previews\ Sep 23, 2007 at 8:00 pm

FIFA 08 - PS3 - Preview

It’s all about the timing. Hold down L2 and then move the right thumbstick to the left and then to the right. If you nail the timing, the ball will arc up from behind you and land in front. It’s called a rainbow and pulling it off in FIFA 08 is almost as tough as doing it on a real soccer pitch.

FIFA 08 is gearing up for release in mid October and the good folks at EA Sports sent along a preview build so GameZone could take a look.

First off, this was a beta build of the program. As such, some of the features, which will be in the final release, were missing. You know, like the ability to create a player and then save that player and make him available for your favorite team. Sure, you could create the player, but each time you left the creation zone, he disappeared.

But this is beta code for the PS3. There is the reasonable assumption that not everything is going to be perfect. Take, for example, the way the game (by default) switches players. There seems to be no real rhyme or reason for the way the AI switches defensive players. You may have a player shoulder-to-shoulder with the opposition, fighting for possession, and the next thing you know, the icon above the defensive player (the team you are controlling) disappears and jumps to a player 10 yards in front of the attacker.

But there is still a lot to love about FIFA 08 from EA Sports. The game animations, and goalie AI in particular, are outstanding. The players almost move like their real-life counterparts. And there is a wealth of leagues to choose from when you get into manager mode.

The manager mode is, like most EA Sports titles, deep and will have you working hard to stay ahead of the curve that is the rest of the league. From player contracts to sponsorships, you will have your hands full.

Most of the major leagues are represented from around the world. You can go into England, Czechoslovakia, Brazil or stay at home with the MLS in the United States (this is actually the first time David Beckham has consistently played as a member of the L.A. Galaxy). The game schedules are deep and there are goals to accomplish along the way – much like in every other manager mode EA Sports releases.

When it comes to the control scheme, expect a bit of a learning curve. Also think about turning off the AI-assisted scheme. This is a pain to use and you will likely have better results in passing the ball yourself. The game features ‘building block’ skill progression. There are base skills and once you execute them you will find yourself able to build off those to do skill moves like step-overs. The system is completely organic, meaning that it emulates real life, rather than follow a set progression.

The left trigger and right analog thumbstick work in concert to have you pull off moves. It is not that hard to do and you will be pulling off some sweet moves in no time.

At this stage in the development, though, the game does have a few stumbles. The faces are hit and miss, but the stadiums are amazing and done well. The interface is easy to navigate and EA Sports has done a nice little bit with the load screen. Instead of watching a bar fill, you are treated to practice with the cover athlete. You can work on dribbling moves and shooting in a one-on-one breakaway attempt against a goal keeper.

The music is EA Trax (50 artists representing 27 countries) and it works in this instance. But the music and crowd sounds are a poor second to the great play-by-play.

Of course, what would the game be without league depth, and FIFA 08 has that. There are 576 licensed teams, 30 official leagues and more than 15,000 players. Additionally, there are 60 tournaments available and players can participate in 35 licensed ones or create their own.

The game will have full online support, including the ability to upload videos of your favorite goals.  

FIFA 08 is, graphically, one of the more spectacular console games to come focusing on the sport of soccer. This is a truly entertaining game that emulates the sport well and should be one that every soccer gamer looks forward to seeing in a month.



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