reviews\ Oct 10, 2007 at 8:00 pm

FIFA 08 - PS3 - Review

If one sport is near and dear to the heart, it is soccer (football to the rest of the world) – playing, coaching, watching … it’s one and the same. Sometimes, ideas about new formations are not all that new.

There was a situation with a U-19 girls' team I was coaching, going into a match with a particularly strong offensive team. Struggling for several nights with ideas and plans, discarding one after another, finally a defensive set was arrived it. Was it innovative? Hardly. Firing up that year’s version of EA Sport’s FIFA title and launching into a game, then managing formations revealed that formation was in the game.

Trust EA Sports. Its motto has been ‘if it’s in the game, it’s in the game.’

Knowing EA Sports proclivity for trying to get its titles as close to the real deal as possible, it is all too easy to view each release with a harsher critical eye. FIFA 08 passes muster, and then some. This is next-gen gaming and it looks it and feels like it, even though this is the first time the franchise has hit the PS3 console system.

(It needs to be noted that the same disk sent for the preview version was used for the review. Some of the bad points of the game may have been fixed by the time the disk was pressed for retail, but as of this writing, GameZone has no way to judge what was corrected or what made it into the final product.)

Up front, what has changed the most is the ability to perform a variety of tricks utilizing the shoulder buttons and analog sticks. Take the rainbow, for example. This is one of the more difficult moves to pull of during the flow of the game. Not only do you have to do it at the right moment to catch the defender flat-footed, but it takes precision in the skill department – just like it does on the controller. To perform the rainbow in the game (and this is a move where the player steps completely over the ball, trapping it between the feet, then lifting it up behind them and arching it over from the back to front), you need to hold down the L2 shoulder button, and then move the right thumbstick to the left and then to the right.

And that is the tip of the iceberg. The game has a deep tournament mode, with 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.

There is the Be-a-Pro mode of play, in which you play as a player on a team, not as the entire team. This is a wonderful offline challenge. You are rated not only on your passing skills but positioning as well. It takes a fair amount of skill to pay attention to the flow of the game and move continually to where you need to be. Some positions are much easier to play than others. Defensively, you just move back and forth, following the flow of the game from side to side, but should you try to go in as a striker, you have to pay attention to where the ball is, where the defenders are (so you are not offsides), as well as look for the open spaces and move into them as you start to call for the pass. Plus you have to pay attention to your stamina bar. You can’t run full out all the time.

But this is a great opportunity to play as your favorite FIFA player, be it Landon Donovan or even David Beckham. The one drawback here is that the Be-a-Pro sessions are one-off, meaning you can only play a single game. It would have been nice to see this as a career mode, allowing rookies to sign a contract and then work through the rankings, eventually ending up with that dominating team, for the big bucks and the bright lights of superstardom.

The interface menu for the game, though, can be somewhat confusing – especially when you get into the player creation area. The creation has a nice array of customization options, but once you create that player, good luck in finding him amidst the wash of teams that FIFA 08 throws at you.

Other modes of play include a kick-off mode, which is essentially, the quick play option, an in-depth manager mode and challenge 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.

While there is a lot to love about the game, there are also a few missteps. 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.

After a match, though, on several occasions, rather than a potpourri of highlights, the same video clip was repeated over and over and over.

In the audio department, this game is top notch. The play by play is terrific and 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.

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 rather than being an all-out arcade title, it is a thoughtful representation of the game. You will be challenged to produce first-quality ball skills while watching the ebb and flow of the game and adjusting your game plan accordingly.

FIFA 08 is a solid, entertaining and challenging title. The presentation is first rate, the football is well realized and the look and feel of the game is emblematic of the sport. Any fan of the sport would do well to check this one out. 

Review Scoring Details for FIFA 08

Gameplay: 8.5
This game has a bit of a learning curve and the control scheme will take some time to get used to. The menu is also a bit convoluted and could be made much simpler.

Graphics: 8.4
Some of the faces are hit and miss, but the animation is very good, as are the environments.

Sound: 8.8
The play-by-play is first rate and the crowd noises will help put you into the game. The music does a good job of giving the game that international appeal.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
There is a learning curve here, so be prepared for it.  

Concept: 8.7
The game has depth and while there is a bit higher of a learning curve, once you have the controls down, you will be very satisfied with the results.

Multiplayer: 8.0
EA has stated there will be online tournaments available, and you can play head-to-head on the same machine.  

Overall: 8.7
A truly terrific soccer game that is both entertaining and challenging. Performing skills with the analog-hot key combination is difficult, but the results, when you pull off that move that separates defender from shoes, is a great feeling.


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