The beginning of a new football season is always exciting, especially after an enjoyable summer of the World Cup. The drama of the beautiful game is difficult to avoid, and taking the theatre on the go was a revelation last year when FIFA 18 was released on the Switch. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to the hype, and FIFA 19 hasn’t done much to appease the crowd a year later.
Comparatively to the version on the PS4 and the Xbox One, FIFA 19 on the Switch lags behind in every third of the pitch. While there’s a slight improvement to the graphics and the addition of the new House Rules mode is satisfying, the gameplay remains so awkward and stiff, you could hear its voice breaking beneath its nervous disposition.
That’s not to say the game isn’t enjoyable, there can be occasions of slick passing and delicious defensive errors, but trying to play ‘Sarriball’ with the limitations of Mourinho-ball has its problems. While the controls are effortless and simple to use, they don’t always follow the thought of the player. For instance, trying to pass the ball one way will often end up passing the ball another way, ruining some delightful triangles. Likewise, it’s sometimes better to not tackle at all and just hope the ball will trickle to your feet in the great pinball game in the middle of the park.
Scoring is ridiculously easy no matter what difficulty you select. The defenders often seem static, dancing around in their own box like it’s 1999. Only the goalkeepers seem to react to any threat and that is only when the forward enters the six-yard box. That means shooting from outside the box is the easiest way to hit the back of the net, and honestly, if James Ward-Prowse can do it with such grace then imagine the damage other players can do. This means playing as Arsenal ensures relegation before the season has started.
Another surprisingly annoying feature is found in Ultimate Team mode, where the difficulty level will reset itself back to beginner after each game. There’s never a more bland experience than playing a FIFA game on a difficulty too easy, and after a tight contest against Legia Warsaw, the next game saw the goalkeeper run from one side of the pitch to the other without a single challenge. While not the final whistle, it’s slightly irritating.
Career mode has a lot of potential and creating yourself as a player has always been fun, but for the life of Brian it’s difficult to understand how playing as just yourself is an enjoyable experience; spending the game walking around in an offside position while the pinball game persists in the middle isn’t the beautiful game as anyone outside Stoke knows it. This is made even more difficult when you choose to play as Southampton, ensuring you sprint yourself around the pitch into a thigh injury, while still never seeing the ball.
That said, while lacking in the personality of the PS4 and Xbox One version, The Switch version does a decent job on bringing the drama of the football world to Career mode; this all on the Ignite engine. While remaining FIFA 19’s greatest folly, the Ignite engine is surprisingly adaptive, especially in handheld mode. This is where the magic of the Switch version really shines, being able to play FIFA anytime and anywhere, with a surprisingly clean picture.
Handheld mode is FIFA 19’s David De Gea, covering the shortfalls the rest of the game has. FIFA 19 has improved graphically since FIFA 18, particularly in handheld mode, and the result is a less rigid, more fluid game of football. This paired with online multiplayer ensures there’s some life left in the game, even after a dreary first half of single-player. This is perhaps the purpose of FIFA 19 on the Switch, a console focussed on social interactions. FIFA 19 could be a lot of fun in table-top mode with a group of friends, and while that doesn’t do enough to make up for its several own goals, it does bring a competitive edge that single-player sorely misses.
And this is perhaps the biggest own goal. There are so many half chances, so many balls in the box that just need a clinical finish. There’s only so much Eden Hazard can do with Alvaro Morata leading the line, and likewise, there’s only so much the Switch can do with the Ignite engine. Journey mode remains absent, as does Squad Battles and Division Rivals. While it’s understandable that EA would focus much more on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of FIFA 19, it remains a glaring missed opportunity to not dedicate more time and thought into its implementation on the Switch.