Review by sssephiroth

"A well struck free kick, untouchable, into the top corner"

As football (or soccer) fans, choice when it comes to gaming is limited. Indeed, there are only two real choices (FIFA or Winning Eleven) when it comes to purchasing a football simulation and, understandably, comparisons between the two are inevitable. I have faithfully purchased both series of games over the years and as 2008 rolls in; this is intended to be an unbiased review. Let's get started.

Graphics – 10/10
The graphics of the game have always been a strong point of FIFA and it retains its stranglehold in that aspect this year as well. Stadiums are very true to the original as are the player likenesses. Player shadows are excellent as is the lighting effects when games are played in the evening sun. The crowd looks real enough from afar but up close that is not the case. From a personal standpoint I think this could be improved upon but this, quite honestly, is being terribly picky and will not affect my score. So, when it comes to the visuals, FIFA, as always, is head and shoulders above the competition.

Sound – 9/10
Again, FIFA has always had the advantage in this area with the likes of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray by their side. Therefore, the commentary, with these two, is always a pleasure. The execution of it is excellent as well as there are no inappropriate comments made at the wrong moments in the game (a problem faced by older games). Crowd chants have always been excellent and still are. The stadium announcements, made very discreetly, are a nice touch (‘please remain seated' or ‘if you have lost a set of keys' etc.) and make the game feel very real. The menu music is very diverse and gives a feeling of football being the “world's game”. Again, with regards to sound, FIFA drowns out the competition.

Gameplay – 7/10
Now, the juicy bit. Over the years, when it comes to gameplay, FIFA has always come up short, up against its rivals. I was pleased to see that the gameplay has been improved and feels far smoother than it used to. True, that the learning curve is very steep and playing in the beginning will be absolutely disheartening when the AI completely outclasses you even at low difficulty levels. However, sticking it out and playing more will soon see you beating the AI at world class level. Again, all this is indeed attributed to the very steep learning curve.

Once experienced, you realise that the control you have on the players is great. For example, when receiving a pass, that all important first touch to get past a defender can be done in any direction and strength. Being able to make a pass then make a run in the direction that you want to instead of a pre-set direction is also a welcome addition. Also, the quick tactics buttons (the directional buttons) allows one to play around with the offside trap (among other things) during gameplay instead of just under team management.

The gameplay, however, is not all good. One of my biggest grievances is that an opponent can just walk past your defender (within inches) and the defender will not react unless selected by the player. This occurs when the defender is out of position and is making his way back. Also, the trick system is too complicated and is virtually useless during competitive play.

Replayability – 8/10
FIFA like any other sports video game is infinitely replayable when you have a bunch of friends sitting around yelling at each other. The FIFA lounge mode allows you to keep track of your statistics (wins, losses, home, away etc.) against individual friends which adds that extra competitive edge for bragging rights. Let's focus on single player replayability. There is a large amount of teams and local leagues to select from and the new ‘Be a Pro' mode is an interesting change as well. Playing in any local tournament or league is possible, though disappointingly, tournaments like the UEFA Champion's League as well as all international cups (World Cup, Euro Championship etc.) are missing. The online mode is excellent with online leagues to be played in. Choppy online gameplay is not an issue, in stark contrast to the rival game which is virtually unplayable online.

Final thoughts? After reading this review, you may be surprised to find that I, having played both football series of the years, have always favoured Winning Eleven over FIFA due to its superior gameplay. Now, that preference can be turned entirely on its head. FIFA has risen to the challenge and provided excellent gameplay which was lacking in previous versions. Its rival on the other hand has provided choppy gameplay (both online and offline) and has failed to improve on previous versions.

So, to wrap it up; if you had to pick only one football game this year, this is it.

Overall – 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/20/07

Game Release: FIFA 08 (EU, 09/28/07)

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