I’ve been playing the FIFA series since FIFA95. I just loved the 95 on the SEGA Megadrive console. When I changed my platform to a PC, FIFA 97 had just been released. And wow, the graphics were phenomenal and although the gameplay was a bit messy at that time, it sure rocked the hell out of the other (mostly top-view) soccer games.
The 98 and World cup edition improved the game a lot and with the 99 edition the FIFA series reached its top since now.
With the 2000 release it just went downhill and the last release was so bad (gameplay and wrong names) I switched back to my beloved 99 edition.
So I was really looking forward to see what they would reach with FIFA 2002, the promo and previews all spread word about the huge changes and the new engine. And to be honest, the game just blew me away.
The graphical engine and the extreme motion capturing make everything look so smooth and natural it’s going to make other soccer game developers cry. To see the players sprint, control the ball or dribble is a lust for the eye. The only thing missing in this engine is the feature that NHL 2002 does have: realistic faces. FIFA’s main opponent, This is Football, has them and it would just finish the game but I’m not going to nag about it, white players in real life are white, black ones are black, bald ones are bald etc.
The crowd looks more lifelike with movement, flags and a better looking bitmap. That was about time, but it still isn’t 3D, but they need something to improve for FIFA 2003.
This part of the game rox a lot, you can make great plays and use your tactical skills by giving passes behind the opponent’s back, nice 1-2’s and, finally, by sending a player deep with less effort now. It’s nice to see how you can tear holes in their defense just by making the ball go round.
The opponent’s AI is good but the players aren’t flawless anymore. More then once you can trick them into the offside trap by changing your field positioning at the right time. This game feels more then ever like soccer as it should be.
The gameplay has two flaws. The first is the dreaded enemy corner kick. It was fixed in 2000 and 2001 but now an enemy corner is almost always dangerous. When the corner kick is taken, switching players just doesn’t goes fast enough to come in front of the opponent in time. Another flaw is the fact that amateur is really easy but when changing to professional; it becomes very hard to score a goal, let alone win a match. No game is perfect I presume?
The sound is good. The crowd showing emotions, trainers yelling, players making the right noises when striking a ball or scoring a goal, it all feels right. The comments are better then before, les repeating and more accurate then any older FIFA versions.
As we all know, EA always chooses a nice theme song for the intro (which is also very nice) but the in game menu sounds are just horrible. Awful and cheap sounding techno beats are all you get to hear but then again I’m not buying this game for the songs.
The game makes FIFA stand for perfection again or at least near perfection. I couldn’t find any bugs or things that bothered me so hard; they made me put it away (like FIFA 2001). It you want to play soccer, buy this, if you don’t want to play soccer, download the demo and then go buy it. And please excuse me now, I’m off winning the Champions League