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On the pitch tweaks and player-likeness - Fifa 18 review

Fifa 18 is here. Photo: PA

Raheem Sterling flies down the wing in his unique style, jinking this way and that, beating two men before getting absolutely clattered by Arsenal’s bullish new signing Sead Kolasinac - cue loud calls from the sofa for a red card.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is 4.30pm on a Sunday afternoon the whole thing looked so real, but no, it’s 10.30pm on a Monday night and it’s the latest Fifa that’s getting the party so wound up.

The one thing that really stands out in this year’s edition is player-likeness. Sterling’s running style is perfectly replicated, as is Cristiano Ronaldo’s and a whole host of other stars across the top teams.

The attention to detail is stunning, whether it’s the same when dropping down the leagues or playing with teams outside of the top 30 in Europe is debatable but the effort to really make it feel like you are in control of Neymar at PSG is second to none.

Ronaldo and Griezmann in Fifa 18. Credit: EA Sports

The other immediately noticeable difference to this year’s edition, which looks incredibly similar to last year’s before a ball is kicked, is tackling. The one-motion standing tackle has been disbanded and players will lunge in varied ways to try and get something on the ball.

It looks fantastic and can be incredibly effective when trying to win the ball back - just don’t try it if Kylian Mbappe has knocked the ball around Mats Hummels in the Bayern penalty area, as a mistimed lunge will inevitably end in a penalty.

Defending feels more complex than before - it takes time to adjust, especially when playing with a new team, to how you should combat speed and strength meaning wins feel more rewarding and experts can’t just pick up a controller and carry on as they could with last year’s edition.

The animations that have been included thankfully don’t need to play out in their entirety so players can adapt, if physically possible, halfway through a ‘move’ to leave players a lot less frustrated.

Ronaldo really looks like himself in the new Fifa. Credit: EA Sports

Strength plays a real part and you can use the likes of Sergio Ramos to shrug forwards like Jamie Vardy off the ball - but beware - you can’t do the same to someone like Romelu Lukaku.

Pace plays a much more important factor than it did last year, not so much that it ruins the game but this time Mo Salah will easily outrun the likes of Per Mertesacker, just as he would do in ‘real life’. If your defence lacks speed then you’d better think twice before committing as the likes of Salah and Sadio Mane can really hurt you with their raw pace.

The thing that makes Fifa really stand above Pro Evolution Soccer this year is EA’s ability to recreate the atmosphere in stadiums. The Bernabeu absolutely rocks when you are playing as Real Madrid - as does Selhurst Park when you score with Crystal Palace.

Where Fifa falls down to PES is crossing, hitting square from the flanks usually ends up in a looping ball that looks pretty similar all the time. Do the same in PES and the ball gets beautifully whipped in through varied angles and heights.

Alex Hunter returns in The Journey. Credit: EA Sports

Playing the AI can result in the same old frustrations and it’s way of keeping the ball, usually to perform a 180, remains infuriating.

Off the pitch, the offline modes have taken a big step forward. Manager career mode now has transfer negotiation cut scenes and Alex Hunter returns in a very engaging next chapter of The Journey.

Aesthetically, Fifa 18 looks very similar to its predecessor, but little on the pitch tweaks make it far more enjoyable to play - it’s not taken huge strides, but there’s definitely enough to see one through until next season.