"Best FIFA ever...but..."

The wind is chilling a bit, the leaves will start changing color soon, and EA Sports released another FIFA. The gaming boards will be flooded by fans of FIFA, who will defend their game to their deaths against the Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution Soccer series. But has FIFA finally stepped up their game enough to challenge PES's supremacy? In a word, no. But that doesn't mean that EA Sports didn't put out a solid effort.

Most EA titles have great presentation. There's a particular feel that they all have which is very familiar to long-time EA Sports fans such as myself. If you like it, you'll feel right at home. If you don't, then feel free to complain, but it probably won't change anything. FIFA is the only football title to feature full licensing with the correct kits, player name, leagues, stadiums, and all the rest. This is actually a major selling point, with many people not giving WE/PES a chance due to the fact that it doesn't have all of this. FIFA finally added the full Mexican League to the mix, which will make many of our friends south of the U.S. border very happy. The 18 leagues, 40 national teams, and 11,000 players represented in this game will please many a football fan.

GRAPHICS - 10/10
No football game looks as beautiful as FIFA. It's as simple as that. The aforementioned accurate kits look splendid, but their accuracy is quickly forgotten due to the player models of some of your favorite footballers. They're built like their real-life counterparts. They look like them. Thanks to the typically wonderful animation of FIFA, they move like them. The only difference between the two is that they don't smell like them, but we may have to wait for Playstation 5 or 6 for that feature. The stadiums are beautifully rendered as well. The animation is spot on, and for the most part the framerate keeps up with the action. Collisions? Yee haw! Some of the tackles will leave you wincing, and when two players collide, it's almost as much fun as watching the takedowns on Burnout 3. Be prepared to appreciate the realism and attention to detail that this title provides aesthetically.

SOUND - 9/10
Ally McCoist and John Motson once again provide the commentary. Like any other title, they'll repeat themselves quite often, but all in all they do a wonderful job. I've not found myself annoyed with them one bit thus far. The crowd is once again spectacular. The team-specific chants are something that one would never hear in WE/PES, and it gives yet another dose of authenticity to the game. They respond accordingly when a goal is scored, and the attentive gamer will appreciate the attention paid to the crowd. The soundtrack is massive, and for the most part the songs are great. Nearly ever genre is represented here, and EA Sports deserves a kudos for this compilation.

Probably the most important feature away from gameplay in the sports gaming world today is having a good franchise mode. FIFA has made huge improvements this year without muddling things down with excessive menus. One starts off with a choice of 5 different regions. After picking a team from one of the lesser leagues, the owner spreads out points to improve the trainers (focusing on attackers, midfield, defense, and keepers) and administrators (fitness, medical staff, finance, and scouting). Points are earned with wins and other accomplishments. Over the course of 15 years, one plays in rivalry games, moves up to higher leagues, and attempts to win cups and championships. In short, it's a blast. Now instead of starting off with your favorite club (don't whine, you Man U and Real Madrid fans. It's good for you), you have to work your way up and hope you perform well enough to earn the right to preside over your favorite. Wonderful job here.

Finally, the most important part of the game, and sadly the area that FIFA lacks the most polish in. Off the ball control works pretty much as it's supposed to. The new first touch control isn't quite the ground-breaking feature that EA would like you to think it is, but it's still a nice addition and is very easy to get used to. The free kick system is better than WE/PES for certain, but corner kicks are still a matter of opinion. So what's the big problem? The controls. You never feel absolutely in control of your players. Responses are sluggish, and often times it feels like the animation gets so out of control that the players have a mind of their own. A game should never feel like it cheated you out of a good goal. The blame should rest solely upon the gamer's shoulders. Within the first day of owning it, I can't count the number of times that I wanted to return my copy at Gamestop. So often I would feel that the game cheated me. Scoring is difficult, seeing that ball placement on shots is a matter of where your facing instead of the direction of the goal that you're trying to hit by pressing up/left or down/right, etc. If you're attacking the keeper head-on and hope to place the ball right or left of him, forget about it. It's going to go straight at him unless you change the direction of your player's entire body. How realistic is that? Not very. Another problem is the brutal tackles that happen without a foul being called. Certainly some contact should be allowed, but when a player appears to be trying to snap someone's leg in half, you'd think that a free kick would be obligatory. Yellow and red cards? I'm not even sure they exist. The gameplay is certainly disappointing considering how wonderful the rest of the game is.

FIFA is a great game marred by only one thing. If FIFA ever fixes the problems that need addressing in the gameplay, this series will be untouchable. Until then, I'm afraid the choice for both casual and serious fans of football is Winning Eleven/Pro Evo Soccer. I'll certainly keep my copy and it'll get a fair amount of time in my PS2, but when Winning Eleven 8 comes out next spring, FIFA '05 will be collecting dust until some future archaeologists dig it up.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/15/04

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