I Played FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch: It Has an Overlooked Ace Up Its Sleeve

on June 30, 2017 1:00 PM

Since the announcement of FIFA 18 for the Nintendo Switch, we’ve heard a million (ok…not a million, but a lot of) reasons as to why it doesn’t stack up to the versions found on PS4 and Xbox One, respectively: the biggest reason being visuals.

FIFA 18 on current generation hardware will migrate over to the pretty and fancier Frostbite Engine, made famous by EA’s shooter franchises like Battlefield and now Star Wars: Battlefront. This means FIFA (as well as Madden) are going to look absolutely nuts on more powerful hardware like the PS4 and Xbox One.

I met with Nintendo PR this week in Manhattan to catch up on titles that we missed during this year’s E3: FIFA 18 was one of them. Initially, I was going to skip over it, partly because we had a lot on our plate to preview, but also because the one press shot I seen of the game was a pretty terrible photoshop render of the game “running” on a Switch. What was EA hiding? Can it really be that far behind from its counterparts? Check out the original image below for reference.

I Played FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch: It Has an Overlooked Ace Up Its Sleeve

See what I mean? Now do you understand why I was hesitant? What’s crazy is that the game (in-person) looks much better than what you see above. I jokingly asked the PR person who was helping me with my demo what EA was thinking when they showed this image. I immediately followed that question with “can I take some over-the-shoulder video of this in action?” Unfortunately I couldn’t, but understand that this game, in-person, is not what you might think it is from what you see above.

Descriptions I’ve read online from other video game outlets that have spent time with the title typically compare it to FIFA 16 or 17 (visually), and that seems like a fairly accurate and reasonable comparison. It’s a tough sell if you saw it running side by side to either of its Frostbite-running counterparts.

As the PR person ran down some key features of the title, that’s when I realized that on paper the FIFA experience – including FIFA Ultimate team – is still intact. But when he started checking off the Nintendo Switch specific bullet points is when things became really interesting. The game features local play with up to four Nintendo Switches through an ad-hoc connection, which OK: that’s very Nintendo-like. But the real ace up the sleeve is that the game can be played on a single Joy-Con. This is a difference maker.

When you’re playing on a single Joy-Con you’re losing the extra pair of shoulder buttons (ZL and ZR) and a second analog stick, but what you’re gaining is the ability to play FIFA, with another person next to you, anywhere you are.

Think about that for a second. FIFA is fun when played alone or played online with friends (or complete strangers), but FIFA with the person sitting next to you is something else entirely different. It also doesn’t hurt that FIFA 18, like other Nintendo Switch titles, (arguably) looks nicer played on the smaller screen. Haters will say “but it’s only 720p” and I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s crisp and runs buttery smooth.

While some previews have mentioned the functionality of being able to play on a single Joy-Con, from what I’ve read, it comes off like an afterthought with many instead focusing on criticizing the loss of the additional controller buttons. While that’s a reasonable critique, I think the potential of playing local multiplayer FIFA on a single Nintendo Switch is the real star of the show here…”dumbed down” controls and all.

With FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch, “the beautiful game” becomes the social game when it releases on September 29th, 2017.

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Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.