FIFA 08 Demo Impressions - 25/09/2007

FIFA, that EA game where licensing overpowers gameplay. Same Old FIFA? Or Pro Evo Beater?

Electronic Arts have made millions out of FIFA, so you’d think that they would pour loads of cash into the series and make sure that it beats off the likes of Pro Evolution Soccer, and spin-offs like Club Football. This isn’t the case. FIFA 08 is, to say it plain, disappointing, and that’s coming from a FIFA fanatic. I’ve been buying FIFA since 98, 7 years! And I’ve loved every game so far. Now, being as unbiased as I possibly can, let's play ball!

Last year, on PS2, FIFA 07 was great. Flowing gameplay, graphics were okay (as usual) but most importantly: it was more like PES. Something everyone’s gagging for. Or, at least most people are. FIFA 08, if you watch gameplay footage, looks very much like PES, gameplay-wise, but it doesn’t actually play anything like it. So its mixture of FIFA and PES gameplay made it a hit, with great scores in a lot of places. But if this demo is anything to go by, then the series might have gone backwards.

Firstly, the controls have been revamped for next-gen. With the familiar R1 to sprint swapped with R2, and X no longer being used to switch your player. That’s now L1. The face buttons all do the same things as before, O to shoot, X to pass..etc. But, if you’re used to using the d-pad to move, then you could be a little disappointed. It forces you to use the analogue stick, there are about 5 different controls settings you can choose from, consisting of Classic, New and Alternative, but none allow you to dribble with the d-pad. This was a massive loss in my opinion, and I’ve been around the official FIFA forums making sure my opinion was known. So, if this is a concern in your eyes, and it’s included in the full game, you can thank me later.

The graphics have somehow got worse since FIFA’s previous next-gen outing, with player likenesses being well below par. Sure, you can tell who Rooney is, thanks to his ginger beard, but the faces are smooth and have less detail. In close ups and screenshots released prior to the demo, it looked very promising. So it could be that EA have taken some of the detail out, to keep the download size down. Not that it helped speed up the download in any way though, as it took many hours to download.

And, talking of speed, FIFA 08 is unbelievably slow. Sluggish is the word used by most. The players are all slow, and fat, and even when you’re running at full speed with a player like Ronaldo, there is no sense of pace at all. Plus, the AI seems to be able to run faster than you, no matter what player they’re controlling. This gets really annoying when at every chance they get they intercept the pass. Seriously, without playing the demo you won’t understand how hard it is to make a decent pass, especially when you’re near the opponent's box.

Which leads me to how easy it is to score. Not. Again, without playing you can’t even begin to believe how hard it is to score. Plus, when you do score, nine out of ten times it’s a cheap header. I’ve played about 20 games up to now, with only about four of those games being wins. Three of which were won with a header from a corner. The other was a penalty. So, not once have I scored from open play.

It’s not like I’m rubbish or anything, but a mixture of not being able to run fast, and psychic opposition really ups the games difficulty. Funny thing is, I’ve been praying for it to be harder to score in FIFA for three years now, and when EA finally address this, I complain. Hopefully, when I’ve bought the game, and got used to the new controls, it will get easier to play.

Unfortunately there was no commentary included in the demo, but it’s inevitable that it will be included in the full game. It’s been hyped up to be really good and varied, but a lot of things have been hyped up only to fail recently; see Lair.

The demo also gave us all a little taste of what the Be A Pro mode can do as well. This is the most impressive part of the demo. You only get to play as Ronaldinho, in his Barca strip, with an unknown keeper, in an unknown arena. This is where the heavily touted physics engine comes into play. If you sprint left, and then quickly try to smack it in the opposite corner, it’ll veer right. If you try to place it in the bottom corner, and use no power it only rolls and hardly leaves the ground. If you smack it as hard as you can when the keeper lays you off, it will do all kinds of things, you may slice it, it could go way over, or that one time if you hit it perfectly, it could just float into the top corner. So, although it’s almost unnoticeable in the matches, in Be A Pro you can see it working close up.

The skill stick, another thing that’s hard to pull off in the full game, is also much better in the third person mode. If you hold L2 (or the left trigger on the 360) and then wiggle the right stick about, you can do tons of different skills. Like that one where you spin around (the Marseille Roulette in PES), which can be done by doing a full rotation of the stick. Another cool thing that you can do, is keep tapping R1 while you’re holding L2 and he’ll do kick ups, then when you’re ready, aiming the left stick in the direction you want to go and then pressing circle will do a volley. Brilliant.

Plus, the keepers are much more natural than before. Which you can see much clearer in the Be A Pro mode. In previous FIFA’s, the keeper would either catch the ball, or annoyingly knock it straight back out in the middle of play, just waiting for a rebound goal. This year, if the keeper gets a hand to it, then it may bounce off in the direction his hand was facing, or because of the speed and power of the shot, the ball may slow down but it will still make its way in.

To finish off the Be A Pro malarkey, one thing I didn’t tell you was that it doubles up as the loading screen, as well as the mode in itself. Instead of a quiz, or just a blank screen, in FIFA you get to keep playing. This is pure genius, by far the best loading screens in video gaming history, although I never was allowed to play that playboy mansion game that came out...

Demo-Verdict: The demo itself was slightly disappointing, it’s slow and sluggish, and you never really get a feeling of pace. The defence is extremely hard to break too, but when you do get past those fat and undetailed defenders, to score, boy, do you get a feeling of accomplishment.

Predicted Score: 7.9

- Tyler Roberts


EA Canada