FIFA Soccer 2002 Review
Many people that seem to be misinformed are always boo-hooing that the FIFA series is nothing more than an arcade game. This year, those people can stuff a copy of this game in their mouths and shut the hell up, because FIFA 2002 is easily the closest anyone has ever come to replicating "the beautiful game". On the surface the game appears to play very similar to last year's, but a few little tweaks have created a whole new experience.
Without question the biggest change - and the biggest improvement is the all-new passing system. Instead of one button to pass to a player, and another button to try a through pass, all passing duties (at least on the ground) are handled by the X button. Similar to a shot-meter, pressing the X button and holding it down brings up a power meter, and how long you hold the button decides how much force is behind the pass. This means that you are no longer just passing to players, but you are passing to a spot where you anticipate the player to be, allowing them to reach the ball in full stride and beat a defender in the process. Crossing passes are handled via the same system, the only difference being the square button is used for a lob. If you've got the right touch, dropping a pass right over a defender and hitting a teammate on the run is one of the most satisfying parts of the game. Give-and-go passes are handled by flicking the right analog stick in the direction of the player you want to perform the maneuver with, but the move takes quite a bit of practice to pull off correctly.
With all this newfound passing control, EA has implemented a new way to show players making runs. As a player takes off, he'll get a colorful blur streaking behind him. If you are able to get him a pass, he'll be in a good position to get off a shot or at the least advance the ball downfield. Truth be told, the whole passing system does take lots of practice to master, but EA has taken one of the most frustrating aspects of the game and made a good pass almost as fulfilling as scoring a goal.
In another realistic move, the effectiveness of special moves and slide tackles has also been significantly diminished. No longer is it possible to juke your way down field with a fullback, nor is it possible to effectively steal the ball sliding around like Ricky Henderson all day either. The enhanced referee AI has no tolerance for sloppy tackling, so unless you get a foot on the ball first, you're likely to be whistled for a foul or worse, carded.
Another minor improvment, but an appreciated one is enhanced goalie performance. This year goalies are better positioned and more prone to being in the right place at the right time. They are also more sure-handed, and less likely to give up frustrating rebounds as they lay helplessly on the ground. The only thing that could really use work is the way in which what player you want to control is selected. It's often an exercise in futility to choose the right player when playing with friends, so maybe some icon selecting is in order for next year. Other than that minor complaint, the game is a dream to play for hours at a time.
The only thing that could possibly be done to make this game deeper would be the addition of a franchise mode. That might be too tall an order being that the game features a mind-boggling 500 teams from leagues spanning the globe. There's a World Cup qualifying tournament, tons of other tourneys, and if none of them suite your liking, you can just make one of your own. If you've got a multi-tap, the game supports up to eight players, and it's one of the few games where four on four can be a good time using just one television.
FIFA 2002's graphics are similar to last year's good-looking version, but several minor improvements add up to a nicer looking game. The players are all high polygon count models, each nicely animated whether performing crossovers, volleying a shot, or falling down. EA has added tons of new faces, a welcome addition despite many of them being horribly ugly looking.
Something which EA has concentrated on adding into their games the last couple of years is player emotion. FIFA 2002 utilizes this added player emotion to great effect by showing the thrill of victory as well as the agony of defeat. Miss a wide open shot on goal and your player will bring both hands to his head and collapse to his knees in despair at missing such an easy score. In contrast, if you do put the ball in the back of the net, your players will party like it's 1999. In one particularly good celebration, a few teammates will run over to the corner flag, one will pull an invisible lever on a slot machine, and then everyone reaches down and stuffs their pockets with the jackpot.
During my FIFA 2001 review, I jokingly pointed out that one of the few graphic enhancements EA would make this year would be improved field texture. Looks like I win the prize because the fields all look much more realistic, and the grass appears to be more than a concrete area painted green. There are a total of five stadiums, filled with rowdy, raucous fans whose quality rivals that of any other videogame crowd to date.
EA's sports game's commentary are frequently enough to induce narcolepsy, but FIFA continues its strong lineage of timely, insightful commentary that is actually worth listening to. Back by popular demand are John Motson, who covers the play-by-play action, and Andy Gray who chips in with the color commentary. Though no game has truly captured the feel of watching a live broadcast, at times the announcers of 2002 come as close as anyone else to date. In one game, a player was dribbling down the field just outside the penalty box when suddenly he made a break towards the goal. I was the last man back, and he had beaten me, so I decided to foul him about a foot outside the box. As I did this, Motson exclaimed "Oh! He's taken him down, but appears to be just outside the penalty box", he then correctly analyzed the situation noticing that the direct kick was from a very difficult angle. The rest of the commentary is usually subdued as the duo call the numerous possession changes at mid-field, but they are never afraid to criticize sloppy play. If you score a few goal on a team that appears to be giving less than a full effort, Motson will wonder if "that goal will act like a rocket up their behinds" and inspire them to a better effort.
For some reason, there are quite a few songs available to listen to as background music during the game. Artists include: Gorillaz, Vitae, Issi Noho, R4, Conjure One, and many others. These are mostly electronica or dance tunes, but they are all well-done, and if you are one of the few people that likes music playing during your sports games, you could do worse than what's included in the game. If you don't like music, its default setting is off, so you have nothing to worry about. The game's audio, especially the commentary, really shines and adds another level of realism to an already top-notch game.
If you've ever had a passing interest in any console soccer game, this game is an absolute must-have. You should get up, get your keys, head to the mall, buy the game, stop at the post office, mail me $20, go home, and then play this game until your eyes bleed. If you've got a few friends that are into soccer, the game gets even better as you and your friends try and perfect your passing and the your runs up field. This review would be longer but it's time to go play some more. Must...qualify...for...Cup...with...Barbados...
6/26/2004 Aaron Thomas