World Cup 2002 is just around the corner, and EA has released yet another FIFA title. Is it worth dropping another 50 bucks on yet another Soccer game? Billy laces up his cleats once again for the full review.
The FIFA 2001 GameCube discs were still warm when Electronic Arts announced their second Soccer title for the GameCube. I enjoyed the original title, but I have recently been immersed in Konami’s Jikkyo World Soccer 2002. I didn’t think I needed to add another soccer title to my arsenal, yet since I am very excited about this year’s World Cup Tournament in Korea and Japan, I was tempted to see how the new title would fare. EA Sports has both surprised me, as well as disappointed me with FIFA World Cup 2002.
2002 FIFA World Cup is completely 100% a World Cup title. Let me stress that if you could care less about the World Cup, do not get this game. With the techno Gorillaz, Moby, and M. Doughty intros out the door, you are now surrounded by a very moving John Williams-ish orchestrated intro by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. When the main menu appears, you have two game options. You can either play friendlies, or the World Cup. That’s it. EA Sports has left all the FIFA Soccer 2002 stuff out of this game. There is no player or team creation, custom leagues, or even classic games. All of the qualifying for the World Cup has been done in the last title, so all that’s left to do is play in the World Cup. In a sense, 2002 FIFA World Cup could seem like an “add-on pack” than a full game.
If you played the last FIFA title, you know that the controls are not much different, but do have some nice additions. Electronic Arts has implemented a better airplay control setup. When a ball is kicked to your player in the air, you can power up headers and bicycle kicks. One of my biggest gripes with FIFA Soccer 2002 was the fact that I felt I didn’t have that much control with incoming passes or lobs, but World Cup has cleaned up that problem. You can also juggle the ball to avoid tackles and juke out your opponent. Coupled with a one-touch pass, you can out maneuver your opponents and drive to the goal. Unfortunately, steal and shoot are still mapped to the same button (X), making stealing the ball and then kicking it away happen just as frequently as ever.
2002 FIFA World Cup plays a lot like its predecessor at first, but you’ll begin to notice differences very quickly. You’ll realize immediately that the default difficulty setting is way too easy. If you are a seasoned player, you’ll want to change it to one of the more difficult modes. 2002 FIFA World Cup now features Star Players, which puts more focus on the better players. These star players can steal, shoot, and pass better than regular players. When you pass or shoot with a star player, the ball will have a pseudo “on-fire” blur added to it. Why EA decided to go this route absolutely boggles my mind. By adding this feature, EA basically flushes the simulation aspect completely down the toilet. Instant arcade game. My exact words the first time I saw the blur was, “What the _______ was that?” Isn’t soccer a team sport? Now it’s back to grade school soccer play. Get the ball, and look for the good guy on the team. Fortunately, you can turn off this feature, which is what I did. Rookies will probably like this feature, but veterans will hate it.
Passing isn’t as directional-friendly as the last version. It will take a lot of practice to get the timing down. Through passes are more difficult to accomplish in 2002 FIFA World Cup, even if you press the Z-trigger to send players on their routes. Putting spins on the ball helps a lot, but overall the passing seems to be a lot of hit and miss.
One major enhancement Electronic Arts has made in 2002 FIFA World Cup is the graphics. This game is hands down the sexiest looking soccer title I’ve ever seen. The stadiums, players, intros, and automatic instant replays are just a visual treat. The player animations are some of the best yet. EA has also improved the in-game camera system considerably, by adding “Moment Zooms.” After a missed shot, goal, or foul, the camera will zoom in on the happy or scowling players. On manual replay, you have several camera angles to choose from, but all are fixed. You can switch which angle or camera you want to view the action from, but the camera cannot zoom, rotate, or anything else. FIFA World Cup also seems to play slower than other soccer titles. The players occasionally seem to run slowly, and adjusting the game speed seems to affect the time clock more than the players’ running speed. It’s not too distracting, but it’s not as fast as other games I’ve played.
John Motson and Andy Grey are back once again yakking it up in the press box. It’s varied as usual, but when there’s a break in the play, they will bring up a World Cup fact or gush about how fantastic the World Cup is. Obviously EA is trying to remind you of the thick World Cup theme, but it feels more forced or out of place than natural. The crowd effects are still on par with the last FIFA title -- unimpressive. If a clutch goal is scored, the crowd should go absolutely nuts, but it’s at the same volume as if you scored your 9th goal. With all of the World Cup hoo-ha in this game, one could expect different National Anthems to be featured. Nope. More of the same Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Once you win the World Cup, all that’s opened up are the all-national teams to play with in friendlies. Also included are the entertaining and informative DVD shorts, but they are only worth one or two viewings. Multiplayer is fun, but honestly once the World Cup is over in Japan and Korea, I can see this game hitting the shelf quickly. It’s a shame because FIFA World Cup has a lot of potential with the graphics and control additions.
In the future, I hope they ditch the Star Player concept completely. The world has too many arcade soccer titles out there as it is. Unless you’re a serious hardcore World Cup nut, this game is a rental at best. It’s fun for a while, but knowing the 2003 installment is just around the corner, 2002 FIFA World Cup just doesn’t have what it takes to hold up for the long haul.