FIFA 18: essential tips and tricks from the real experts (i.e. you)

“I feel an endless need to learn, to improve, to evolve, not only to please the coach and the fans, but also to feel satisfied with myself. It is my conviction that there are no limits to learning, and that it can never stop, no matter what our age.” The above words come not from Albert Camus, but fellow philosophical thinker Cristiano Ronaldo. And while he’s clearly talking about real football, they can surely be applied to the game on whose cover he currently resides: FIFA 18.

Us journos can give you our expert advice, but even we can’t match the millions of hours clocked up by its collective fanbase every month – unless Doc Brown really does invent a time machine and deliver it to GR+ Towers in the next, ooh, seven minutes. Here, then, are the best fan tips garnered from across the net, all thoroughly tested by yours truly and already transforming my experience of the game.

Sliders change everything

A common criticism of FIFA 18 – and most of its predecessors – is that it’s too slow. Er, and too quick. AI team-mates are either too sluggish to react, or too hasty. Essentially the game plays slightly differently for everyone. There’s a simple, often-ignored way you can fix that and further tweak it to your liking: by using a home-brew slider set.

There are numerous across the web, but the best I’ve found for blending fun and realism is the Operation Sports community project. It’s specifically designed, as explained by poster Matt10, to eliminate the issues of “clueless teammate defensive AI; constantly bombarding forward CPU [players], and little or no fouls.”

To make the listed changes, go into Game Settings, then Match, and change difficulty to either World Class of Legendary. For Half Length, set to 5, 6, or 7 minutes, and select the Slow option for Game Speed. Now cycle through to the User Gameplay Customisation and CPU Gameplay Customisation tabs, and input these values in the respective fields:

Sprint Speed 42/42

Acceleration 49/49

Shot Error 51/51

Pass Error 54/54

Shot Speed 51/51

Pass Speed 48/48

Pass Speed 42/42

Injury Frequency 64/64

Injury Severity 4/4

GK Ability 48/48

Marking 52/52

Run Frequency 15/15

Line Height 70/70

Line Length 40/40

Line Width 48/48

Fullback Positioning 80/89

First Touch Control Error 65/65

The secret to sprinting is… not sprinting

The most popular - and therefore expensive – players in Ultimate Team are those rated 90 or over for Pace, but official EA forum poster Drpoplove argues convincingly that a legion of Vardys, Bellerins and Manes are all being misused. “Sprinting screws you up,” he writes. “Not only will your touches be delayed because you push the ball forward, but it’s harder to be accurate with your passing, shooting, and movement. You’ll be a prime target for an easy tackle, you’ll lose the ball, and you’ll cry when the enemy scores an easy goal on you.”

"Think about when and where you unleash the sprint button, rather than holding it down by default."

His advice is to think about when and where you unleash the sprint button, rather than holding it down by default – as 90% of FIFA players do. “Avoid sprinting through the central areas of the pitch when they’re crowded, especially if your player doesn’t have great ball control. It’ll be super easy to take the ball off you, and losing the ball on the run like that will result in a swift counter attack by the enemy. Sprinting is great when you can take a few touches into space, and this happens most commonly on the wings by default. Sprinting is also great if you spot a solid attacking run from your player and do a through ball to them.”

Finding dribbling tough? Stick with it

Despite clocking up nearly 700 games in FIFA 17, the weakest part of my game remains dribbling – my right stick skills on the digital pitch are about as effective as my Messi impersonations on the real one.

A lifeline on this front has been Operation Sports, where users have shared a variety of useful tips, ranging from noob-friendly to advanced. Take this one from Kenn5373: “The most simple skill move which is very effective is the ball roll. Just flick the right stick in the opposite direction of where the ball is on your foot. I've blown past multiple defenders in the box just by using that move alone. It's also a 2-star skill move, so just about everyone can do it.”

“I think the easiest and most overpowered skill move is the fake + change direction,” adds Unitedred. “Flick the right stick to one direction and move in the other direction. The player doesn't need a high skill rating to pull off this move. It can be used either in the midfield or on the wing.”

“If you have a 4+ star skill player, use the Berba spin (flick right stick forward and then flick to the side you want to go to),” he continues. “It's one of the most overpowered and overused moves among top players on FUT. It's also really effective against the CPU.”

Final word in this department goes to AirForbes1. “The two most useful skill moves against the AI are as follows,” he says. “Body feint: flick the RS to the left or right of your players, then use the left stick to exit [in a specific direction]. Keep the exit direction under 90 degrees and you'll keep your speed up. And step over: quarter rotation of the RS, from the front, to left or right. Exit with the LS in the other direction, and keep this under 90 degrees.”

The Chemistry lesson everyone needs

Chemistry is the gel which holds every Ultimate Team line-up together. Yet despite its status as the most popular mode in sports gaming, few players grasp its deeper nuances. For instance, did you know you can change your formation within seconds of kick-off and not suffer any punishment from a Chemistry perspective? EA themselves admitted as much after the release of FIFA 17: “The first point to keep in mind is that the effects of Chemistry are applied to players at the start of the game. These effects are governed by a combination of Team Chemistry and Individual Player.”

One way you can use this to your advantage is by switching full backs to central midfield – a conversion Phil Neville and Philippe Lahm made successfully in real life during the twilight of their careers. “Guys like Marcelo are great at CM,” writes RealPeterParker on Reddit. “I start the game on a 433(2), with Marcelo and Carvajal as my full-backs, and two poor midfielders just for chem. [Immediately after the match starts] change to a 41212 narrow, sub the mids for Gaya and Pereira, them put Carvajal at CDM and Marcelo at left CM. Who needs Kante and Pogba when you have these?”

Ricardo Pereira, Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Meunier – all right-backs with in-form cards available – are also recommended for the same early-match position change on the same thread. 

Before tinkering, note that subs do incur something of a chemistry cost, so in the above example Gaya and Pereira won’t perform to their maximum ability. This is also explained by EA in the post above: “Whilst substitutes benefit from being in a team with high Chemistry, they won’t receive the effects of Individual Player Chemistry.” That means their Chemistry upon introduction will range between 5 and 6.25, even if the player they replace has a 10 Chemistry rating.

Learn the sweatiest free kick routine going

This is a bit naughty, but if you leave your morals at the door when jumping into FIFA, you won’t mind that. Essentially, there’s a particular free kick routine that grants you a shot at goal from a favourable position every time it’s used. Itsprachu, from Reddit, explains, with relation to PS4 controls:

“Hold L2 to call a second man, then tap R1 to call a third man. If you want the third man to run, take a fake shot, then wait for that player to make run and pass the ball. If you want the shot taker to run, do the fake shot while pressing R1.”

While most online players aren’t savvy to the move – making its effectiveness greater than any other set-piece routine, at least for now – there is one way you can try to stop it. “In terms of defending it, you have to quickly select the player at the end of the wall (where the 2nd or 3rd man is) and as soon as the power bar is loaded up break from the wall and pressure the shot,” explains Watprfc, again on Reddit. “I use R1 while doing so, to bring a 2nd man press.”

Do you know your referee?

There’s an assumption among most FIFA players that the referee named before each fixture is immaterial; in fact they all have a specific impact on match flow. Every official in the game has his own personality, and if you use a particularly physical play style – I like to deploy two CDMs who go in hard between the D and the centre circle – it’s important to know just how lenient, or harsh, the man in the middle will be in reaction to a sneaky shirt pull, or late tackle.

Referees are rated in two fields – foul strictness and card strictness – and there are 14 who score a maximum in both departments. See them announced as the match official and you’ll want to go very easy on the slide-tackle button. They are: An-Jol Park, Ansgar von Hauenstein, Fuad Al-Rishani, Heribert Allmaier, Ignacio Muniz Villate, Ireneusz Iglikowski, Klemens Pilegaard, Lauro Leopardi, Loic Dacquigny, Manuel Rui Barbosa, Nikodem Dworaczyk, Pedro Orteguilla, Valente Larrazabal, Xavier Aguilar Ramirez.

"Refs are rated in two fields – foul strictness and card strictness – and there are 14 who score a maximum in both departments."

A full table charting referee strictness can be found at Operation Sports [scroll down to the end of the first post]. Props to Jamesbeaver and Hunkerdownuga for their comprehensive research work.

Open bids are the key to SBC glory

This is a tip of my very own – having made 12 millions coins using the transfer market in FIFA 17, it’d be remiss not to include at least some of my own insight here. One of the questions I’ve been asked repeatedly since penning GamesRadar’s FIFA 18 coin-making guide is which league SBCs players should aim to complete; the answer is all of them. But the key to doing this, and saving coins along the way, is to acquire players on open bids rather than using buy it now.

I use the web app to do this. Let’s say you’re looking to complete the new Championship SBC: first make note of all silver GKs from that league in your club; then search on the transfer market for silver GKs, with a max bid price of 350. Bid up to that price on any you don’t have. You may not initially win any, but you’ll now have a list of necessary players on your Transfer Targets list. By checking in to this every couple of hours you can re-bid on any players you missed out on, always 300-500 coins under the highest buy it now price. Gradually, you’ll add the signings you need.

Once keepers are done, move to RBs, then CBs, and continually repeat the process for each position. It can take up to a week to get a full league done, but in this way I’ve already finished the Liga NOS, Super Lig, Eredivisie, Russian and Mexican league challenges, and have another seven fully prepared for future SBCs.

Need even more sneaky intel on the biggest sports game going? Then check out the 15 tiny, brilliant FIFA 18 details you might have missed.

Ben Wilson

I'm GamesRadar's sports editor, and obsessed with NFL, WWE, MLB, AEW, and occasionally things that don't have a three-letter acronym – such as Chvrches, Bill Bryson, and Streets Of Rage 4. (All the Streets Of Rage games, actually.) Even after three decades I still have a soft spot for Euro Boss on the Amstrad CPC 464+.