Gamescom 2018: “Everything has evolved” in FIFA 19 on Switch

August 25, 2018

It’s fair to say that FIFA 18 last year on Nintendo Switch didn’t live up to the expectations of many FIFA fans, who had issues with its online functionality and the comparability of the game as a whole to its superior PS4 and Xbox One counterparts. However, this year the team working on its follow-up FIFA 19 on Switch have had time not only to respond to fan feedback, but become more confident with the platform as a whole and their specialised engine.

“Online Friendlies is coming from the feedback directly,” says Andrei Lazarescu, Supervising Producer on FIFA 19 for Switch, who spoke with us about his team’s work on the new game.

“We take accountability, and we made the wrong design choice in the sense that we built only local multiplayer, which is specific to the console. But, we didn’t expect people to actually want to play with their friends online without sitting together, because Switch is a much more social console. So, we’re reacting to that and listening to players.”

Online Friendlies was one of the most requested features for the Switch version of FIFA, and is now not only in place for regular gameplay but Ultimate Team as well. It’s just the beginning of a slew of new features, now that team have an extra year of experience with the console under their belts.The Champions League now has its own standalone mode, but is also featured throughout the game in career mode, in kick-off and as a new feature in Ultimate Team, through various pieces of content released throughout the year. The new kick-off adds a deep and competitive social element to the game, comparing history between players rather than the one-off or very casual experience it was in the past. There’s also the new ‘House Rules’, that are fully customisable rules to play with friends, with some pre-built options like ‘King of the Hill’, where the loser has to change their team.

“We’ve touched almost every aspect of the game, visuals, modes, mechanics, multiplayer, almost everything has evolved from last year, “remarks Andrei.

“If you remember, last year when we launched FIFA for the first time on the Switch, we chose to go with a custom engine, rather than try and port or downgrade the Frostbite engine, and that makes the whole game unique as it’s basically built almost from scratch almost in its entirety. This year, we’re basically using last year as a baseline, as a platform, to evolve from.”

Indeed, the team considers FIFA 19 on Switch its own unique entity separate from the other platforms, and its actually a part of its design philosophy.

“We’re not trying to make it comparable in any way.” says Andrei, “We’re looking at it as very different games, that are intended for different uses. The Switch version is more of a portable version but also caters to people who exclusively play on that platform, but also there’s a large population who have a PS4 or Xbox One and a Switch and just want to be able to play FIFA on the go. For instance, with Ultimate Team, the ability to play on the bus is incredible.”

Does that mean that seeing Alex Hunter and The Journey is out of the question in the Switch line of FIFA games? Andrei doesn’t discount the possibility.

“I’m not closing the door on that. It’s something we have been thinking from the beginning. But right now it’s just not possible.”

Several other key areas have also been improved, including a new striking system to give players more options in front of goal. Dribble shots, finesse shots, chip shots have all been entirely revamped, while timed finishing allows you to double-tap shoot to get a better chance of of getting a goal, but as a high-risk high-reward gamble.

A new AI system also aims to replicate both team and player personalities.

“What that does,” explains Andrei, “Is every match you play against the AI, the AI will try to mimic the real life tactics of the real life team. So, say you’re going to play against Manchester City, you’re going to be high-pressured from the start, exactly like them. Or, if you’re going to play against Barcelona, you’ll see they try to move the ball a lot on the ground level. All of that is compared to last year where every match you’d play would feel mostly the same.”

“Player Personality is another feature. Ronaldo for example, likes to go wide and cut inside, you can see him do that in the game. Messe likes to come deeper get the ball to his feet dribble and make a play.”

“This year, we’ve managed to push the boundaries even further. For example, the visuals are much crisper, the lighting and the shadows are much more defined. That is just pushing the chipset to beyond what we could before.”

FIFA 19 on Switch arrives on 28 September this year.