Content Test 3

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FIFA Soccer
Graphics: 7
Gameplay: 7.2
Sound: 7.5
Control: 6.8
Replay Value: 6.8
Rating: 7
For such a new system, itís surprising that the PSP already has two soccer games; 989ís World Tour Soccer and Electronic Artís FIFA soccer. WTS was a pleasant surprise, and was actually better than its console counterpart. FIFA Soccer isnít as good as the console version but thatís primarily because FIFA on the PS2 is markedly better than WTS was. It shows a lot of promise, but also the effects of a shortened development cycle Ė a problem that plagues many of the early PSP games.

There are several different play modes, including: Head to Head play, challenges mode, season, mid-season, Custom Season modes, Tournaments, and Custom Tournaments. The season mode is a bit misleading, since you can only play the games during the season, and canít transfer players, or manage your team. Most people arenít looking for a robust franchise mode to take with them on the road, but a little more depth would have been nice. The mid-season mode is a nice feature for hardcore fans, but itís so difficult to follow soccer in North America that very few people will even care that they can pick up a season at its mid-point.

Of course, FIFA soccer has all the licensing that youíd expect out of an EA Sports title. There are 350+ international club teams, all with real players and uniforms. You can unlock licensed gear by accomplishing certain tasks during the game, and finally, after years of waiting, you can unlock a referee as a bonus! Awesome!

All of the basics for a great game are here, but the controls really hurt the overall experience. Players are unable to quickly stop and change direction, instead making huge turns, like a station wagon trying to make a u-turn. Itís easier to just switch to another defender if you get beaten, because youíre never going to catch back up. Special moves and the ďfirst touchĒ control as mapped to the d-pad, which frankly just doesnít work. Itís incredible difficult to move from the analog pad to the d-pad and back, especially in tight corners. Neither of these two issues ruin the game, but they do make it considerably less enjoyable.

There are several things that point to the game being slightly rushed; key amongst these are the frequent load times. Youíve got long load times between every menu screen, and even when the ball goes out of bounds for a goal or corner kick. WiFi play via ad-hoc is included in the game, and supports two players. The experience is a bit buggy, and itís disappointing that you canít play the game over the internet.

FIFAís visuals arenít bad, but they donít have the usual level of polish that one would expect from an EA game. The default camera is extremely far away, which makes the player models little more than tiny, two-toned figures, though it is a good view for gameplay. During the gameís cut scenes, the framerate takes a noticeable hit, and every player looks as if they are moving in slow motion. The detail on the players in these closeups is impressive, but there isnít much variety to what they do during them. The stadiums donít look bad, but donít expect to see the wild, flare toting, flag waving crowds that bring so much energy to the consoles Ė they are nowhere to be seen. For some reason, an incredible annoying ďEA LiveĒ logo stays present in the top right of the screen for the entire game. Itís enormous, and takes up as much room as a couple of players. If they had that much extra space to kill, perhaps making the players larger than ants might have been a good solution.

One of FIFAís biggest strengths is its audio. From the announcing team of John Motson and Ally McCoist, to the eclectic mix of artists in the EA Trax, everything is top-notch. The commentary certainly isnít as varied as what youíd expect to hear on a console, but itís much better than some of the other PSP sports games have offered up. Iím usually the first one to slam EA Trax, but the gameís music is actually quite good. Itís a varied mix of artists, some of which you may have heard of, while others youíll have never been exposed to Ė especially if youíre American. You can turn off the tunes that you donít like, and you can even watch a few music videos via Pocket Trax. One minor quibble Ė it would be nice to not have to hear a new song with every new menu. Some people like to listen to a tune for more than 3 seconds; and this frequent loading of songs cantí be helping the gameís sluggish load times.

Itís a tough call as to which soccer game for the PSP is better Ė theyíre both pretty good. Each game has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each has laid a strong foundation for the future. Itís probably the easy way out, but Iím going to have to say that this round is simply too close to call Ė itís a draw.

5/26/2005   Aaron Thomas