EA Sports’ recent history with Nintendo consoles isn’t good. The company and its games were almost entirely absent from the Wii U library, and its handful of Wii titles weren’t fun to play. Therefore, when EA Sports announced a Switch version of FIFA 18, it immediately raised questions about what features would be cut from the PS4 and Xbox One versions due to hardware limitations. While FIFA 18 on Switch is indeed slimmer on features, I got past the fact that it doesn’t have The Journey story mode, Pro Clubs, and some aspects of Ultimate Team (like the new Squad Battles) thanks to the gameplay and modes that are present.
The FIFA basics of career mode and Ultimate Team contain plenty of mileage to keep any player busy, even without new transfer cutscenes and contract options, FUT Champions, and friendly seasons. The inclusion of other play options such as the women’s international tournament and seasons online play (including local Wi-Fi play) means this isn’t a bare-bones offering.
The modes are backed up by strong gameplay. The Switch version isn’t on par with FIFA 18 on the other systems, but it contains the jostling and off-the-ball support from A.I. teammates that helps you engineer an attack or marshal a defense. The ball bounces more awkwardly at times, and some of the player movements (like a defensive lunge or burst of speed) can be slightly exaggerated. Both seem to lack a layer of refinement, like one extra animation or calculation is missing that would smooth out the transition from action A to action B.
The fact that you can play FIFA 18 on the go isn’t a huge draw for me, both because the title doesn’t use a system to allow you to play friends online (only strangers) due to Nintendo’s lack of infrastructure support. Also, some of the controller configurations aren’t conducive to comfort. Playing with the Joy-Cons attached to an undocked screen isn’t as good as having the screen docked and attaching the Joy-Cons to the plastic controller housing (or using the Pro Controller). When attached to the screen, accessing the bumpers and triggers is harder. Similarly, multiplayer with local friends on a single screen is even more uncomfortable when you each take a Joy-Con and tilt them on their sides.
The Switch version of FIFA 18 is a better portable experience than you’ve been able to get on Nintendo consoles up to this point, but it’s hampered by Nintendo’s insufficient online strategy. Unlike some previous EA Sports titles on Nintendo platforms, FIFA 18 isn’t an ill-formed castoff, but it’s an uneven performance and not a clear-cut victory.