"A good handheld football game is about as common as Wales qualifying for a major Championship (and I should know, I still have nightmares about the Romania and Russia play-offs). Strike that, itís rarer. There isnít one portable computer game out there which can genuinely be considered a definitive simulation of the beautiful game. Theyíre all pretty much terrible. Until Konami bring their Pro Evo series to the DS and PSP, itís unlikely that a quality handheld footie game will ever see the light..."
A good handheld football game is about as common as Wales qualifying for a major Championship (and I should know, I still have nightmares about the Romania and Russia play-offs). Strike that, itís rarer. There isnít one portable computer game out there which can genuinely be considered a definitive simulation of the beautiful game. Theyíre all pretty much terrible. Until Konami bring their Pro Evo series to the DS and PSP, itís unlikely that a quality handheld footie game will ever see the light of day. Unfortunately, FIFA incorporates nearly everything that can be wrong with portable soccer games. In essence, FIFA is the typical rubbish stereotype of a handheld football game. Needless to say, it isnít very good.
Initial impressions are promising though. The presentation is as youíd expect from an EA-published game. The menus, despite the backgrounds being a bit monotonous in colour, are suitably bright and display a lot of statistics. There are more teams in this game than you can shake a stick at, with over a hundred international squads to choose from. Even obscure nations such as Qatar have their own team. However none of the teams have real player names Ė which is a bit annoying considering that this game sports the FIFA logo on the front. Trivial, it may be, but still irritating for an officially licensed title. The action itself takes place from an isometric perspective. The football action looks nice with some colourful well-animated sprites. Unfortunately, nearly all the players look identical and thereís virtually no way to distinguish which player youíre playing with. Once the novelty of playing a fully-isometric footie game on a handheld wears off, youíre left with a very poor attempt at a football sim.
The passing mechanics are very clumsy and you rarely pass the ball where you wanted it to go. The speed of your pass seems to vary randomly which really isnít helpful when the passing system already feels quite clunky and unresponsive. Itís also difficult to know where your players are because the mini-map at the bottom of your already small screen is so tiny. If there arenít any of your fellow players on the screen, attempting a pass could end up with the ball just doddering about for a bit while your fellow players refuse to move to retrieve it. Unless itís played directly to their feet, they wonít move towards the ball at all. The only time theyíll actually move is if youíre controlling them personally or a striker has just walked around (at which point theyíll make a pathetic attempt to catch-up). Half the time, they just stand there like statues, something which isnít common in the real game of football.
Even some of the most primitive football games have had dash buttons. FIFA doesnít. Catching up with a player is virtually impossible because all the players trudge around at the same yawn-inducing pace. The player stats donít make any substantial (or even noticeable) difference so without any sort of way to change your playersí speed, everything plays in a very monotonous and uninteresting manner. I know there are only 3 buttons on the Game Gear but giving you the pretty pathetic ability to only pass and shoot makes everything so terribly simplistic and tedious. This isnít what good football should be.
FIFA rarely even feels like a football game. At times, you wonder whether the developers have even player or watched an actual proper game of football. Nowhere is the brilliance of fluidity and sublime skills that make football such a fantastic sport to play and spectate. At no point will you ever feel yourself immersing in an intense match. Even some of the most basic footballing knowledge is absent in this truly wretched attempt at a soccer title. In a one-on-one situation with an attacker on the keeper, youíd normally put your mortgage on the attacker slotting the ball into the back of the net. But in this game, the attacker is a hundred times less likely to score than a player approaching diagonally from 30 metres out Ė which brings me to my greatest complaint of all.
The bane of any sports game is to give gamers the ability to use cheap tactics. Unfortunately, FIFAís cheap tactics are so blatantly obvious itís impossible to ignore them. As long as you shoot from the right (direction-wise) side of the pitch (from your playerís perspective) coming in diagonally, you canít miss. Your player always hits the target and their keeper wonít move a muscle except on the rare occasion where heíll dive in the wrong direction. When keepers can hardly move to save the ball or canít dive to their left, you know thereís something wrong. This is likely to be because the game wasnít playtested enough. In the past, companies have hidden behind technology limitations or memory restrictions but that cannot happen with FIFA. This game reeks of rushed development. Its stench can be sensed within minutes of playing. Itís clear that EA had money in mind when commissioning this gameís development and the result shows what can happen if the sole intent of creating a game is for financial gain.
The things that can destroy a sporting simulation experience are lack of challenge, the ability to constantly use cheap tactics and a general unfamiliarity between the game and the sport itís trying to replicate Ė things that FIFA reeks of. Handheld football games, as a rule, have never really worked well. Maybe itís the memory space limitations or the lack of buttons, but the Game Gear version of FIFA is no exception to this rule. Despite an impressive presentation, with loads of international teams, players and some competent visuals, FIFA falls short because of untested and badly implemented play mechanics. FIFA plays about as close to real football as American football does. There are some similarities but theyíre very different games. FIFA is a terrible rendition of the beautiful game and those searching for a lazy way to play a good game of football should look elsewhere.
Community review by ceredig (November 24, 2004)
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