The rest of the FIFA franchise has left me with mixed feelings, though. With the exception of the Genesis version of FIFA 96, most have been sub-par; especially when compared to the competition from Konami’s ISS and Sega’s WWS.
This last year has been confusing for EA soccer fans. Three soccer sims have been reported on with the FIFA logo attached even I had trouble separating them. First there was the standard FIFA installment, for the PSX and N64. Both versions weren’t very impressive. Then shortly after, came FIFA: Road To the World Cup. Better, but not great. Now, there is FIFA: World Cup. Not only is the latter the best of the three, it will hopefully signal the end to the steady stream of EA soccer sims (we still want to see the annual installment, just not the quarterly).
Konami’s latest ISS won’t be showing up for a couple of months and you can forget any Sega soccer (or any other, for that matter) titles, until Katana. With the commencement of the World Cup, the lone soccer sim, of any importance, is FIFA: World Cup. This lack of choice shouldn’t be of concern, though, because this FIFA is a very fun FIFA.
You’ll first notice the graphics. Simply beautiful in the way only the N64 can deliver. Lushly colored with some nice looking stadiums and players, FIFA will be one of the prettiest. Also, the motion capture this time around is stellar. With the help of U.S. player, Roy Lassiter, the on-field moves are as realistic as any seen, on the console.
To compliment the looks is some solid sound. EA Canada has one of the best sound studios in the business, and they do their absolute best to combat the restrictiveness of the N64’s poor sound quality. What I usually categorize as the least important aspect of any title, actaully carries some weight, here.
Throught the best of times and worst of times one thing has remained a constant: EA titles have THE best artificial intelligence. FIFA World Cup is no exception. The high standard, set in the days of the 16-bit and maintained through the 32 and 64 bit machines, is still intact. Offensive players always seem to be in the right place, at the right time; defenses adjust to developing plays; and goalies do as goalies do, getting in the way of everything humanly possible. I am the first to admit that my grasp of soccer’s finer points is weak, at best, but player movement, nonetheless, makes sense to me. I have yet to have reason to gripe, during gameplay.
Oh yeah, gameplay. This gameplay is fantastic. I will compare it to the purity of NHL 94 or 3DO FIFA. From the moment you pick up the N64 controller, you are at home, on the field. Control is tight and responsive, which is even more impressive considering the amount of motion capture and high frame rate that are implemented.
Really quick, let me rattle off some of the features. Many are nothing new and some aren’t really all that exciting, but they add depth where depth is needed: Country specific crowds; 5 play modes, including Classic mode, only available to those that win the Cup; on-the-fly management; a handicapping system; Cup trivia; opening and closing ceremonies; play-by-play commentary; and new offsides AI logic for smarter play.
FIFA: World Cup is a great game that helps restore faith is the choking EA soccer franchise. A worthy purchase.