EA Sports brings the FIFA franchise to the GameCube. Should you take the plunge now, or wait for something else?
: I’ve been playing the FIFA series for a long time. Between the PC, Genesis, N64, you name it, I’ve played it. In the past, I’ve liked other soccer games a little more than FIFA, and have mainly felt there was something lacking. I hadn’t given FIFA a solid shot in a long time. The fact that there wasn’t any other soccer title available, and since I thought FIFA looked promising at Spaceworld, I decided to give EA another chance.
The controls are rather straight forward, and take advantage of what the GameCube’s controller has to offer. It’s very simple for beginners, but has some nice features for advanced moves. Flicking the C-stick does one touches and thru-passes. Thankfully, EA has finally made bicycle kicks more difficult, so you won’t have people banging in unbelievable goals all the time. That’s not saying you can’t set up some spectacular shots. There are advanced moves incorporated in the control, but actually being able to pull these moves off isn’t an easy task. Once you get over the learning curve, some of the pass/shot combinations you can pull off are excellent. One gripe I do have with the controls is the placement of some of the buttons in this game. If you are on defense and tapping the Y button for turbo, and tapping X to steal, once you get the steal you switch to offense, the X button changes to shoot. If you’re too aggressive defensively you may accidentally kick the ball away once you get it.
I would have to say that this is one of the better FIFA titles I’ve played in a long time…especially on a Nintendo system. Single player is a solid experience, and the AI of your teammates and opponents is decent, but not perfect. I’ve lost two matches already due to a defender of mine that decided to run away from the ball in the penalty box. When you are hoping your teammate helps you on defense, but runs away from the ball, it gets a little frustrating. Also, for example, say you lob pass to another player. While the ball is in the air, you cannot move the person you are passing to. Basically, once you pass the ball, you have no control over the player receiving the ball. You can head the ball if you're in position, but if not, you can't move into position. The success of your pass is already predetermined the moment you release the ball. Odd. Also, you can’t change the formation of your team on the fly as in most new soccer games. You have to push pause, go into the menu, and change it from there. Not only does it disrupt play, but if you’re playing against friends they’ll know what you’re doing.
One of my favorite things about FIFA in past versions was the audio, especially the play-by-play announcing from Andy Gray and John Motson. For some reason, the play-by-play in most FIFA titles rivaled all other sports games in quality. FIFA Soccer 2002 undoubtedly has the best play-by-play I have heard in a while. There’s no detectable stutter, all samples are very understandable, and generally spot-on with the action that’s unloading on the field. The color commentary is also rather entertaining, and even though some of the euro-humor may go over your head it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. FIFA also contains some excellent music, remixes of Gorillaz, and BT featuring M. Doughty. You can toggle the music to be played during gameplay, and personally I keep it pretty loud. Good job audio team!
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with FIFA Soccer 2002. It may have its flaws, and doesn’t break any boundaries, but overall it’s a fun soccer game. All the official teams, players, and stadiums are all represented well. It’s rather easy for pick-up-and-play. Hardcore soccer sim-players may want to hold out, and see what’s on the horizon for GameCube. If you can’t wait to get a Soccer title on the GameCube, FIFA is a good GameCube first effort.