Review by grasu
"Another passable attempt from EA."
Sports games and portables don't usually get along too well... that is until the PSP's arrival on the portable scene in March 2005 (North America): Since it's release, the PSP has probably accumulated more sports games than the GBA in ALL of it's 5+ years of market dominance!
While this might mean that competition would get producers to outdo themselves in an attempt to one-up each other, unfortunately EA doesn't seem to share this opinion. So here we have their first football (soccer) entry for the PSP: FIFA Soccer does many things right, but it could've been perfected if only EA would've taken their time and fixed some glaring bugs, along with an appalling physics system.
The graphics category is very hard to grade in such a game, most of the time you see the action from well above the field and can't get a good idea of how good the actual game looks. Even so, when FIFA gets down to it, the game doesn't look all that good.
There's a great deal of jaggies, which are very noticeable on all of the players and the surrounding advertisements around the field. The animation is rough and almost absent in some spots, for example when passing, and at other times it's really badly made with a distinctive lack of frames. The player modeling could use some serious work, because while some better known players are recognizable, most of them are just clones of a general template.
The fields themselves aren't all that much to look at. There aren't any noticeable differences in the texture of the grass, the streaks that pass through the fields, or anything else to makes the different fields seem different from one another. As for the framerate, it dips at times, but just like in NFSU: R, it doesn't really get in the way of gameplay.
The sound in this game was so instantly forgettable that I can't honestly remember one thing about it. I had to turn my PSP on and play a while before writing down these few lines.
The sound effects are decent, with some very crappy commentary and the appropriate passing, punting and kicking effects represented as best they could be in a football game. The crowds are either totally absent or completely mute because they're hardly noticeable in the game. The only standout part, and it's not due to a positive feature, is the music: The same angst filled, I-hate-you-all punk crap that litters EA games is present here too. Bleah!
This game could've been damn good if not for one problem, a problem which I shall get out of the way as soon as possible: The "out-of-bounds-glitch". This bug, whether graphical or otherwise, makes the game freeze for 2-3 seconds every time the ball goes out of bounds. For any reason the ball might go out of bounds (corners, shots above the goal, etc.) the game will freeze. This kills the pacing of the game and makes it lose major points from its overall score.
Now that we handled that problem, lets move on to the actual gameplay. FIFA features no career modes nor does it feature a season mode. The only playable modes are something of a "semi-season" mode with the Club Teams and the other perfectly average modes you might find in a soccer game: Quick match, arcade, etc. The selection of teams is, thankfully, quite large and there's hardly a team that's not present in the game. Form AC Milan to Manchester United, to name two of the better know teams, everything is included. Furthermore, the guys/gals at EA also threw in national teams that didn't make it to the World Cup such as Belgium or Romania.
While the team selection is great, and the game types are OK, the actual playing model is not all that great. Passing in this game is way too simple, you pass and there's a 95% chance that the person you pass to will get the ball. When the ball is passed it literally sticks to the other players legs. The physics suffer greatly from this canon-ball soccer mechanics. There's no bounce to the ball, it feels very artificial when shooting and it seems that it's more of a cannon-ball, breaking everything in it's path, rather than a soccer ball. The shooting game is also fairly simple, and the players don't suffer from fatigue making the model feel very arcady, and much less like a simulation.
The AI and controls don't help the situation too much either. I don't know if it's just the simplistic soccer mechanics, or if it's the AI, but scoring goals in this game is too easy. The AI can't apparently intercept your ball carriers, it can't do a decent pass and it can't EVER get to the other side of the field... and when it does, it can't actually ever score a goal. Where the AI is bad however, the controls can be appalling. Why the hell did EA map all of the "freestyle" moves to the D-Pad? For the uninformed, freestyle moves allow you to dribble or juggle the ball in order to bypass the defenders and give FIFA a touch of novelty. With these moves mapped to the D-Pad, you won't ever use them. Taking your finger of the movement disc and getting to the D-Pad will mean that, 100% of the time you will lose the ball.
Other than the mentioned out-of-bounds glitch, the loading times in FIFA are acceptable. And the game does a few things fairly right. For starters, the "replay" feature, which allows you to save a football game in mid-game and then replay the whole game up to the point where you left off, is a great feature that actually deserves to be ported to other football games in the future. FIFA Soccer is also the better of the two football games available for the PSP, and despite it's arcade roots, FIFA is far closer to a simulation than it's competitor, World Tour Soccer.
There's really nothing spectacular about this game as far as multiplayer goes. Ad-Hoc modes and that's about it. The game modes are, as one would expect, the same as in a real football game: Chose a field, team, time, etc. and then duke in out in a "friendly" match.
Just stick to playing this on a console/PC with friends, there's nothing here worth the hassle or that hasn't been seen before.
FIFA Soccer is a "fans-only" game that will appeal to those who live, eat and sleep football, but will probably leave everyone else wondering just why the hell does the game freeze every time the ball goes out of bounds? Along with a very annoying glitch, passable graphics and OK gameplay one should approach this game with a good deal of skepticism.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 11/04/05
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