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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Fifa 08 review and trailer

Soccer has been dubbed “the beautiful game”. Unfortunately most soccer game offerings have been far from beautiful in their implementation. Fifa, as popular as the series has been has felt somewhat lacking to me, and in the past couple of years the series has had its nose blooded by the fast paced arcadey franchise that is Pro Evolution Soccer. Fortunately then, EA really stepped up to the mark for this year’s Fifa offering.

The new features list contains large numbers with many zeros, such as that players make 1000 decisions every second. These numbers mean little in isolation, but speak volumes in-game. The improved AI along with awesome ball physics (which are affected by factors such as wind speed, player balance, ball spin and air pressure) makes for a very realistic experience. Each iteration of Fifa has had its own nuances and Fifa 08 is no different. In fact it will take quite a bit of time with the game to really master its subtleties.

Fifa 08 has a much slower pace than many would be used to, which makes for a much more considered and tactical game. A game of to and fro, where there is a lot of passing and exploring to find a weakness in the opposition’s defense. In essence, it truly captures the feel of soccer. No longer can you subdue the opposition with wave after wave of attacks. Nor can you cross the ball magically into your striker’s feet from one side of the field to the other (this annoyed my old flatmates to no end). Instead you have to make space, shield the ball and really think about what you are doing, all while the opposition is relentlessly chasing your heels and blocking your passes. Fifa 08 also introduces a new version of the fatigue meter. This time round you cant sit with your finger jammed on the run button, as your total stamina will drop slowly over the game. You have to use short burst of speed.
Another bonus is the beefed up ball control. Passing has been very hit and miss in past iterations, usually involving pointing in the general vicinity and hoping for the best. In Fifa 08 this is much less the case, especially when you turn off passing assistance. The added control really does provide for some excellent build up play.

In my opinion Fifa 08 is quite possibly the most realistic soccer game I have played. I say this, because you have to play as you would on a real pitch. As I mentioned above, the ball physics are really impressive, and its fantastic to see defenders fight for the ball when its loose without it being magically sucked to one of the players feet like in previous versions. Lets not kid ourselves though, someone walking past your tv is not going to mistake it for a real game of soccer, but its as close as we have seen.

All this realism comes at a cost to the casual player…difficulty. Unless you are willing to put some time into the game, it is unlikely that you will be able to truly appreciate its subtle genius. It can be fairly frustrating and hard with goals few and far between. Like I said though, its fairly realistic. Unfortunately it is relatively unforgiving even on the easier setting. The steep learning curve and added difficulty may be a bit of a turn off to those not already familiar with the series.

Most of what I mentioned so far are more incremental improvements than anything new. This is where the Be A Pro mode comes in. In this mode you play as one player, rather than the entire team. This is such a good idea that it makes you wonder why it has not been done in the past. Unfortunately its not as full featured as you would hope, but it definitely makes me excited for the future. EA have also suggested that the game will eventually allow for five a side online games with each player being controlled individually. Normal multiplayer is great fun, and though I did not get time to try out the online leagues, one off matches against a real opponent are awesome. I experienced very little lag in my games, which is a definite bonus.

Xbox 360 Fifa 08 trailer:

It also has the usual exhaustive number of licensed teams and leagues, even including New Zealand (the worst international team in the game - which is accurate enough). The visuals are pretty impressive, with a lot of attention given to the likenesses of most players. Obviously the stars were given more love than the average Joe’s but that’s to be expected when there are more than a thousand players. The commentators are also better this year round with more recorded lines than previous years. Obviously these do get repeated, but all round they relate a lot more to what’s going on in the game than I have seen in previous versions.

In closing Fifa 08 is the most enjoyable soccer game I have played. The slower pace, greater control and realistic approach really does make for a very enjoyable experience if you like your soccer. On the downside it is a lot more challenging with a steeper learning curve. However if you can push through this, you will find that you can pull off some spectacular moves that were rarely seen in the past, at least not on this level. Fifa 08 really is a beautiful simulation of the beautiful game.