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FIFA '98
Developer EA Sports Options
Distributer Electronic Arts 1-4 Player
Game Type Sports Sim Memory Card
Review Date January 1998 Multi-tap
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Setting the Scene
Following last years prize turkey award, EA Sports have had to dig deep to repair the damage that they brought to the FIFA logo. Yeah, we want quality graphics, but not to the extent where the gameplay moves about as fast as a slug with a limp. In my opinion FIFA 97 was unplayable. FIFA 98 Road to World Cup, on the other hand, could almost become a 32-bit soccer classic.

Last year I sang the praises of ISS Pro which scaled new heights in the graphical and gameplay departments. Actua Soccer 2 was a further improvement by the inclusion of a management type customize mode and top quality commentary. FIFA 98 more than matches Gremlins worthy efforts and furthermore allows you to play out the entire World Cup Tournament which is soon to reach a climax in France where the final stages are to be held this summer.

The long road to the World Cup began for many teams over two years ago. FIFA 98 includes every single nation that participated in the qualifying stages, each in their respective groups, just begging for you to help them succeed this time around. Also included is every single team and named player from eleven different countries premier league soccer divisions, allowing you to play out an entire season or enjoy a selection of single exhibition matches.

EA Sports could well be named MI Sports as they are fast becoming the Masters of Intros. If the opening to NHL 98 blew your socks off then prepare to become legless as Electronic Arts ups the tempo even further for FIFA 98. A mixture of live footage, slick motion captured animation, swooping aerial cameras, backed by a thunderous soundtrack sets the scene perfectly.

For the first time I can ever remember I did not need to switch from the recommended camera angle onto one of the more basic sideline views. The Telecam works perfectly and captures all of the immediate play while offering sufficient vision to allow a tidy passing game. Another excellent view is given from the classic camera position that is situated a little further back and at three quarter angle. Should a goal hit the back of the net FIFA 98 shows the players perform a selection of elaborate celebrations followed by an immediate slow motion replay of the goal. The game moves along at a fair pace and this is helped by not showing near misses and disputed calls but instant replays can be viewed at any time by pausing the game and entering the options menu.

The players strut their stuff in a selection of some of the worlds most impressive stadium which are immaculately presented in high resolution. During the game the crowds are given a bit of life by the occasional flash from a camera while on field during floodlit matches the players cast four-way shadows offering further realism to the occasion.

Spurs French winger David Ginola has been motion captured by EA and the outcome is a highly polished graphical representation of the worlds most popular sport. The players look and move even smoother than they did in ISS Pro but the speed is not quite there yet even though they must be shifting five times faster than last years pitiful offering.

FIFA 98 has all the customary weather settings which can be individually selected or allowed to run freely by selecting the random setting. The games take place in day, evening or night while scortching hot conditions show a little lens flare on the screen and stormy weather has blinding flashes of lightening streaking over the pitch.

Sounds and Effects
Woo Hoo, Woo Hoo. You just know that FIFA 98 is going to be something special when the opening bars of Blur's Song 2 hammers out of the speakers. You just can't stop yourself from blur-ting out the chorus every time the ball hits the back of the net. Woo Hoo, Woo Hoo. Excellent.

Once again the commentary is provided by the BBC's top sporting man John Motson only this time he is introduced by Des Lynam and sits alongside Sky Sports pundit Andy Grey who summarizes the action. Combined, this trio serve to set the scene before each match while during play, not only is the player on the ball given a name mention, but reaction is offered to his skills and errors. Half time and full time opinions are offered and if you listen carefully a certain amount of tactical advice is included that may be useful. Thankfully the crowd sounds have been accurately recorded in a sound package that never becomes boring or too repetitive.

The FIFA series has always featured quality graphics and I am pleased to inform you that the gameplay has finally caught up. The 97 version caused serious damage to my thumbs caused by excess pressure on the pads as I attempted to push the players into a jog. Now an increase in speed sees the forwards zip up the wing with pace rather than wearily trudge along the sidelines. The run button need not be held down constantly as it works better if sudden bursts are given when entering the box, allowing you a little extra space to get in that all important shot.

When attacking, a single press of the pass button provides an accurate stroke of the ball while a double tap puts a little more pace on it for a through pass. A similar system allows a lob to become a through lob and a shot becomes a chip shot, thus doubling up the amount of actions. The top shoulder buttons are set for backpass and evade tackle while double taps make your player perform a dive or run on to the perfect position to receive the ball.

When defending the face buttons impliment sliding tackles, normal tackles, sprint and switch control of player. The shoulder buttons are for aggressive tackles and the now illegal elbow tackle. A press of the R2 button or combining it with any face button holds a selection of skill moves, of which some have never been seen on a video soccer game before.

As with most FIFA games you can spend an age tinkering around in the options menu and FIFA 98 is no different. In fact there is little within the game that cannot be tampered with. Take a deep breath and get a load of this: Match length, replay, continuous clock, time and score display, radar, visual indicators, player numbers, kit clashing, camera views, offside, injuries, ref strictness, bookings, subs, fatigue, attributes, catch-up, music, commentary, sound effects, difficulty level, shot targeting, skill mode, AI assist, auto crosses, pass-back, sub management, starting line up, formation, strategy, aggression, kick takers, positioning, attacking bias, half length, weather, day/night and stadium. That's not the half of it because within the main menu is a customize squad option that allows you to transfer players, create your own team, alter the genetic make up of your players abilities, skin color, facial features, facial hair and color. This 'do-it-yourself mode makes you wonder why we need developers, don't you think.

Back to basics. There are five modes of play. A friendly exhibition game between any of the available world or club sides. A penalty shoot-out between any two teams. An excellent training program for you to practice defensive and attacking scenarios. This allows you to take part in a number of set plays such as defending or taking corners, taking or defending free kicks and you may even take part in a full training match. The League option allows you to play out a full season as the team of your choice. The big deal is obviously playing out the qualifying rounds on the Road to the World Cup. Finish top of your group and you head off to France to take part in the finals. There is a safety net in the form of a best runners up knockout. See, just like the real thing.

Value for Money
An excellent addition to any soccer fans video game collection. It's almost as good to watch as it is to play.

GRAPHICS: 19/20 I've looked long and hard at FIFA 98 for quite a few weeks now and although it's not perfect it is difficult to find fault. This I found strange as EA's soccer games have recently survived on the strength of the FIFA logo rather than the content behind the brandishing name. I say it's not perfect because it does suffer from that age old problem of shit goalkeepers who race to the edge of the box to collect a loose ball and then run away scared leaving a stray attacker to easily pop the ball into an empty net. Should they solve this problem and find a way to up the speed a little more then EA should have a seriously good soccer title on their hands.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 18/20
GRAPHICS: Brilliant Quite simply this is the best of many Soccer simulations that have been released for the PlayStation. It is both easy to pick up during the early stages and yet challenging to the more experienced player when the difficulty levels are raised.

Add to that the massive amount of teams to choose from (Both Domestic and International teams are available), the quality of the graphics and animation, and the huge number of in-game options that are available and you will begin to see why this game will surely become the biggest selling soccer game to date!

Contratulations must go to E.A, who at last have come up with a game that matches the pre-sales hype.
VALUE: Brilliant
GRAPHICS: Brilliant There can be only one and this is it.Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Fifa 98 is THE soccer game for the PlayStation. Looks like E.A have finally come up with the goods after their two previous (sloppy rush em' out for Christmas) efforts. It's all there - Fantastic sound,fluid animation,context sensitive commentary,excellent computer AI and a wealth of customisable options that are both understandable and for the tactically minded a sub game in themselves. Gameplay is the word.

Many people have posed the question ISS PRO or FIFA 98. Now you know the answer. The King is dead,long live the King.

Derek has written a brilliant READERS REVIEW of this game which can be seen in the MEMBERS ONLY section of this site.
SOUND: Very Good
VALUE: Brilliant

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