The most popular sport
in the world comes to Xbox. Go for the ultimate
prize with EA's offering.
The game of soccer, or football as they call it everywhere else but the
States, has been criticized in years past for its bleak and morbid play
but has recently been redeemed by a new fresh look and a younger following.
In recent years the video games featuring the sport have also followed
suit and have become much more animated and fun to play. Sadly this year's
rendition of FIFA World Cup comes with a price and cries out for more attention
and effort from the developer.
A lot of people say that the appeal of a video game relies on the gameplay
of the title but in reality the overall experience depends on both the
gameplay and depth of the title. FIFA succeeds on one of these aspects;
it's a great game to play. The soccer in the title features new aspects
such as star players who exhibit specific skills in special ways when compared
to the average "Joe". While this feature may not seem like much, in the
end it adds a lot of enjoyment to the overall experience.
The controls of the game perform nicely overall, although (just as with
the length of the game) they could have used a little more attention from
the developer. All of the buttons on the controller are utilized nicely
but the end feeling is a lack of intuitiveness and depth. You have one
button that commands special moves and you have got absolutely no control
as to what kind of move is performed, unlike in basketball games where
special moves and used differently for specific situations. Thankfully
some depth is found in the shot selection. You have the ability to add
some spin to the ball as you shoot it towards the goal by pressing R to
curve it to the right and L to curve it to the left. This makes for some
wicked goals when executed properly.
The second aspect of video games that developers needed
to pay attention to is depth. Sadly FIFA World Cup 2002 has only two
modes of play. You've got your relatively short World Cup mode and a
relatively uniform exhibition mode. Along with the ability to play with
three buddies there isn't much else to do in the game. After you've conquered
the World Cup mode you're basically done with the game unless you and
some buddies want to fire up the game for some multiplayer action. There
are a few teams that can be unlocked by winning the World Cup with different
teams but that doesn't provide much solace to an otherwise bleak performance.
The graphics of the game pick up the slack a bit with
very nice animations and player models. In this year's edition, EA Sports
has added in a very cool sliding animation, which players use to keep
the ball in bounds as it is teetering on the edge. Small little touches
really help in the visual feel of the game.
While the game looks especially nice and clean, the framerate
sadly stutters at every turn. As the screen zooms out you'll see players
and fans start to glitch and slow to a crawl. Occasionally even with
the standard game view the game will slow down if there is a large number
of players on the screen and the action gets a bit heated. Thanks to
the framerate issues in the game the fact becomes clear that EA made
this game a simple port rather than the enhanced version that we were
all hoping for.
The crowd graphics are done well enough although some
close ups of fans' reactions could have spruced up the gameplay experience
a bit. You'll see the appropriate flags of countries being waved throughout
the stadium as well as some freakishly odd-looking dinosaur thingies
(ported over from the PS2 no doubt).
The camera work in the game adds a very nice element
to the game as FIFA 2002 sports a very active camera that zooms around
the stadium to catch players' reactions at just the right moment. Say
for instance a player has just missed an easy chance at a goal. The camera
will swing around and zoom in on his face to catch the pain and agony
that he is surely experiencing. All of this is of course done in realtime
by the well-done graphics engine.
The audio effects in the game serve their purpose. All
of the standard sound effects are in the game. Balls clanging off of
the posts, the thud of a cleat colliding with the leather of the ball,
and the friction of a player tackling another are all done very nicely
The announcers in the game hold true to form and perform
adequately although they pale in comparison to the level of depth and
intrigue that SEGA's sports titles bring to the table. Sometimes the
commentators seem to be operating independently of one another and go
long areas of time without even acknowledging the other's existence.
Despite that one flaw the commentating is dead on and quite lively. It's
cool to see how many different sayings they have for unique situations,
of which there are many in the game of soccer.
The artificial intelligence in the game performs nicely
although sometimes you wonder why the computer didn't pressure the ball
a bit more. Sometimes you'll be dribbling down the field, void of any
form of pressure from the computer controller players. There are four
levels of difficulty which all vary nicely, adding a bit of much needed
depth to the experience.
Overall the game is short - really short. There isn't
much else to do after you've conquered the World Cup mode, which could
take you an hour if you really work at it. While there are a few teams
that can be unlocked by beating the game on different difficulty levels
it really doesn't help extend the length of the game. You can really
tell that the developers were grasping at straws when they added in some
DVD-esque extras into the package. Thankfully they are all well-done
and fun to watch.
Nate "GamerX" Ahearn
Football makes so much more sense than soccer.
FIFA World Cup 2002: The Scores
FIFA World Cup looks good, plays good, lasts about as
long as last night's Chocolate Mousse Cake. Sadly there
isn't much there but what there is turns out to be really
quite a fun ride. Rent this one and you'll be satisfied.