This Is Football 2003
From time to time a game comes peeping around the corner and tries to push EA’s FIFA games from the throne of best soccer game. This is Football 2003 is the latest to make an attempt where so many games have tried and failed.
Nobody that buys TIF 2003 will be able to complain about the different game modes. You can play in several different seasons ranging from Belgian and Brasilian competition to UK’s Premier League, the Italian Primera Divisione and many more. To make things even more interesting, you can play in the lower divisions of each country making smaller teams accessible aswell. Next to national competitions also international cups like the world cup, Asia cup, European cup, etc. are accessible and if you’re fed up with all of these pre-made cups, you can create your own for maximum gaming fun.
The big amount of competitions including lower divisions brings us to another interesting point : transfers. You can choose to play a compo with transfers on or off and if you’re interested in the first one, a huge amount of players are available. If you’ve got the money of course.
Any club you choose starts out with 2 million dollars of starting capital. After a home game you’ll earn a bit back, but more important is the money you earn with transfers. That’s where the real money lays to buy big players. Sell a couple of minor gods from your team and you’ll be able to get that super defender in no time.
The graphics are pretty good for a PS2 game with some nice details like the players’ breath showing up during cold winter games and instant replays of goals and tacles with good facial animations of your team members.
So this all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it ? Has the time really come ? Is there finally a game that beats FIFA on its own ground ? No.
The graphics are good but lack the atmosphere of EA’s game. Yes, there is facial animation and replays but it doesn’t “feel” very real.
The ball has the same problem like FIFA used to have : it floats on the player’s feet rather than it’s being handled by them. Try to run with the ball past a defender and you’ll instantly know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to get past two other players, no matter what you do. Doesn’t really fit reality, does it ?
The amount of dribles, passess and tackles is also abominable. You’ve got soft tackle, hard tackle, soft pass, hard pass, and so on. Where’s the variety in the game ?
Another small itch in the game is the transfer system. Ok, there’s loads of players that you can buy & sell, but trying to get a player below or for his real value is worth a try but won’t work. If you want someone, you’ll have to ask more than his real value. In exchange, ask more for a player than he’s worth and you won’t get him sold.
Finding a player is also not that easy. You can search for a name to find a specific guy, or you can give a couple of requirements and have the game give you a list of players. Don’t think of going to a certain team and grabbing their key player though as you can’t search for players by team.
Not that it really matters, as I didn’t notice much difference in the way individual players act. Dennis Bergkamp didn’t show much better – or different for that matter – soccer play than for instance Roberto Carlos. Only in free kicks you see a small difference. Or did I imagine that ?
This brings me back to the gameplay which hardly shows any subtlety. Pass the ball forwards to other players like you would be when you’re playing a pinball machine and kick towards the goal once you reach the backline, hoping it will go in. No way of manipulating the ball or tricking the keeper. The ball goes in or it doesn’t. That’s it.
And the negative points haven’t finished yet. It’s nice to have a huge database of players and teams, but is it so much trouble to get the names correct ? I don’t like to play with “Brussels” (aka Anderlecht) or have players by the names of Dennis Bergkum, Patrick Kluver or Jap Stum. Is there a problem with the people creating this game that they are incapable of writing down even 1 Dutch name correct ?
The final point I would like to make is this : if you want to have commentary in a game, better make sure it’s good. Having the same 3 lines said over and over again will irritate the hell out of people. Just like having a replacement in the second half of EVERY game ! What the hell happened with variety in sports games ? This game plays like a scripted adventure !
This is Football 2003 is a big improvement over the previous version but that says more about the 2002 version than about this one. FIFA is still the undefeated champion of soccer games and it will probably take another couple of years before a soccer game can even touch the heels of EA’s game