FIFA 08 - PS2 - Preview
The stadium spins with a jerked camera zoom. The scene cuts multiple times, jumping forward before team logos are thrown onto the screen. Next, the stars of FIFA 08 rock the worlds of every onlooker, and will soon rock the thumbs, eyes, and ears of every player. Is it love at first sight? Or a tease to tempt those vulnerable to its lure? It could be a little of both. But don’t get too affectionate – the last thing you want is to get lip-smacked by a wayward through-pass.
FIFA 08, the annual update to EA’s long-running soccer franchise, is not merely another sequel with a new year added to the title. This edition brings features that add more than new content – it introduces expansive gameplay that is significantly different from the series’ previous additions.
It’s show time for the pros and that includes more than one player holding a controller. If your multi-tap has been collecting dust, and if those additional PS2 controllers you purchased six years ago have felt like a waste, FIFA 08 will turn those extras into money well spent.
In the new Be a Pro: Co-op Season mode, up to four players can join a team and compete as individual athletes playing specific positions. You may change the team formation and player positions, but once the game has started, you’re expected to lead the team successfully as an army of one – and rely on friends and AI-controlled teammates to tackle what you cannot.
Madden is no stranger to position-specific gameplay, so it’s no surprise that EA’s other sports games are jumping on board with the idea. But FIFA 08 is unique in the way it incorporates multiple players into the action. Since each player is responsible for his own athlete, different objectives are given to each player along with a main objective for the entire team. In a two-player game, player 1 was told to attempt 10 or more passes to anyone on his team. Player 2 was given the task of getting no more than one call against him. The team task was to “never be down by three goals.” The goals change with each game and appear to be random, but I suspect each player’s status will have an effect on the goal’s difficulty.
The players that meet these objectives will receive points at the end of the match, which may be cashed in via the attributes upgrade screen. Consequently – and positively so – players will grow at different rates. It’s not like an RPG where everyone can level up together just by participating in the same battle. If one person doesn’t deliver, he isn’t going to receive many (possibly not any) upgrade points. This could create a discrepancy down the road for gamers at a lower skill level. But that’s soccer. If you can’t take heat, stay out of the arena.
Since multiple players are on screen at the exact same time, it is impossible for every athlete to be on camera for every second of the game. This is true for when playing solo as well in Be a Pro mode because the default camera follows the ball, not the player. That’s the best view possible, and though it might seem weird not being able to view your athlete at all times, it isn’t that difficult to stay in the game. The bottom screen map, one of FIFA’s returning visuals, clearly denotes the player with a colored circle that stands out from the rest. That way you can see and dictate your movements even when the ball is several yards away.
Though they weren’t available in this preview build, the final version will contain three tutorial videos that explain FIFA 08’s new gameplay mechanics, some of which include manual controls for crossing and through-passing. When defending in any mode except Be a Pro, players can now select exactly which athlete they’d like to control by pushing the right stick in that athlete’s direction. It’s more precise, for certain, and will definitely make the game more specific and accurate. But it’s too early to tell whether or not this and the other control additions will have long-term effects on how the game plays.
Shipping October 9, FIFA 08 could be the high point of current-gen sports updates – and is potentially the best FIFA since the launch of PlayStation 2. Stay with us as we bring you more on the game in the coming months.