All the glory of the World Cup, without the French!
All kidding aside, the World Cup in 1998 has to be the most disorganized it has ever been. No one was able to get tickets. There aren't enough police. Heck, half of France went on strike the week before it started! So, for all you soccer fans out there who are missing their favorite games, now you have a way to play them over and over again to your hearts content. Maybe you could even help the United States win a game or two . . .
World Cup '98 is the only officially licensed World Cup game on the market. Following the EA Sports release of FIFA '98: Road to the World Cup, many people assumed (yours truly included) that World Cup '98 would just be a rehash of the same game with different teams and players. I've never been happier to be wrong. EA had a new team make a new engine, and a brand new game for all us soccer players. Isn't it good to know that some companies won't pump a game out quickly for a fast buck?
As you may imagine, all the teams are the national teams that qualified for this year's World Cup. For many American soccer fans, the national teams are at least recognizable, as opposed to most of the FIFA teams. As you can imagine, Brazil is amazing, Jamaica is colorful, and the US is, well, present and accounted for. You also have the ability to edit players and make them better at their positions. There is also a terrific classic mode where you are able to play memorable games from past World Cups. Interestingly enough, you can even start a game without any human players. Pitting one teams stats against the other, and let the computer play it out. It could probably be used as some sort of betting tool. Not that we condone that sort of thing . . .
The graphics are pretty good though they could have used a little faster framerate. Unfortunately, it still looks roughly the same as the other soccer games available for the N64. The only place left to go graphics-wise is to get the folks at Acclaim to tell the industry how they do the beautiful hi-res graphics for their sports games, such as Quarterback Club '98.
The most notable change in gameplay between FIFA '98 and World Cup '98 is the addition of the pass indicator. Tired of never knowing where your players are when not on the screen? Hate that radar solution that some soccer games use? Well, World Cup '98 has a nice arrow that points toward the closest player in the direction you are facing. Now, you can cross the ball straight to teammates, without anyone intercepting it. This feature does mean that you end up in front of the goal a little more often, so the keepers have been improved to block most of the shots.
The control is easy to get used to, but nearly impossible to master. Normally, the stick moves you around, A passes, B shoots, and, my favorite, C^ is the intentional foul button. Easy enough? Wait, there's more. If you hold down Z and R and press the buttons, you can execute In-game Tactics(ie Through ball runs, offside traps, etc.). Then, there's the skill moves. Hold Z or R to execute skill moves. Yes, you too can execute the Stepover Nutmeg, and you don't even need to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbors. These moves were too complicated to remember how to do in the middle of a fast paced game like soccer. I found myself just getting by with the normal controls.
Other Complaints? Yea, there are a few. I still say that if a game has advertising in it, it should directly affect the cost of the game. If I'm going to have to look at advertising while I play, I damn well shouldn't have to pay for it. If I want to see a snickers bar after every missed shot, I'll watch TV, where I didn't pay for it. Damn corporate jackals. Grrrrrrrr.
The sound is unremarkable. Although the use of those snotty English commentators telling me how bad I am didn't help my disposition. I have to say that after watching a few of the games on ESPN2, American announcers have no idea how to commentate soccer either, so I don't blame EA for going with the stereotype.
World Cup '98 is a great soccer game for those infused with the World Cup madness. It is a different game than FIFA '98, so owners of that game won't be disappointed. So knock the mud off your cleats, get out you shinguards, and sit in front of your TV for one of the best soccer games out there. One question, does EA know that the song they licensed for the opening, "Tubthumping," is about heavy drinking? Not exactly the message you want from a soccer game, but somehow fitting.