FIFA 19 for the Nintendo Switch Review: Fluid and Intuitive or Frustrating and Awkward?

FIFA 19 for the Nintendo Switch

With 250 hours registered on FIFA 18 for the Nintendo Switch, it would be safe to assume I was excited for the impending arrival of FIFA 19. However much said excitement was building, the FIFA on Vita debacle of 2012 was still lingering in the back of my mind. Having been personally stung by EA’s apparent lack of support for the PlayStation handheld, effectively producing the same game in FIFA 13 as the previous iteration without so much as a facelift, I was worried that the Nintendo Switch would suffer the same fate. In the knowledge that the PS4 and Xbox One counterparts threw you straight into the champions league final upon loading the game, I launched the application from the home screen and waited with baited breath.

Queue disappointment. No champions league final to play. No tutorial of all the new features in this years edition. Only the familiar, and I mean very familiar, the main menu. It is, for all intents and purposes, identical. A flashback to 2012 was something I was hoping to avoid…

Not to be deterred, I sought after the game to see whether the on-pitch action had changed. Selecting ‘Kick-Off’ from the main menu, the familiarity of which meant I almost missed one of the most exciting features I have seen in a FIFA game of late. ‘House Rules’, found by clicking in the right stick, is a truly fantastic way to mix up the traditional friendly feature by making it not so friendly, in a variety of ways. For example, ‘No Rules’ allows you to play either against a human opponent or AI with no fouls, offsides or bookings – ruthless! ‘Survival’, another of the match type options, is a mode that means every time you score a goal, you lose one of your players at random. Another personal favourite of mine, ‘Long Range’, means that goals scored outside of the penalty area count as two goals. The creativity and ingenuity shown by EA meant that hope had been restored!

Jumping straight into a game of ‘Survival’, I was immediately struck by the graphical improvements both in the player animations and the pitch itself. It is difficult to say how well this would be identified for the casual gamer, but for anyone who has played FIFA 18 on the Switch, it is very much evident that time has been spent developing the player models and their interactions. As well as graphical improvements, the audio has seen changes for the better too. The atmosphere was electric as my beloved Liverpool FC walked out at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur. A chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in FIFA 19, whilst coming nowhere close to replicating the goosebumps felt when hearing it in person, provided just enough to warrant letting the opening game information run its course.

Sturridge plays the ball back to Salah from the centre spot, who takes a touch and sprays it out to Shaqiri. On the turn, Shaqiri mistimes his touch and gives the ball away…

The fluidity with which the ball moves around the pitch in this latest iteration is perhaps the best way to explain the gameplay changes. The ball feels more like its own entity this year and it makes the gameplay more realistic than ever. The goalkeepers fumble their saves, players overshoot passes and misjudge the ball as it comes, causing a rather scrappy exchange, particularly in the middle of the park. The shooting also has a different feel to it with shots feeling less scripted. All of the individual tweaks when collectively utilised make for a fantastic sporting experience that has built upon the successes of last year.

It is rare that you read a review of a FIFA game without a mention of Pro Evolution Soccer making an appearance. In this instance, it is only to acknowledge that FIFA’s acquisition of the Champions League was a very astute one which has only served to strengthen the appeal of an already excellent footballing simulation game. Whilst you can play both the champions league as a stand-alone game or as a tournament itself, I felt the best way to hear the sweet sound of Tony Britten’s ‘Champions League’ theme tune was during career mode. Similarly to the World Cup update this summer, when it becomes game night on a champions league midweek kick off, the screen design theme changes and the star animation so synonymous with the outstanding cup competition is presented. As you play each fixture in the champions league, it then plays said theme tune and the atmosphere intensifies. Props must go to EA for not just acquiring the rights, but bringing the excitement and enjoyment of a champions league night to Nintendo Switch consoles around the world.

Reviewer’s notes: Mention of Ultimate Team is missing from this review as it is not something I have ever invested much time in. For the purpose of this review, I looked to explore what it has to offer but I am not well-versed enough in what previous iterations brought to the table for me to make informed opinions. I did not wish to misguide the reader with my ill-equipped thoughts.

For all it’s improvements: gameplay to commentary to graphics and more, there are still changes which could and should have been made. To start, some of the missing features from the other console versions of FIFA 18 should have been included this year, namely suggested substitutions in-game and ‘The Journey!’ Also, the opportunity to design your own set pieces is something I still long for and challenging keepers for the ball in the air is still underdeveloped. Some of these suggestions are easier to develop than others, but there will still be ill-feeling amongst some that this is a lesser experience than the PlayStation and Xbox powerhouses.

To conclude, it is easy to say that FIFA 19 is the most intuitive and jam-packed footballing experience currently available on Switch. More than that though, it is clear to see EA is here to stay where the Switch console is concerned. They have supported the Nintendo hybrid in a manner they did not extend to the PS VITA, and I for one am extremely grateful for this. The enjoyment I have had playing FIFA this year is up there with some of the best gaming experiences I have had on the Switch in its life cycle so far. Long may it continue!

Highly Recommended 

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Reviewed by Shaun Hughes on the Nintendo Switch. Game not provided by Electronic Arts.