|System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 9, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
While most of the country is thinking of the World Series and the Sunday battles on the gridiron, EA Sports has turned its attention to the beautiful game. They released their annual iteration of the wildly popular FIFA Soccer on the ninth of October.
This year EA has thrown a monkey in the wrench; they've introduced motion controls to the title via the Wii remote. The control scheme is by no means perfect and the graphics are sub-par, but it is an excellent game for youngsters and their parents. This seems to be a common theme for Nintendo, and EA has wholly embraced the idea. If you are a rabid soccer fan like I am, I suggest picking up the title for one of the other systems. However, if you are looking for a nice title for your kids that expands their horizons out of the kiddy games and into something a bit more substantial, FIFA Soccer 08 on the Wii could be the perfect choice.
EA's sports titles are known for their extensive licensing agreements with players and leagues. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in their FIFA titles, and this year is no exception. The sheer number of players, stadiums, leagues, and official tournaments is impressive. Any soccer fan will be giddy with the scope of the licensing. All the national selections you would expect are here too, and setting up World Cup-style tournaments with a round-robin format and elimination rounds is a breeze. It's unfortunate EA can't nail down the Champions' League license though. Other than that, the inclusion of official league cup tournaments is fantastic. These tournaments include, but are not limited to, the Apertura and Clausura, FA Cup, Copa del Rey, and the U.S. Open Cup. The realism the licensing affords keeps the player engaged and FIFA Soccer one step ahead of the competition.
Gameplay and player control are very important issues when talking about soccer simulators. EA has always dominated sales due to the aforementioned lock on licensing. However, they have traditionally lacked perfect gameplay and pinpoint control. The Wii version follows this pattern. I don't fault the developers, however. The Wii remote's lack of buttons has made EA Canada get creative and actually complicate the controls by having to rely on button combinations. To simplify things substantially, EA has included two button family controls that do away with the Nunchuk entirely. This is not particularly fun for adults, but it is a great way to engage the little ones and level the playing field between them and their parents or older siblings.
As far as gameplay goes, AI controlled teammates do not run off the ball well. They'll always be in good supporting positions, but sending balls through to a striker making a diagonal run is not a viable option. Additionally, gameplay feels slow. It's certainly easy to go end to end via short passing, but sprinting is little more than a burst over five yards. This can be pretty frustrating when you've made a solid feint, gotten past the man, and then have to beat him again. You'll be better off passing your way into the attacking third of the field.
On a high note, executing advanced dribbling techniques, while initially difficult, is the best it has ever been. Stepovers, 360 roulettes, and change of direction are all executed with a quick flick of the wrist. It can be a bit complicated at first, but once you get used to the button and movement combinations you'll cruise past defenders. Aerial finishing is also quite easy with the Wii remote. Headers and volleys come naturally and are performed flawlessly by waving the Wii remote up to smash it with authority, or down to finish with precision. All of this flicking and waving can be tiresome, however. Playing several games in a row will lead to an aching wrist. Overall, the control scheme is interesting and original. Unfortunately, the unique format loses its excitement quickly in single player modes and can feel clunky and inaccurate at times. There is also a significant learning curve for advanced controls. This game should be considered a multiplayer novelty rather than a deep single player title. If you do purchase the game, be sure to have some friends over and jibe each other while frantically waving your way to football fun.
Sadly, the graphics are poor even for the Wii. The stadiums look fairly good as do the movement animations, but that's about it. Player likenesses, while accurate, look blocky and many are full of blotches. In fact, some of the players' scalps are clearly visible through their hair. This is an unfinished effect that makes a bad impression. The crowds in the stands are also very crude and add nothing to the feel of the game. Additionally, while the world's best players' likenesses are well captured, there is a paucity of second and third tier professionals. This isn't so bad while playing with English or Spanish clubs, but the MLS athletes are not well represented at all. It's a good thing the game is not sluggish because it sure is ugly. Contrary to the mediocre visuals, the music, sounds and commentary are very good. EA always does a great job of selecting cutting edge tunes from a wide variety of international bands. Not everyone will like all the tracks, but to be sure, a lot of effort went into song selection and the presentation is crisp and clear. The sounds on the field are fairly standard, but the crowd noises are nice and add to the setting. The commentary is the same as always, quite well done. The same comments are made over and over again, but no developer has yet to solve that conundrum.