FIFA 18 Features

The year in loot boxes

The empire strikes back.

The great Star Wars debacle - and I'm not talking about The Last Jedi's second act here - dominated video game headlines in the last quarter of 2017. But in truth the year was packed with depressing stories about loot boxes, so many in fact that it has at times felt like our beloved hobby was more about the chance to win a rare item than it was about the chance to play.

The big interview: the Gambling Commission on loot boxes

"We don't yet understand enough of what the actual risks are."

Last week, independent charity Gamble Aware held its annual two-day conference in London. It focused on what's called Harm Minimisation, in particular, how to protect young people from gambling. The event was a who's who of the UK gambling industry, but there was one topic on everyone's lips: loot boxes.

A month after launch, how's FIFA 18?

A month after launch, FIFA 18 is in an interesting spot.

When EA's gargantuan football sequel came out I, and from what I can tell most people, enjoyed the game. Gameplay changes made for a fun, fast-passing and high-scoring game of virtual football, and some cool new modes meant FIFA 18 felt fully-featured. (For more, check out our FIFA 18 review.)

A month later, and with a couple of patches under its belt, FIFA 18 now has a mixed reputation among its rabid community. I've stuck with the game, pumping tens of hours into this year's FIFA Ultimate Team mode, and I've played what feels like hundreds of online and offline matches so far. So, I thought it would be useful to run through the good, bad and ugly of FIFA 18 one month in - and to offer my thoughts on what happens next.

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In FIFA, as so many fans of EA's all-conquering football series know, you can buy FIFA Coins with real world money. And with those FIFA Coins you can buy packs of cards for use in FIFA Ultimate Team, the series' most popular mode and the one that makes EA so many millions of dollars each financial quarter. Pay your money, buy a pack and roll the dice. Will I pack Ronaldo? Or Messi? Or an in-form? There's only one way to find out.

Are loot boxes gambling?

Crate escape.

Sin City is the global capital of gambling. Casinos with colourful chips, well-postured croupiers and automaton pensioners plugged into slot machines. At first glance it might not seem sinister, but strip back the glamour and Las Vegas paints a sad picture - its denizens cogs in a billion-dollar machine fuelled by potentially addictive gaming. The novelty of the place can hide its true intentions.

FIFA 18 just came out on Nintendo Switch, which should be reason for cheer. It's a decent port of this year's game, albeit running on an older engine and understandably without all the bells and whistles of its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts (and missing a few features such as The Journey mode and small details such as quick substitutions).

Balancing FIFA 18 sounds like a living nightmare

"Sometimes it just takes a few tries."

Pace, Strength, Finesse Shots, Crosses. Those are the four most contentious points of FIFA's balance that I can think of, and they come up, every year, as predictably as Antonio Valencia's balls into the box. (Antonio Valencia's balls into the box are very predictable, if you didn't get that.)

The limits for FIFA on Nintendo Switch

"I don't think it's impossible to do more with this engine…"

The Switch version of FIFA 18 is a bit of an oddity. It's certainly the most fully-fledged FIFA we've had outside of the console and PC versions - Ultimate Team on a handheld console is quite something - but it's also, for obvious reasons, still a more limited version next to all their Frostbite-powered glory.

FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch is the best portable FIFA ever

But I wouldn't want to play it on my living room telly.

FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch is a curious beast: a game not quite last gen, not quite current gen. It's a game that on the face of it looks significantly inferior to the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions, but viewed as a portable game is pretty impressive. It's a game I'm happy to play on a bus, but I wouldn't want to play it on a big telly at home. Indulge me the appropriation of a football cliche: FIFA 18 is a video game of two halves.

Early impressions of FIFA 18

Better graphics, responsive gameplay and The Journey 2.

At a recent event in London, I had the chance to go hands-on with FIFA 18 for a few hours. My early impressions are that it looks better, has some useful gameplay improvements that make a lot of sense, and feels a tad weightier to play.