While the FIFA series has done impressive things on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC, the Switch version is still lagging behind. Despite notable upgrades from the very disappointing FIFA 18, including a glossy, Champions League makeover, inclusion of the enjoyable new House Rules modes, and the ability to now play online with friends, FIFA 19 on Switch is still a frustrating and unrewarding experience, especially on the pitch.
FIFA 19’s moment-to-moment gameplay remains, disappointingly, largely unchanged from last year’s under-par outing. Still running on EA’s Ignite engine (last used on the PS4/Xbox/PC version for FIFA 16), it simply can’t compete with the fluidity of movement and authentically animated players the Frostbite-powered versions display. Additionally, the tempo of play is all over the place, with some players boasting ludicrous speed that makes them almost impossible to track as a defender, to others who give the feeling they’re wading through tar as they attempt to turn with the ball.
Passes zip satisfyingly along the grass but fail to reach their desired destination with regularity, because the Joy-Con’s analogue sticks don’t provide the level of accuracy needed to feel completely in control. You’re better off with a Pro controller if you’ve got one. When smooth passages of play do occur it often feels like more luck than skill or judgement due to the inconsistencies with passing, whether it’s a short ball or a long, probing pass. The same can be said of crosses; the same kind of unreliability means getting a forward to connect on the end of a precious cross feels more of a lottery than a well-executed move.
The middle of the park often resembles a pinball machine.
Elsewhere, the middle of the park often resembles a pinball machine, with the ball cannoning off of misscontrolling players at a more frequent rate than you’d expect from professional footballers. You can make challenges on opposition players, cleanly taking the ball, but ultimately not end up with possession as the ball trails off into space to a player on the other team, in turn, becoming unfairly unpredictable. This happens with regularity and can make each potential tackle a game of chance.
The Switch version really lacks some of the gameplay innovations introduced to the core FIFA 19 in this regard. The lack of the revamped first-touch system and the much fairer way 50/50 balls are decided could have gone some way to making me feel more in control of my team.
One new gameplay tweak that does make its way onto the Nintendo platform is the new finishing mechanic. This let me hit a more venomous strike, by pressing the shoot button once more after powering up a hit. Sadly, this is largely rendered redundant by how easy it is to score in FIFA 19 on the Switch in the first place. Goalkeepers were in need of a serious overhaul from last year’s release, but irritatingly, they appear to be nigh on exactly the same 12 months on. Some of the best shot-stoppers in the world, such as Ederson or Oblak, will fumble weak shots and react to others after they’ve hit the back of the net.
Blockbuster goals can be satisfying at first, but they soon lose their appeal.
They’re so exploitable that I’ve found myself shooting anytime I’m within 40 yards of the goal, and more often than not would find the target, with balls consistently ballooning off my boot and dipping under the bar at the last minute as if they’ve been popped in mid-air. Yes, scoring these blockbuster goals can be satisfying at first, but they soon lose their appeal after doing it the 15th match in a row. This leads to a shallow experience that provides very few moments of genuine wonder.
All in all, FIFA 19’s gameplay on Switch appears to have been largely neglected when compared to last year, and especially when compared to its big brother. Some new additions have made their way over to the portable edition however. The Champions League brings with it all of the glitz and glamour of Europe’s premier club competition. This includes the iconic theme tune, the graphic overlays and, regrettably, the new commentary duo of Derek Rae and Lee Dixon. These two new voices offer little insight and quickly become tiresome as lines repeat over and over again. Full broadcast packages are now included, most notably for the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga, which is a massive upgrade on last year’s generic and dull look and bring a new level of authenticity to each match.
FIFA prides itself on its presentation and this is wholly apparent on the Switch thanks to a noticeable graphical upgrade, especially when played handheld. Players look great from afar, but can get a little disturbing to look at when viewed from a closer camera angle. Manuel Neuer’s eyes pop with a crystalline glaze capable of boring into your soul. This being said, it is still an improvement, visually, when compared to FIFA 18 on Switch.
An improvement, visually, when compared to FIFA 18 on Switch.
The Champions League also finds its way into Ultimate Team and the Career mode. These are, disappointingly, the only major changes made to either; FUT hasn’t got either Squad Battles or Division Rivals, two compelling ways to play that have been introduced to the other versions over the last couple of years. Career mode hasn’t been iterated on either, with the bland transfer-negotiation screens a far cry from their 3D counterparts found on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. This single-player mode is one that has been crying out for attention for a couple of years, but considering it has not seen an overhaul on the core versions yet, it’s unsurprising to see the Switch version remain the same.
This lack of innovation is not aided by the continued absence of The Journey mode – another victim of the Ignite engine, perhaps – but this is not necessarily to its detriment, considering this years entry into the saga was a little underwhelming. There is a saving grace however, which come in the form of the several new Kick-off modes. The ever-evolving nature of Survival mode and sheer chaos of No Rules add an extra layer to local multiplayer. The Headers & Volleys mode I enjoy so much on PS4 is sadly less effective on the Switch, however, largely due to inability to deliver an accurate cross. It is also, again, frustrating that these are not playable online, especially when this year the option to face-off against someone in your friends list is now available – that fixed what was a baffling exclusion from FIFA 18 on Switch. For FIFA 19, EA apparently felt the need to introduce a new baffling exclusion.