Thinking With Hot Ice: FIFA 18

In these times of World Cup qualifying, I found myself wanting to play a little soccer. Having next to no skill on the pitch myself, I gravitated to the FIFA series on Xbox One. I’ve been with this series for a while, and I always tell myself I’ll probably skip this iteration, but every time it comes out and I can’t help but get my hands on it. One thing that brought me back around was the introduction of The Journey last year. Alex Hunter’s story was a nice change of pace from the bland created character I always make that says nothing but a few text messages in the entire game. Seeing someone’s career and all the ups and downs brought a level of depth the series had always been lacking. The fact that the actors playing the part are good at what they do made the storyline that much more human, so I was interested to see where the story would go. I didn’t think they had that much room to maneuver since he was already in the pros, but I was WRONG.

You start off where last season ended. It can either start from your previous story or you can make a new one. I was afraid it would just be another regular season with no new drama, then my agent comes to me with some trade offers. This is where it gets interesting. One of the offers is from Real Madrid, a place Alex Hunter has always dreamed of going. However, the rumors surrounding your transfer have the fans mad at you, which forces the manager to put you as a sub on the team sheet. This is where I started to notice some of the key decisions and player choices start to play a part in the story. It even pops up on the screen that a particular aspect is because of something you did. Whether it be a choice you made or your performance in a match, it makes a difference. It even made me feel like a complete jackass when I got a red card and was suspended, complete with stern talking to from the assistant manager. My team also was at risk of missing out on the Cup Final because of it. Luckily, I was able to bring them back from the precipice in the next match, but what stuck out to me is how many little moments were tied into this playthrough.

Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t some BIG ass moments in this game. One of the craziest happens at the beginning when it turns out your agent was talking to a fake team representative, and the deal you thought was all but signed was never genuine in the first place. I can’t imagine what that would be like for a young player, and the game gives a pretty good shock at that point. I won’t go into a lot of the story, because it’s honestly the best story in a sports game I’ve ever played. Kudos for putting it together.

The other aspect of the game most people focus on is Ultimate team, and it is most definitely back. It’s got some new flash and polish to it, but should be pretty familiar to anyone who played it previously. Just good luck when competing online. I’m not bad at the game in the slightest, but I’m hard-pressed to get a win. Those dudes are fucking savages. You can, however, play against CPU opponents, which can help build your base and get some new items in the beginning.

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The mechanics, meanwhile, are about the same, and one of the reasons I tell myself I might skip a title. They don’t change much from year to year, but last year’s was especially glitchy. This one didn’t seem as bad, though, like they set out to fix some of the things that needed fixing, which was a welcome change. Soccer is a hard game to get the hang of if you are unfamiliar, but the lower difficulty is pretty forgiving. The training scenarios help give you a good idea of what’s supposed to happen, so don’t be discouraged if you have never picked one up. I’m telling you, the story mode is worth your time. If you want a sports game that has a human element to it, this is the one you need to grab.

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