Alive and kicking.
Just as we can be partial to either The Beatles or Elvis, Tolkien or Rowling,Gamecube or Xbox, we can either breathe soccer or gag on it. The same can be said for those who would rather play the actual sport or the digital equivalent, but since we at the Revolution are more skilled with our fingers than feet, we'd rather save our shins and play the video game.
And whether your league is competitive or couch, you're likely to be one of two types of soccer gamers. Are you one of the Winning Eleven clan or a FIFA man? The answer to that question will ultimately dictate your opinion of EA's FIFA 2005.
FIFA 2005 is as much a team-oriented simulation game as you're going to encounter. If you've played FIFA 2004, you know exactly what kind of gameplay experience to expect, with one exception " First Touch Control.
In keeping with other games in the EA Sports line, FIFA 2005 makes use of the right analog-stick to perform a quick shimmy to outmaneuver your defender. This feature is a good one in theory, since it attempts to balance both the Lone Maverick and Team Player ideologies of gaming. However, this tweak is a quick and dirty solution to distract gamers from FIFA's main problem area - its overall user responsiveness.
It seems like EA Sports concerned themselves more with making player animations realistic than making players fun to control. It's a little too sluggish. When you're defending, an entire second might be wasted as the game shows a defender shifting his weight before running. This is exacerbated when the built-in game assists tries extra hard to choose the correct player for you and restricts you from selecting others that could make a difference. On offense, tilting the left analog-stick to guide the dribbler isn't really analog enough. A slight tilt will basically be the same as a full tilt, which is made up for by First Touch Control, but you'll end up using it in every dribbling challenge, making the gameplay feel repetitive and predetermined. This animation delay and selection restriction will cause problems when players are crowded together in the goalie's box, and can lead to Hurled Gamepad Syndrome.
Otherwise, FIFA's gameplay engine does have its advantages. The default camera, being zoomed out as far as it is, makes player locations and field positions easy to assess. With some quick thinking and reaction time, coordinating well-designed strikes is a breeze. Off The Ball play (using the right stick to control another player at the same time as the dribbler) adds great adaptability to any play called on-the-fly through the In Game Management system. Networking direct and through passes while in the goalie's box can be interesting from a bird's eye view. Free kicks allow you to choose the direction and spin of the ball, which gives a real penalty for trying to sweep the leg, Daniel-San style. It's a pretty solid engine, through and through.
FIFA's Career Mode is as strong as they come. Your avatar as the manager gains and loses bars on a job security meter depending on your performance. You also gain points with which you can hire new players or increase the levels of one of eight staff members, whose main goal is to beef up various team and management attributes, such as fitness or budgeting. As you progress, different teams try to acquire you to lead their team. The better you do, the better the teams are who actively look for your services. If your goalie is a battle-torn mess one game after the next, you'll eventually get a weaker team and easier A.I. until you stop playing blindfolded. It's a smart, deep mode that will keep the more hardcore soccer fanatics occupied until the cows come home to graze on the field.
Tournament and Practice Mode round out your gameplay options. A Create-A-Player Mode allows you to customize minor player appearance options, like his headband, earrings, or goggles, but it's basically useless since these changes are so graphically miniscule. Sadly, no afros or psychedelic wigs here. However, you do gain rewards for playing well, which can be spent on buying new teams and stadiums and whatnot.
Online play is now available in the PS2 and Xbox versions and works much the same in both. It's not nearly as streamlined or robust as other EA games, but gets the job done with basic tournaments and rankings. Go ahead and show anyone in the world how much free time you have.
FIFA 2005's graphics are a mixed bag. Players collide and move ever so smoothly. Facial expressions and bodily emotes in cut-scenes are uber-realistic, as is the nicely textured field. When the camera zooms in for goal kicks, the swarming crowd gives you the feeling of really playing in a world stadium. The camera during corner kicks, on the other hand, is zoomed so far out that the players look like ticks. The in-game menus are pretty cheap - they belong in a dentist's Windows 3.1 word processor rather than a next-gen system. FIFA 2005 lacks style points, that's for sure.
As a nice touch, however, the music is inspired from a wide array of cultures from around the globe. Latin and European tunes from artists you've likely never heard of before sound professional and - though you won't be caught dead with them even on your iPod - are a nice break from the norm. The international appeal is definitely furthered by the obligatory BBC announcers and their intelligent in-game commentary.
If you are familiar with the players, follow MLS, or can point to Benevento on a globe in one try, then FIFA 2005 will suit you well. It's a good game of soccer and sports a few nice, unique features. However, if you care more about responsive control and a better overall gameplay experience, look next to FIFA on the retail shelf and find your allegiance with Winning Eleven. It's still the king of the pitch.