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FIFA 08 – foot like a traction engine November 1, 2007

Posted by Rob in Console, Games, Reviews.
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Reading the back of the FIFA 08 box is rather ominous. Apparently, “players make 1,000 decisions every second” and – yes – there’s “30 leagues, 23 real stadiums and 15,000 players”. Numerical spiel such as this has manifested itself as a rod with which to beat EA Sports, but for the second successive year there’s enough meat on the statistical bone to make recommending FIFA easy.

The FIFA of now is a different beast to the FIFA of seven or eight years ago, though. Whilst past iterations were infamous for the kind of high scorelines more commonly found in an American Samoa qualifying campaign, 08 has a credible claim for most realistic football videogame of all time. Of course, no game can ever hope to capture the spontaneity and unpredictability of the sport completely, and there are also a few annoyances which help shatter the illusion – the problem of players standing and waiting for a pass is only solved partially by a strangely familiar ‘cancel’ feature which only seems to work when it wants to. Likewise, keepers, when prompted, meander towards a loose ball at walking pace, which causes some hairy moments when an opposing striker is bearing down on it. Goalkeepers in general veer from the sublime to the ridiculous at regular intervals – you might have a thirty-yard effort clawed out of the top corner, but from the resulting corner he’ll probably only dive for a header once it’s safely nestled in the back of the net.

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These flaws aside, FIFA 08 plays an authentic game of football. The pace of it, whilst strikingly slow when compared to other games, is spot on as a simulation, and the faithful rendering of football is heightened with the selection of manual passing and through-passing, which allows you to control the exact direction and power of each pass. Whilst the road to mastering it is paved with conceded throw-ins, it’s immensely satisfying when a perfectly weighted through-pass results in a goal. The same can’t be said for the manual shooting option, with which your forwards demonstrate the striking prowess of Diana Ross in USA 94. There’s not much wrong with the assisted shooting option, and hitting the net is a real challenge. The ball moves as you’d expect, too, and in one match a low cross deflected off my defender’s shin, onto the post, and into the path of a lurking attacker to put me 1-0 down (although three goals in the last 20 minutes saw me claim a 3-2 win). It’s also possible to upload your finest moments to the EA Sports World website.

As with every FIFA, there’s a couple of new features hollered from the rooftops and television adverts. First up are the various ‘skill moves’ available for execution, which are pulled off by flicking the right stick in various directions whilst holding down the left trigger. It’s possible to chain various moves together, and all the famous tricks are included, such as the one where you move one foot behind the other and kick the ball with it, and the one where you pick the ball up between your feet and hop about with it. I’d use their proper names, but only avid watchers of Spanish football on Sky would know what I was going on about.

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The second Exciting New Feature is Be a Pro mode, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who played Namco’s Libero Grande on the original PlayStation. Control is locked to just one player, and the match is played through a third-person camera with hints such as players to mark and positions to cover aiding and abetting you throughout. There’s a rating bar at the bottom of the screen which takes into account any good or bad passes, shots, tackles and so on you may make, and at the end of the match the game points out where you did well, and where you did badly. For some reason, the ability to play with four other people in a team online is only being released as downloadable content in a few weeks’ time, and at launch only friendlies are available (although last-generation owners of the game can play whole leagues and tournaments with their player). Whilst enjoyment of the mode is obviously governed by the position of the player under your control, the rating system is questionable at times – for example, if you race down the wing, take on three players, and then have your cross deflected out for a corner, rating points are taken away from you due to your final ball not finding a team-mate. You can also order your team-mates to pass to you, although whether they take any notice is a different matter.

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That’s not a slight on their artificial intelligence, though, because for the most part players under the CPU’s control attempt to make themselves available for passes and, in Be a Pro mode, make the right decisions without your prompting. Likewise, if you make a foray into the opposition’s box with your centre-back, a team-mate will automatically drop back into the hole that has opened up. Such quick thinking isn’t always in evidence, however, and if you make a run down the wing with a full back, it’s not uncommon to see a winger run right in front of him as the ball cannons off his legs. In these situations, though, a quick press of the left trigger will force the offending player to make a run outside the ball-carrier’s immediate vicinity.

With FIFA hallmarks such as an extensive amount of modes and slick presentation, as well as a generally smooth online experience (even if every other opponent wants to play as Barcelona) together with one of the most authentic simulations of the sport ever committed to disc, FIFA 08 is easily one of the most impressive entries into the series to date. Even if I’m still dubious about that “1,000 decisions” claim.

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Comments»

1. Stig - November 2, 2007

Decent review….but until I play the full game I can’t comment!

2. mikeypiky - October 22, 2009

I’m addicted to fifa at the moment! Great post..


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