The beautiful game, the world’s game, football, soccer, whatever you want to call it, you cannot call it a best seller. With the sport having such a global reach it is hard to argue that the [i]FIFA[/i] series is one of the highest selling games of all time. Although EA Sports has puttered through its next-gen transition with this franchise, its first real attempt is now on store shelves ready for you to pick up. Is it worth the wait? Maybe, depending on your expectations, that is.
[heading]A Brief History of Time[/heading]
Allow me to go through the next-time line for you. First they released (alongside the past generation console versions of [i]FIFA[/i]) [i]FIFA 06 Road to the World Cup[/i]. Many bought this game expecting to get their footy on; however all it was the World Cup game with the qualifying kits on the teams. Weak? Yes, however EA pulled out all the stops for the wonderfully made World Cup Edition, with of course only country teams in the game, no clubs.
They then took a step back, literally to the drawing board. The result is [i]FIFA 07[/i], a totally redone game with its own set of features but only 7 available leagues to play, so fans like me are still waiting for their countries’ leagues to be available. This outraged many fans, and EA’s reasoning was the fact that since the game was redone in totality, they did not have enough time to go through the massive amount of players and leagues it usually comes out with. So now at year two, we Americans still have no MLS unless we buy past generation, that is.
[heading]Getting Into the Beauty[/heading]
While I love playing with my home league, the leagues that are in the game are the ones that really count, the Euro Leagues including: English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Mexican, World, and International Leagues. While not the lineup we expect, you can get some excellent clubs out of those, and arguably, the clubs with the most hardware to prove it as well. What about the actual game? Allow me to explain.
In the past, you could take any player to the corner and swing a cross to the middle with pinpoint accuracy. It was annoying and one of the reasons purists gave the [i]FIFA[/i] series the “arcadey” title. [i]FIFA[/i] was easy- one button presses for skill moves, perfect passes and crosses; I mean this game was fun but with an emphasis on scoring.
EA has not made the ball its own object with its own physics, so the football you get is pretty close to a chaotic representation of what you see on your television. Balls bounce every which way, players fight each other for control, and there is a clumsiness to running with the ball and trying to change direction. It is frustrating at first, but when the ball is in the air and players challenge for it, you are seeing a pretty spot on translation of what you should see.
The football in the game is excellent, with an emphasis on control and finding space. There is also a much more important midfield battle for getting the ball to the teams scoring third. With the ball being its own object, the player with control of it really has control of the ball, and instead of a one button skill move, players with high dribbling stats can really pull some amazing moves with the analog stick. The stick reacts to touch, so if you have someone like C. Ronaldo, then you can expect to pull of some great moves that leave the defender embarrassed. You can say that you, the player, pull off the skill moves yourself. The result is some “Ohhhh” moments all throughout the game. Overall the gameplay itself is brilliant.
Also you have a new shooting button that allows you to be more precise with your shots at the cost of power. These are excellent for free kicks as you can just bend the ball right into the net behind the goalie, finally.
As you can expect, there is a manager mode still where you take your team and try to fulfill expectations of the club; if you don’t, you get canned. In this mode it’s more of the same- you can get transfers, scout for youngsters, and pretty much build a club from the ground up. Although, you have access to every club in the team, so a club like Manchester United really has all it needs, so you can try to take the league title if you want.
Challenge mode is another feature that gives you objectives to complete, a nice touch, but manager mode is where it is at.
You can also now practice your one on one right there on the menu. Although no team is there, you can try out the new dribbling and finesse shots. Gone is practice mode. Another cut, argh.
Take the game online and participate in Live tourneys where if your team is not doing so hot, you can take control yourself, if you are into that.
The modes in the game are a step back. Again you can assume the fact that the rework of the game itself is to blame. The footy that is here is wonderful. Though a part of me wants to create my own tourney or play in the various tourneys clubs participate in throughout the year.
The game is lacking in features and clubs, and a whole lot, but why am I so into it? For one, the presentation is amazing. The game brings you into the stadium (Although I wish you could pick a Spanish announcer like you used to; something about listening to the English folk call a Mexican League game bugs me). This game, despite its lack thereof-s, is beautiful. The game plays just so remarkably that EA has literally (to me at least) bought themselves some understanding. While it is unacceptable to under-deliver, the footy itself is a polished gem. I understand why some people remain upset; I wish they would have just released the game later with everything attached, but so is the world we live in.
Rent this bad boy if you are hesitant. If not, then pick it up and grab a friend and play.