FIFA 08 Review
Again we need to point out that our experience with the FIFA range of games is a touch on the low side, we have only dabbled slightly with older versions of FIFA, so we will be treating the game from a newcomers point of view.
What we did remember of the old FIFA range of games was the slight feeling of pressing buttons wildly in order to achieve any results and when we scored it was more of a fluke than an art of skill.
Of course with FIFA 2008 EA have gone all out for realism and with the modes of play on offer it feels a bit more like a simulation rather than an arcade title and is certainly more of a challenge against the computer controlled players, but grab a couple of mates and the arcade feel returns and this time you can show off with a few tricks, to annoy your friends - though the latter does need a touch of practice to pull-off.
It’s also the first game of the series that has been designed for the next-gen consoles and the graphics/frame rate should be the best yet?.....
EA have certainly added a wealth of game modes, which will please fans of both offline and online play.
A couple of the stand out options was the 'Be-a-Pro' mode which allows you to play the entire game as a fixed player.
During the game a camera position fixes solely on you and you are rated depending on how well you do for the team, so it’s not just a case of running around wildly and trying to score goals by yourself - though you could do that - but its focus is on team based play and more importantly how well you do in your chosen position. You also get real time feedback and analysis on the fly so you can see your progress.
We found this to be quite good fun, as it makes you feel that you are part of a real team.
Tournaments are of course where most of the fun comes from and EA have packed in some cool online modes, though you can create your own custom tournaments as well if you wish.
You can represent your club online in the EA interactive leagues and go against your rivals throughout the season in the F.A. Premier League, Bundesliga, French League or Mexican 1st Division. So essentially when the teams are playing you also play.
Then you have the standard quick access modes of play which consist of a kick-off mode which allows you to have a match with your mates. At the start you pick your favourite team ( there are plenty to choose from, with 620 licensed teams from 30 official leagues) and then choose formations, pick tactics and away you go.
We certainly had a laugh with this mode, with lots of banter and jeering going on, which is just what you want after a few hours down the pub. Though there is a lot of button presses to remember, so it takes a few hours to get the knack of things.
We nearly forgot to mention that you can also participate in a touch of practice - one-on-one against the keeper - before each level is loaded, which is cool and gives you a chance to practice those tricks.
EA have even thrown in a basic Manager mode which allows you to coach players to become Star performers, but we hardly touched this and preferred to stick with the core elements of the game, some may find enjoyment from the mode and kudos for EA for at least adding a bit of variety to the game.
As mentioned there is also a new skills mode, called the Pro-Skills which enables you to recreate signature moves that are performed by the real-stars of the game or you can define your own style of play if you want to.
The tricks themselves - which consist of basic step-overs, drag backs, to more acrobatic up and over flicks - which are not easy to pull off until a bit of practice has been put in, as you have to press the L2 or R1(ball juggling) button and use the analogue sticks to perform the moves, but it does look cool when you pull a trick off and with top class players like Ronaldinho on the ball they can perform even more stylish moves.
You can even capture videos of your best moves and goals in-game and then upload these to the FIFA 08 website, so you can show off your skills to the rest of the world and at the end of each match you can see who won the man of the match and get plenty of stats of how many shots were on target that sort of things and of course highlights of the best action.
As you would expect from a high-powered console the graphics are spot on and the player characters move similar to their real-world counterparts and from close up even their faces, kits and haircuts have been mastered authentically, though the faces look a bit stunned looking and if you strip away all the gloss you are simply left with basic passing and running movements from the players, so practising those tricks will be the best bet for seeing your favourite stars in their element.
We also liked the little touches when your player gets yellow carded or sent off (especially Roonie). Another example of this - which was really funny - was Edwin Vandasar's reaction to a player that fouled him, essentially when the Ref gave out the card he started to clap.
Sound effects are well catered for with commentary provided by Martin Tyler and Andy Gray. The banter between the two is good most of the time, but we noticed on a few occasions that when the goal keeper simply picked up the ball in the bottom right hand corner of his area, Andy Gray would shout what a great save or something like that, which was totally out of sync with the action.
All the crowd chants are all there to make you feel like you are involved in the match and the music that plays from the menus is also a lot better than some of the games we have played recently, but some of the tracks are bordering on the verge of cheesiness.
EA have tweaked the AI to a new level which in English means that you will find it a tough challenge to play against the computer opponents. From a techie point of view the reasons lie with the games AI 35-point decision engine, which enables the computer controlled players to process 1,000 potential options and reactions every second, in real time via a dynamic ‘Threat Map’ system.
So what tends to happen, is you are more likely to get tackled and have less chance of hoofing the ball up the pitch in order to score a quick and easy goal.
The overall feeling is that you need to practice your skills and pass a lot more to ensure victory and this looses its appeal for those wanting a more arcade experience from the game.
We played one match against the computer and we had only one shot on goal for the whole 90 minutes! They had 26 shots on goal, so you can see that this game is going to be one massive challenge, but we kind of like that and you will notice that all the players keep in their positions instead of fluttering around like a bunch of chickens.
EA have also added a news outlet that lets you receive football news and podcasts from media sources.
FIFA 2008 is an enjoyable game but its certainly not easy and will require a bit of practice to pull off some of the tricks.
The player animations are realistic so you could believe that you were playing against the real stars of the beautiful game.
There are also enough game modes to make the game last a fair amount of time, but as with most games of this nature you are best to play against real opponents, rather than the computer controlled drones.