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FIFA 18 on Switch: custom-built or enhanced Xbox 360 port?

Multi-platform development sits at the heart of the way games are made today, with code and assets shared across multiple platforms – and this puts Nintendo Switch in a difficult position. It’s highly capable bearing in mind its mobile chipset, but it’s not quite potent enough to power cutting-edge triple-A titles, explaining why FIFA 18 is somewhat different to its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts. EA has promised a custom-built experience but to what extent is this really a bespoke edition of the game? Is it indeed built from the ground up with Nintendo’s hardware in mind, or is it more like a custom variant of the last-gen versions? Yes, remarkably, PS3 and Xbox 360 still get annual FIFA updates.

It’s a distinction we’ve been looking to hammer down for some time, especially in light of Peter Moore’s reaction to a tweet from Eurogamer’s Tom Phillips. Our news editor suggested that the Switch game was indeed built on last-gen foundations, while Moore doubled down on the ‘custom-built’ marketing. But what if we were to say that to a certain extent, both of them are correct? We laid down £54.99 (!) of our own money for the Xbox 360 game and can report that the Switch version does indeed use the last-gen assets as a base, and it also plays a lot more like the Xbox 360 game than the current-gen versions. However, describing it as a straight port would be unfair: the customisations are extensive and more is being made of the Nintendo hardware so to that extent at least, aspects of the title are indeed ‘custom’ built.

And happily, first impression suggest that the Switch release appears to mostly deliver the full-fat FIFA experience. Aside from missing The Journey, all other key modes are present, with Ultimate Team finally appearing on a Nintendo platform, along with the latest changes expected from a yearly FIFA update. There’s also online play too, though this is limited to matchmaking with random people due to Nintendo’s convoluted network set-up. Regardless, it’s a promising start, and it’s probably the most feature-complete FIFA we’ve seen on a Nintendo console in years.

The overall package is robust, although the game doesn’t quite deliver the complete FIFA 18 package across the board, with missing features and a different feel to the gameplay compared to the current-gen versions. For example, there are no squad battles or weekend league in Ultimate Team, while negotiations and release clauses are absent from the career mode. Additionally, there are fewer weather conditions and player formations to select, making parts of the experience feel less fleshed out. Then there’s the way the game plays: the pace is visibly faster than current-gen FIFA, while the AI is more erratic when passing. The Switch game feels very much like a refined FIFA 17 as opposed to its successor, and in that sense, it is far closer in the way it plays to FIFA 18 on Xbox 360.