Review by zer0faith
"Best effort yet by EA, but doesn’t take the thrown owned by Konami"
FIFA 2003 (PS2)
EA’s FIFA series is one of the longest football(soccer) series, beaten only Konami Tokyo’s Winning Eleven series. The rivalry between between the FIFA series and the English version of Winning Eleven, the Pro Evolution series has heated up in the last two years, with Konami’s title taking the upper hand(by a long margin) in terms of gameplay and replay value. This year, for the first time in 4 years, EA has decided to start the gameplay engine from scratch and they’ve done a damn good job of it too.
Gameplay – 7.5
This Years version of FIFA is a great improvement over previous versions. The most major improvement is that the ball has been detached from the player in control meaning that players with less control skill will put the ball further in from of them when dribbling and therefore be more likely to have the ball taken away. Also, partially due to the detachment, you can no longer rely on being able to dribble and spin-move through the entire opposition defence, infact unless you have a player with very good dribbling skills (Ronaldo, Zidane, Giggs, Davids) don’t even expect to go past one player, with the exception of going up the wing. This forces you to play far more realistically, passing the ball around and waiting for the runs of teammates and openings in the defence. Thought this does not mean that there are no longer any special moves, the special moves look just as good as they always have if not better, but now they are not rainbow kicks, they are jukes and step-overs that work realistically (in other words not often) and also you will not see the same move performed very often as they are chosen at random (so it seems). It is so much fun to use the “Freestyle” control right analogue stick (RAS) with Ronaldo and see his special moves which are so fluid as if he is dancing with the ball, just like in real life.
There are a few negative parts of the new gameplay, but it shouldn’t be too much to ruin the game for you. First of all the “Freestyle” control is a joke, to anyone that has played NBA 2003 you will know what I mean. In NBA 2003 players have individual moves, but they are not performed at random, they are done by using combinations with the RAS. If you press left/right on the RAS you will fake left/right, and you can pull off some amazing moves by pressing left-right repeatedly on the RAS. However the only control the RAS gives you in FIFA 2003 is the general direction in which you sprint when you hold it, and eliminates the idea of “Freestyle”.
Other minor complaints are that the goalkeepers A.I goes down the toilet once he has the ball in his hands, if you stand in between the 2 central defenders he will mostly roll the ball to one of them and the animation is long to run, intercept the ball and then score. The passing play breaks up far to easily, as in previous versions and it can be very frustrating if you are trying to play realistically by passing around you back four and their forwards decide to intercept. Heading must be tweaked for next years version, currently the same button for heading is used to pull out your keeper, meaning on corners, unless you are careful, your keeper will be pulled when you are trying to head the ball which can be extremely annoying.
Aesthetics - 10
Quite simply, amazing! The graphics in FIFA 2003 are some of the best I have seen in any game, right up there with Madden 2003 and Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty. The kits and players are now in a new format which allows for better textures and resolution from further distances, you can now recognise players far better from a distance. The stadiums are a lot better looking as well, they are all extremely recognisable, the crowds are some of the best I’ve seen and flares now appear only in stadiums where they should.
The sound is fantastic, all the Club Championship teams have at least 3 crowd chants all of which are real and provide a thrilling atmosphere. The music as always is all dependant on what you like, it is mainly dance/techno (which the FIFA series has now established itself as using) I find it provides the right sort of ambience that the game needs.
Replay Value – 8
As this is the first game of a new engine there is a bit of a learning curve, once this is done you can continue on with the rest of the game, and you will find some unlockables through winning tournaments (won’t ruin what they are for you though).
This is also the most difficult FIFA yet (in my opinion), I have enough trouble on Professional mode, let alone venturing into the dreaded World Class, this will keep me playing for a longer time in itself.
Buy or Rent
As with any game it is probably best to try a demo or rent it first, if your new to the series I would recommend it, however if you’re a FIFA vet. (like me) I would say you should rent it, but wait until next season’s edition, for them to iron out some of the bugs and problems, to buy.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/10/02, Updated 11/10/02
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