First glance: FIFA 18 beta version has whet the appetite

Following the FIFA 18 beta release on the 10th August, we had a chance to scope what sort of game we could be expecting when the full version is released in late September.

While FIFA 17 introduced some interesting new features, such as FUT Champions and Squad Building Challenges, in some areas, the gameplay left a lot to be desired.

1. Defending is harder

For many players, one of the most frustrating gameplay features on FIFA 17 was the effectiveness of AI defending. It was simply too strong, enabling players to almost shortcut defending completely.

Positively, the gameplay on the FIFA 18 beta suggests that EA are trying to add more of a skill element to defending, with much less reliance on the AI. From defensive positioning to intercepting, it’s clear that EA have tried to tone down such an overpowered aspect of the previous FIFA, which is good news for players who enjoy defending.

Of course, players of a high level will generally favour a more difficult game as it creates a wider skill gap. As FIFA moves further into the eSports light, the game should definitely require more elements of skill and focus on a players decision-making.

The indication that defending will have much less reliance on the AI is refreshing. From playing the game, we feel that little change is necessary. In general, the new defending and player positioning is very good other than a few issues where a ball would perhaps be expected to lock on better when manually reading a pass.

2. Passing is much smoother

So far in the beta release, the passing (particularly on the ground) feels much smoother and players can expect to feel much more control with where they want to pass; it’s crisper.

While FIFA 17 wasn’t bad with ground passing, sometimes the game felt slow which made it easy to defend – especially when players would take a bad touch. This often meant that without the use of a power ground pass, it was difficult to create openings against some opponents.

The FIFA 18 beta indicates that EA are trying to create more versatility in styles of play, and if you like to play a possession style of football – you should be able to do so more effectively on FIFA 18.

Overall, all elements of passing felt very good – from threaded through balls to standard short passing, there weren’t any significant defects. If we’re being critical – chipped through balls are potentially a little overpowered, but EA will likely have already addressed this for the main release.

3. Dribbling and control is the best that it has ever been

This doesn’t just refer to sprinting down the wing and pulling off a combination of skill moves with a slaloming run, the player you control will now take much better control of the ball – which means that control in tight spaces and dribbling with the ball in midfield feels much more realistic. The player you control is able to take many more ‘little touches’ than on previous versions of the game.

The standard dribble moves and skills still work nicely too – so players who want to play like Neymar and Ronaldinho still can, it’s just nice that EA have put an emphasis on clever touches and turns for those players with a style reminiscent of Andres Iniesta or David Silva. Once again, it adds much more versatility to attacking.

While EA may not always get it right, they’ve delivered on their promise for dribbling in FIFA 18. The difference is very noticeable, and on another level to any previous edition of the game. The changes should mean that the game is much more entertaining to watch as a spectator too – which is only a positive thing as eSports grows.

Overall, the FIFA 18 beta early indications are that the game will be much improved. In many ways, FIFA 17 was underwhelming – while some of the new features were very good inclusions, the gameplay was almost arcade-like at times.

Regardless of what mode you play, whether it’s online or offline, the most important factor of the game is gameplay – how the game feels. It’s very promising to feel that this is what has been focused on for FIFA 18.

If EA manage to make the correct tweaks to the beta, then the main release should amount to a very enjoyable edition of FIFA – one of the most realistic versions to date.