EA Sports have most of the market cornered when it comes to domination of a particular sport. However there is one exception, and considering that the
exception is the world's most popular sport, that was always going to be a problem for EA. Over the past few years Pro Evolution Soccer has dominated
FIFA in terms of critical reviewand
in many territories, sales. However this has put EA into action and while it has taken them a few years to come even close to topping Pro Evolution,
this year they just might have done it. FIFA 2008 is no doubt the best EA football game ever made, but possibly the best football game ever made.
FIFA 2008 gives you the usual options of exhibition, season, manager mode etc but there are a few new things to keep people happy to buy it yet again.
Obviously exhibition allows you to pit two teams together, with season and manager mode allowing you to take control of a team throughout a league season
with varying degrees of input; if you play the manager mode for instance you have to manage finances and transfers properly where as in season you basically
just play the game, but one of the main features of the game is the brand new game mode 'be a pro'.
A few years ago a small developer on the Playstation tried to give you control of one player on the pitch and that is exactly what EA has done except they
have done it much better. As the name implies you take the role of one of the professionals on the pitch and have to run around the pitch making runs,
tackling playersand hopefully scoring goals.
Depending on the difficulty selected, the game can assist you by telling you where the player should be running, whether you are offside or not and whether
you are tackling properly. At the end of each game the player is given a rating.
The other big feature is a huge engine overhaul. While FIFA 2007 was sublime on the Xbox 360, it did suffer from the fact that EA was only building
the next generation engine for that system, but now the PS3 is here, EA can devote more resources and it shows. Tackles are brutal, players are skillful and
you really have to strategise where to pass the ball next. This is not a game where you can expect Theirry Henry to run the length of the pitch and score. In
fact, you only generally get about two or three genuine chances on goal per match, because building goal scoring opportunities takes time.
Real world tactics are at work in FIFA. Playing the offside trap can get you caught out very easily, while counter-attack goals are more common than
not. If a player breaks through, you can take control of the goalkeeper in the 1 on 1 situation and see how you go with the caveat that if you foul the
player, you are going to generally get sent off. Another thing which stands out is the lack of ball control, which adds much more realism. The ball is no
longer a magnet to a player's foot and if you want to make a quick turn, it is easy to lose the ball to loitering opponents. The one downside I will say to
these changes is that the goalkeepers are ridiculously good. When you score, you really score as they pull off some of the most ridiculous moves to stop
goals. You can have someone like Didier Drogba shooting on a total unknown division 4 keeper and the keeper will stop the ball most of the time.
As expected FIFA has the usual licenses for teams, stadiums and leagues with the one exception. The game now officially has the Australian A-League. With
myself being from Australia, this really is the addition that pushes the game from 'probably buy' to 'must buy' for the locals. All the
teams and logos are here but EA has not seen fit to localise all the stadiums as of yet and you end up playing in lower league English stadiums. That is
With that said, some of the world's most famous stadia are represented from Anfield through to St James' Park in England as well as New Wembley just to
mention a few. Each are instantly recognisable to football fans and EA has done an extremely good job of capturing the atmosphere. Each of the big teams has
their own unique chant, which real world fans sing during games and the crowds will let the referee know what they really think of their performance as well.
Which leads us to graphics. Visually FIFA is stunning. In high definition this is the best looking football game ever made. It is easy to see who is
who just by looking at the character models, and as mentioned before the stadia are both epic in scale and atmosphere. The animations are extremely well done
and do not repeat (except when fouls look the same) very often and even a few hours in, you still won't have seen all the animations the game has to offer.
Martin Tyler provides commentary on the sound side of things in every next generation version and once again EA has picked some of the world's best songs for
FIFA 2008 really is the game that throws down the gauntlet to Seabass and Pro Evolution Soccer once again. The team has done a fantastic job
this time around and it really is one of the best football games ever made. It's better than Pro Evolution Soccer 6 and unless PES 2008 is a
huge improvement on its predecessor, EA is probably going to finally win the league this year, but only on goal difference.