No doubt you're aware of FIFA 18’s bold new features. You know, the Real Player Motion, the Dramatic Moments, the Dribbling Overhaul, the Official Paul Pogba hairdo. But what about the ones that didn't make it to the back of the box? We’re talking Giant Pitchside Inflatables, 360 Degree Crowd-Hugging, Sideline Litter Build-Up, and a dabbing Luka Modrić. To catch up on all of FIFA 18’s incredible new details, features, and touches you might have missed, read on.
1. Crowd rush
In scenes straight out of World War Z, swathes of fans now spill from their seats and charge towards the advertising hoardings whenever you score a goal. Not because of a particularly eye-grabbing campaign from Pukka Pies, mind you, but a mad bid to be literally six feet closer to the action. They scramble down the stairs and even over each other, stopping just short of combining their bodies to build a fleshy wall and swatting passing helicopters out of the sky. Sensibly, punters further back remain firmly bums-in-seats.
2. Fan smooching
Members of the crowd do more than stand up, sit down, and look at their potato hands in quiet mourning. Every single one is a detailed 3D entity, which means you can run over and interact with them after a goal. As Benzema, for instance, we mega-kiss a Real Madrid fan on the head like the pope blessing a baby. Then, after bagging a brace, we run over and embrace the same fan twice in a row. There’s one man who’s not showering for while.
3. Make everyone duck
OK, one more entry on the fans before we move on. Fire the ball into the stands and people part like the Red Sea in efforts to evade the incoming rocket sent by the mission control that is your boot, throwing their hands over their heads and crouching low under its roaring trajectory. A good move to pull if the opposition following gives you grief.
4. Crazy new Ultimate Team pack opening sequences
If you were lucky enough to open a pack containing Messi in the last game, the diminutive Argentinian would do his best to dampen the excitement by strolling calmly out from behind his big gold player card and staring dead-eyed into middle distance. Rare players now do more to stoke excitement. Thomas Mueller runs up and pumps his bony arms in the air; Dele Alli waves cheekily as golden confetti rains down, and Ronaldo does that weird jumping ‘everybody look at me while I pose’ thing. Best is Luka Modrić, who executes a mathematically perfect dab.
5. One or two-player kickoffs
You can now use a single man or woman to take the kickoff. It’s one of those small but necessary changes that makes you question how this wasn’t a thing in the first place. Why were two players ever needed to do a one-player job? The revision will be especially welcome for those who often attempted silky crossfield balls from the get go and ended up smacking it into the legs of their kickoff partner. If you’re feeling nostalgic, however, you can still call up a teammate to the centre circle with you by holding L2 or LT.
6. New pitchside elements
South American stadiums get all the good stuff. From blow-up coke bottles, giant footballs, and parked-up ambulances, to team-specific banners bearing signature slogans and the faces of club legends, there’s now plenty more going on to root you in reality - a reality where litter can blow onto the pitch, and confetti doesn’t evaporate as soon as it hits the turf.
7. Flaming goal-mouths
Our favourite bit of white hot stadium ambience comes in the form of a flaming goal-mouth at Seattle Sounders’ Centurylink Field. Score a goal and jets of flame erupt from each post in a ludicrous display of American spectacle. Nice. FIFA 18 also continues to keep an impressive eye for detail: as before, Man City fans do the arm-linking Poznań celebration, and the soul-warming chants of You’ll Never Walk Alone ring out from Liverpudlians.
8. Personality-based customisation
Alex Hunter is the returning star of FIFA 18’s story mode, The Journey. You may already be aware that you can customise his appearance with tops, bottoms, trainers, tattoos, and hairstyles. But did you know that some vanity items directly relate to how you develop Hunter’s personality? For instance, choose fiery dialogue options and you’ll unlock the cheetah-print hair dye job. React to people coldly and you’ll eventually be able to give Hunter a laid back goatee and a bouquet of braids on the top of his head. In the exact opposite of most standard professional footballers’ growth, it’s possible to take Hunter from a mature and level-headed teenager to a volatile and quick-tempered adult. Perhaps next year you’ll regress even further and become a baby.
9. New stadiums
FIFA always brings us detailed recreations of all 20 Premier League grounds. FIFA 18 updates the roster to accommodate the newly promoted teams. That means we’ve got Huddersfield’s majestic Kirklees stadium, Brighton & Hove Albion’s Falmer Stadium, and the familiar digs of Newcastle’s St James’ Park. Unfortunately it also means some stadiums have been lost to the spiteful gods of redundancy. Farewell, Estádio Vincent Calderón and White Hart Lane. On the bright side, we have Atlético Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano as a replacement, which is fancy enough to be the only stadium you’ll ever need.
10. Region-specific lighting
When you’re playing somewhere else, you’ll notice. For instance, updated sun positions mean that big orb in the sky is always where it should be. Ok, that sounds a bit minor - we don’t know where the sun should be right now, let alone in Buenos Aires - but it makes a dramatic impact on lighting in-game. Cinematic atmosphere grading bumps up the contrast too, giving hotter countries a starker and more humid look. FIFA 17 looks positively flat by comparison. Also, it might be us, but players seem to sweat more in the sweltering throes of South America.
11. Official overlays for La Liga and MLS
Joining the Premier League in all its official overlay glory are La Liga and MLS. Gone are the days of every match being bookended by the same basic scorecards and transitions. Now matches feel truly regional, with a game in America looking and feeling completely distinct to one taking place in Spain. La Liga’s is a classy grey and white package, while MLS has a cool slanted thing going on. The Premier League is still the best for our money though. Look at all that purple.
12. Skippable cutscenes
Unskippable cutscenes are the bane of any game, up there with long loading times and tiny text. Press X or Square in The Journey and you can skip them completely. You can also pause them by pressing Start, then return to them when you’ve finished whatever it is you’re doing that’s more important than The Journey, which can’t be a lot (you could do that before, though). It’s a real time-saver when you want to quit out of a match you’re losing and restart. Hey, don’t look at us like that. Everyone does it.
13. A new practice arena
FIFA 18 doesn’t play favourites when it comes to practice arenas. Replacing the bumblebee aesthetic of Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park (PES has nabbed licensing rights, you see) is the white and silver splendour of a generic ghost ground. Where’s the crowd? Maybe there never was one. Maybe there was never any crowd at all. It really makes you think... Anyway, if you’re anything like us, you’ll spend a lot of time here after being on the other end of an online thrashing in order to score one hundred soft goals against a division two goalie. Incidentally, Borussia Dortmund’s ground is still available to play matches on, now under the name ‘Borussia Park’.
14. Contextual crossing
Every cross is a whipped cross in FIFA 18. No more double-tapping the lob button to swing in a fast ball - just press it once and you'll direct a dangerously looping effort right into the danger zone. It’s intelligent too, so your player will know whether you want to arch a tricksy ball towards an attacker, look for someone on the back stick, or feed in a poacher at the near post. Hey Özil, if you’re so clever, why don’t you tell us which Silicon Valley startup to invest in?
15. Tighter dribbling
With all of FIFA 18’s capitalised and trademarked additions sounding off at once, it’s easy to miss the presence of a small but mighty new dribbling technique. Holding L1/LB allows you to turn tighter and take more delicate touches of the ball, deftly navigating encroaching hazards like a figure skater outrunning a collapsing ice rink. It replaces the fairly useless no-touch controls of last year, and joins shielded dribbles (L2/LT) and sprint dribbles (R2/RT) in your arsenal of things you can do with your legs.