotional story mode. You can personalize Alex Hunter's look -- including hair style, tattoos, and play style -- and engage in squad battles (AI-powered clubs) and in local multiplayer with friends on the same screen. This year's The Journey mode also lets you play as additional characters in shorter, stand-alone stories based on characters Alex meets throughout his rise up in the big leagues.
There are some minor issues, though. Not including Ronaldo (who looks amazing), most player models look the same, with similar animations and styles -- even though EA Sports claims they've done a lot of work in this area. You only notice during the close-up camera shots, of course, but it does break the suspension of disbelief a bit. Also, you might find yourself waiting a moment for player animations to finish before you can pivot and perform a new move on the pitch, such as a quick sprint or 360 deke. But these aren't major issues, and the overall pace is better than in years past -- faster than last year, but slow enough for you to employ methodical tactics. For instance, this year now allows for "quick subs," allowing you to swap out players without having to stop the game (though there are some limitations). It's worth noting how good the production quality is this year, thanks in part to the Frostbite engine -- the players, crowds, and stadiums are incredibly lifelike, as is the TV broadcast-like presentation -- but also in the attention to detail in the league and team's chants, music, color commentary, and so on. Overall, FIFA 18 is an extraordinary game. If you're a fan of the franchise, you won't be disappointed.