Soccer riots and drunken fans, crowding a stadium near you!
Now that EA Sports has established their dominance with FIFA simulations, the
real lurking question is: Can they deliver something fresh every year? Why should
FIFA fans turn their heads from their monitors solely for this year's title?
It's not an easy task making a good-looking game look even better year after
year. The visuals in World Cup '98 are still considered top of the class
by many, so I guess it's the nuances that decide if the graphics are a notch
higher than they were the year before.
shows some nice touches of improvement over its predecessors. Player models
are definitely more complex and sharper looking. Weather conditions are more
realistic (especially the drops of rain on the pitch), making the general look
of the match more appealing. The crowd graphics have undergone some qualitative
changes, adding a lot more animated characters. They still aren't quite believable,
but it's closer to real life. Also, the stadium background is redone, and it
adds the atmosphere of a packed house once the match starts.
One of the most noticeable improvements are the beautifully used replay cameras.
If you watch a lot of soccer on TV, you'll notice the same kind of behind-the-goal
cameras used after a player scores a goal. It's definitely a nice bit of attention
to detail from the developers, and it shows a good insight into real-life game
Although the marketing hype about the game suggested otherwise, the players'
faces could still use a lot of work. On the other hand, who actually needs that?
When playing a match, one tends to focus on the gameplay and facial constructions
really become unnecessary. If you want to have any sort of view of the whole
game, there is just no way you will be able to see any detail. The only time
the game could benefit from more complex facial expressions is during the replays,
so why bother? You can overlook the lack of expressions by watching the many
amusing ways players celebrate after scoring.
The basic setup is pretty straightforward. Players can choose from 17 different
leagues (Italian, English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, etc.) or, if none
of these are your favorites, you can always choose one of the teams from "The
Rest of the World" section. One major addition to the roster is the inclusion
of all of the MLS teams and players. Other modes of play remain the same as
previous editions. Players can choose to participate in exhibitions, tournaments
(cup, league play and customized), seasons, or good, old-fashioned training
sessions to practice their skills.
As far as the sound goes, cheers of the crowd do not seem any different from
the norm, and the same goes for the commentators' coverage. Musical scores continue
the fine tradition of new age, techno beats, with a mix of rock and pop tunes.
a few key game play tactics I would like to touch upon. Being able to make a
through pass in a crowd is a great idea. Arrows will point in the direction
that your player is passing, conveniently colored red (hard pass), yellow (medium)
and green (soft pass). This new feature makes it easier to aim your passes,
but the game itself still requires just the right amount of timing and skill.
Other new tactics, shielding for example, work for and against the game, though.
Shielding the opponent with your arm makes it easier to advance once you dribble
pass the player, but it also allows for some awkward situations which many real-life
refs wouldn't hesitate to call a counter foul. Of course, if you look at FIFA
2000 as an arcade game that would be just fine, but it's supposed to be
a sports simulation, right?
Goalie AI shows definite signs of improvement. They don't make silly mistakes,
and depending on the position of the attacker they will choose whether they're
going to catch the ball or punt it outside the area. What didn't impress me
so much was the other team's AI. The game will too often turn into a midfield
header contest that will stretch all the way through to the penalty area. It's
true that similar situations happen in real life, but not that often. You would
think that after so many years of development EA Sports would get it down to
science. It seems though, there is always some room left for improvement.
So, is FIFA 2000 worth your money? It sure is. Hardcore fans of the
series will go out and get it the first day, no matter what I say. However,
this one will appeal to far more than the hardcore soccer fan. It's definitely
a good, solid game for casual sports fans and regular gamers as well. So sneak
a flask of whiskey into your pocket, practice your right hook, and head on down
to the EA stadium.