FIFA 18 is EA's first title for the Nintendo Switch, and as you might imagine, it's getting a lot of attention as a result. FIFA is one of gaming's biggest global brands and by bringing the series to Switch, the publisher is certainly making a statement. However, there are already doubts regarding how the Nintendo version will shape up against the mainline editions on PC, Xbox One and PS4 - all of which use the powerful Frostbite Engine, while the Switch version utilises "custom" tech.
Speaking to Eurogamer at E3, producer Andrei Lazaresco has been fielding questions regarding what's different about the Switch version when compared to the others. He reiterates that the game engine isn't Frostbite and it's not Ignite - the engine that powered last year's FIFA - either:
When we first started looking at the platform and asked what are its unique features and what can it do, we decided to build a custom version of an engine. We felt the experience we were going to build would be the best by doing that, and leveraging what is unique about the platform.
We're using physical-based rendering. The crowds are 3D. The grass is 3D. The lighting is new.
So is Frostbite not being used on Switch because the hardware can't handle it? Not really, according to Lazaresco:
It's not that you can't get Frostbite on it. It's just that we felt this custom-built engine would build the better experience. I'm not a tech person. I create games. I know what the game should feel like. Me seeing people actually enjoying the game, for me means the world.
Lazaresco also addresses the inclusion of Ultimate Team - a first for the series on Switch - which, while not as fully-featured as the one seen on other platforms, does offer some big benefits:
Andrei Lazaresco: ...you'll have Ultimate Team for the first time on Nintendo - and for the first time you'll be able to take it on the go. You'll be able to play on a plane, on a bus, even from just a hotspot.
Eurogamer: Does it have Icons?
Andrei Lazaresco: It does. Ronaldo is the first Icon.
Eurogamer: Does FUT on Switch work exactly the same as it does on the other platforms?
Andrei Lazaresco: Almost the same. There won't be any Champions on Switch.
Eurogamer: Why not?
Andrei Lazaresco: For the first year we put in Draft Mode, Squad Building challenges, Seasons, Tournaments, Team of the Week challenges - all of those are there. Remember, this is the first year we introduce Ultimate Team to Switch players. We're taking it gradually. We're going to announce more about Ultimate Team at Gamescom later this year.
Eurogamer: Will you be able to buy packs in the same way on Switch?
Andrei Lazaresco: Yeah, in the same way, but through Nintendo, obviously.
Eurogamer: So, FIFA coins?
Andrei Lazaresco: Yeah. The core of Ultimate Team, everything you know about Ultimate Team is retained within Switch. Imagine, for example, an airline that provides Wi-fi - you'll be able to connect to Ultimate Team. Sure, maybe we won't be able to play a match together, but you'll still be able to connect for the transfers and manage your club.
Keen to establish just how many of the wider innovations seen in FIFA 18 will make it into the Switch version, Eurogamer also quizzed the producer regarding the overhauled animation system. In FIFA 17, a new animation would be drawn with every player step, while in FIFA 18 on PS4, Xbox One and PC, a new animation is drawn every single frame.
Lazaresco admits that the Switch version lacks this improvement, but it's not quite as simple as that:
We used the fundamental base of FIFA code and innovated it. These are normal animations, so we're not using that new system.
Yeah, if you want to make a comparison. But everything you see is custom-built, so I wouldn't compare it to anything else, because there is no reference point. This is the first game we put on Nintendo Switch. It's not that game downsized. It's not gen three up-rezzed. It's something that has been built with this console in mind entirely.
The lack of Frostbite means that one of FIFA 18's biggest modes - the new and improved Journey single-player mode - isn't available on Switch. Lazaresco feels that because this is a very different beast when compared to the other domestic versions of the game, the lack of this mode shouldn't be seen as a deal-breaker:
The Journey is powered by Frostbite. When we looked at the platform and its unique features, we made the choice of custom-building the game. And while it doesn't have The Journey, it's still the best portable FIFA experience we ever did. It has Ultimate Team, which is our most popular mode. It has Career Mode, and you'll be able to play as a manager and a player. It has local seasons, kick off, tournaments, seasons, it has all of that.
I would definitely not get hung up on the fact it doesn't have The Journey. I would take this as a completely different FIFA experience on a completely different platform.
The good news is that the Switch version will run at 60fps and boasts improved crossing and hard tackling, both of which are major improvements in the "main" editions. Lazaresco is confident that despite the differences, it will be one of the best Switch titles ever when it launches in September alongside the PS4, Xbox One and PC entries:
Every time you put a new game on a new platform for the first time, it's not easy. There are technical challenges. There are design challenges. What we've ended up with, what we're going to launch in September - it's going to launch at the same time as all the other platforms - I have absolutely no worry saying we've built one of the best games you'll be able to play on the Switch. Even putting aside graphics, even putting aside gameplay, it just feels right.
It's a portable FIFA. It's the best portable FIFA we ever did. It has a lot of features and you can play in all of the possible configurations the console has. You can play handheld, docked, with a single Joy-con, with dual Joy-con, with a Pro Controller. And if you have a console and I have a console, even without an internet connection we can play with each other. We call it Local Seasons. It's basically a five match season that we together can play even without an internet connection. It's sort of local Wi-fi.
Finally, Eurogamer asked if we could potentially see FIFA on Switch reach parity with the other versions in the future. Lazaresco was fairly non-commital:
I wouldn't close the door on that. But I wouldn't make any promises either. We need to see where the platform goes from here.
From a technical standpoint, the platform is not on a par with the PS4 or the Xbox One. You can't just take that [the PS4 version] and put it here [on Switch]. It doesn't work like that. But, I get the question. When people get their hands on it, they will enjoy it. Regardless of The Journey or not, this is packed with features, and all of them you can take them on the go. That is by far the most important thing.
Now you've heard more about FIFA 18 from one of the team behind the game, are you more or less excited about it? There's no denying that being able to crack out a multiplayer soccer match anywhere at anytime is going to be a massive selling point, but if EA can't keep the Switch version close to the other editions then it may struggle to attract consumers.
Let us now what you think by whipping a cross into the comments field below and seeing if your lanky striker can get his head on the end of it.