Ah, the perennial FIFA. It comes round every year with a different sound track, flashier visuals and another few licences. It isn’t really football, for that you need to play Pro Evolution Soccer.
Now that was the view of many people until last year, but FIFA 2003 was different. Sure it had the sound track, the visuals and the licences but they actually changed the game engine. EA really put some effort into turning the whole series around. It looked like football, it sounded like football, but last year, it also played like football.
The players feet connected with the ball, the animations flowed together and the passes didn’t look like they were laser-guided. It just played like FIFA should have done all along. It still had problems though, like a dodgy frame rate and the odd lapse in AI.
So where does this leave FIFA 2004? It’s got huge potential if they can iron out the problems of last year’s game. They’re also adding a few new features as usual and this time it looks like it’ll be a more tactical affair.
The major change this time is the introduction of a more advanced strategy system, for which EA sought help from FIFA’s Technical Committee. Erich Rutemoller, a member of the coaching staff for the German national side, came on board to share his vast knowledge of tactics with the development team. What this pans out to be, looks like more flexibility in the team management section, possibly including some improved AI.
Also reaping the benfits of an upgrade is the career mode, which allows you to take a team to the top from the lower divisions, signing new players along the way. LMA took management sims down to the pitch, and FIFA looks like it’s taking football sims up to the boardroom. A full season mode with all the bells and whistles? Yes please.
There is also talk of online play for the PC and PS2 (there’s no talk of Xbox Live thanks to EA’s disagreement with Microsoft over the way it is run) and the GameCube version will enjoy connectivity with the GBA. Yes, online play with FIFA. Just imagine 16 people in a match, fighting it out, possibly using a microphone to communicate. What a possibility. GBA connectivity? That’ll be secret tactical changes presumably. Oh, and a note to EA, please make this Xbox LIVE compatible, you know it’ll make sense! What an oppertunity wasted, eh?
The next round in the FIFA vs. Pro Evolution war has begun. I’m just hoping that this year, EA’ll give Konami a run for their money.