FIFA 2001 Major League Soccer Review
Well by reading the headline you probably think that good ol' SolidSnake finally went bonkers. But actually being the HUGE Jim Carrey fan that I am, I saw The Grinch for the third time and just got the urge to do a little rhyme. If you don't like it, sue me! Anyways let's just kick off the review:
Being the most popular soccer franchise in videogaming, EA Sports has done a marvelous job of making their FIFA games better every year. FIFA 99 for Playstation was a great game for soccer enthusiasts out there, it mixed pretty visuals with some down right deep gameplay to re-create the whole soccer experience. FIFA 2000 took the same formula and made it even better, with some of the most astounding graphics on a sports title to date, FIFA 2000 was the ideal soccer game on any console and the on-the-dot commentary was also some of the best in a sports game. While I can't say much for FIFA 2001 for PSOne, since the game was pretty much the same game, and yet it still felt like EA did something in order to make it feel all new and slightly better. With Madden NFL 2001 being the best selling Playstation 2 game, and one of the most highly acclaimed PS2 games out there it seemed as if FIFA 2001 (which by the way I had extremely high hopes for) would have some large shoes to fill in order to compete with Maximus-Kickamus-Buttamus (Madden NFL 2001, if you didn't catch that). Read the FIFA 2001 review and see why this game goes down in the books as the best soccer game to grace a console.
Every single FIFA game on the Playstation was a visual treat, great looking character models, nice frame rates and top of the line animations, FIFA titles were truly hardware teasers. With over 15 players on one field, the frame rates in FIFA 2001 are dead on, rarely would the frame rates drop a few notches, and even if they do it isn't very noticeable. With so many different soccer players all over the world you'd think that they would all look the same, but FIFA 2001 proves you wrong. While the game doesn't have every single soccer player's face on the game, the amount of different faces portrayed may very well be close to every player since I haven't found the same looking face yet, so I'm led to believe that unlike the Japanese version of FIFA, EA Sports actually took much more time with FIFA 2001: MLS. The cyber athletes themselves look amazing, with the high polygon count per athlete it is hard to find anything wrong with the graphics at all, especially the models. Not only are the facial expressions far better than any sports game to date, but the sports models are so life-like that you can even see the muscles on their legs, you know you have to give it up for EA, they certainly went the whole nine yards in order to create the best looking soccer game to date.
The stadium detail is great, while the spectators in the backgrounds are still pixelated they have a few strands of animation to excite the gameplay a little bit, and you'll notice big flags of countries being waved in the backgrounds, which I though was a really nice feature. While we are on the topic of backgrounds let me tell you that on the sidelines you've got many different people moving around such as the ball boys, cameramen, referees, substitute players and even policemen pacing back and forth. The weather effects are also a nice touch, the rain looks nice and the stadium grass is affected by it. I also want to mention the sweet menu presentation that EA included with FIFA 2001, the background shows pictures of soccer players spiraling around in three dimensional movement, almost as if you were looking a very high quality Flash web page. FIFA 2001 is one beautiful looking soccer game, by far the best looking on any console.
Taking somewhat of an arcade approach, FIFA 2001 is a game that will suit everybody's tastes whether you are a sim only fan, or a gamer who prefers NBA Jam like gameplay. FIFA 2001 opens up with a nice real-time intro and after that the menu appears with you having to choose from either entering into a quick random game, configuring a few options, or get down and dirty with FIFA and looking around at game modes. The modes include Exhibition, Season, Tournaments, Custom and Training. There are over 235 teams to choose from 16 different countries, and the International team selection lets you pick all-star teams from over 65 countries, now isn't that special? Of course each team has their own individual stats that include, Offense, Defense, Speed and Overall. Any logical soccer player or FIFA player should now the best way to win is to pick the European countries such as Italy, Spain, and England, as their stats are pretty much near perfection. The Season mode is where the game's at, you will choose a team and challenge yourself through dozens and dozens of great soccer games.
Also if you were able to score a PS2 multi-tap and have four Dual Shock controllers then I highly suggest gathering up a few buds for a four player game of FIFA 2001, and if your thankful enough to have two multi-taps and eight controllers then call over a few of your drinking buddies and have your self the time of your life. During games if you feel that the referees are too harsh on you and soft on the AI, then go on and head over into the options and adjust referee strictness. At the options you can also change language settings, toggling penalties on or off, and adjusting the game speed as well as time. Then we have the casual soccer enthusiasts who have to have everything just right, so of course here is where the Team Management selection comes in, here you will be able to make substitutions, change formations (4 men on "D", 3 Middle line-men and 3 men on offense and etc.) change strategy and check out your teams kick takers. FIFA 2001 is without question the best soccer or football game out there today, the games heavy amount of modes, options, teams and virtually everything is else is what makes FIFA the best among the rest, it is going to be extremely hard to compete with EA on this one.
Oh baby, here we go again! With Madden NFL 2001's not so great soundtrack and repetitive commentary I was really hoping that EA would bounce back with FIFA 2001 and bring out not only a visually enhanced game with better gameplay, but also a game with even a better soundtrack than 2000 and a deeper commentary booth. Thankfully EA delivers by signing up the Grammy award winning Moby to create a soundtrack and re-mix his hit song Bodyrock, which I'm sure you've heard somewhere before (think the Nissan commercials, and that's the song I'm talking about). The whole soundtrack consists of great beats and very cool songs. As far as commentary goes, EA Sports has once again brought back those great commentators (one of which is named Jon), their play-by-play is some of the best to be heard, it doesn't get old and annoying as fast as John Madden does in Madden NFL 2001. Great sound and a nice soundtrack compiled by Moby, Paul Oakenfield, Grand Theft Auto, and Utah Saints. Solid, solid stuff.
With this new incarnation of the FIFA series on a console capable of making millions and millions of calculations, the controlling your athletes has now become more realistic than ever. Using the analog pad is the best idea for the most precise feel of your player, the sensitivity is great but you shouldn't really need to use it, although it's still nice to know that it is there. Controlling your athlete is just far more realistic than it ever has been in the past, and the same can be said for ball handling. Using your top buttons is also a must for dodging those tackle slides, or steals from enemy players, you will need to use the L2 and R2 buttons to do hops, fakes, spins and hurdles. Pretty much the whole controller is used for FIFA, but the best part about it is that you won't need a whole five minutes to get used to it, that's the best part.
After playing the living hell out of the Japanese version of FIFA World Soccer Championship and then playing FIFA 2001 even more, I can safely say that I want more FIFAs in the future, and if possible with better graphics, although FIFA 2001's visuals were breathtaking. In the end FIFA 2001 is not only a mere visual change, but the gameplay has also been affected dramatically with its new sense of realism, better feel of the player, and best of all the smarter and more agile AI. FIFA 2001's visuals are also something to highly boast about, they certainly go down as being some of the best first generation PS2 graphics, with Madden NFL 2001, SSX, and Tekken Tag Tournament being the three best so far. Make sure that you give FIFA 2001 a look-see, especially if you are a sports or soccer fan, this is an absolute must have game.
12/3/2000 Arnold Katayev