The international break served as a good opportunity for gamers to really get stuck into FIFA 18.
The latest iteration of EA’s hugely popular football game came out last month and it plunges you into the action right from the offset.
From there, it’s very difficult to remove yourself.
FIFA 18, in its second year with EA’s Frostbite engine, offers significant improvements on its predecessor that will instantly appeal to gamers.
Take ‘Quick Subs’, for instance, which allows you to pre-set your substitutes before kick-off.
Then, during a break in the play, those subs can be made without the need to pause the match.
The game doesn’t just look different, with enhanced visuals, but it feels different, too.
Players are more responsive to the controls, making dribbling an entirely more enjoyable experience. Even when players aren’t in full flight, you feel like you have full control using the left controller.
EA have done a good job of making each player’s individual attributes stand out. Cristiano Ronaldo is quick and strong, Lionel Messi moves quickly with the ball at his feet.
And this extends to less high-profile players, too. Take Tottenham winger Georges-Kévin Nkoudou.
I bought Nkoudou in Ultimate Team after becoming starry-eyed by his 91 pace. But it’s very easy to shove Nkoudou off the ball, a direct result of his 64 strength and 48 aggression.
In fact, having physical players seems to be a real advantage this year. Get within a few feet of an opposing player with West Brom’s Grzegorz Krychowiak, who has 91 strength and 87 aggression, and you can easily dispossess him of the ball.
Defending takes some getting used to and we highly recommend checking out a tutorial on YouTube if you’re shipping goals aplenty. Getting your players in the right position to make the tackle is key, and that means reading your opponent’s attacks.
The Journey will leave you wanting more
It was always going to be interesting to see what EA did with The Journey, the cinematic story mode following the rise of Alex Hunter.
EA haven’t steered away from the formula that made Hunter’s first season such a hit - cutscene, train, play matches, rinse and repeat - and the second half of Alex’s story in FIFA 18, which doesn’t feature much off-field drama, quickly gets tedious.
Gamers would stick to Career Mode if they simply wanted to play matches. It’s why it’s so important that EA make Alex’s story a captivating one that continues throughout the season.
It gets off to an exciting start, with the starlet pushing for a move from his Premier League club, Philippe Coutinho style.
The sequel is certainly worth getting stuck into - you even get to play some games as different characters, one of whom is a new introduction - but it’s hard not to feel that EA are still holding back.
Hunter is invited to some parties by Thierry Henry but, rather annoyingly, nothing exciting happens at these events.
EA are playing it safe with their fictional story mode and one can only hope they step it up a notch in FIFA 19.
The introduction of an transfer negotiation system in Career Mode highlights EA’s push to add more interactive moments to all of its game modes.
When a club is willing to sell you their player, you’re thrust into an animated conversation with the coach of the selling club. You discuss the transfer fee and, if accepted, then finalise wages and bonuses with the player’s agent.
The Journey and Career Mode will both receive hours of playing time, while Ultimate Team remains just as addictive.
EA have gone about producing the best FIFA game in recent years there, its title as the best football game around still firmly in tact.