Fifa 08 PC Review

The first FIFA game I played was the first FIFA game released – FIFA International Soccer. The game itself was decent, but what’s instilled in my memory more is the way you could run away from the referee if he tried to send you off. The hours of enjoyment I got from legging it around the pitch as the referee tried to keep up and book me meant the game has a place in my heart unlike any other football game, apart from World Cup Italia ’90 on the Mega Drive, the first football game I played.

It’s been thirteen years since the series’ inception, and fifteen games later it has produced the most realistic and rewarding football game that’s been created. A bold statement you might think, but the facts speak for themselves. As always the presentation is top notch and goes a long way to helping recreate a believable atmosphere and environment. Visually the player models could be better, as even with all the settings turned up to max and the resolution at the highest, they look a bit iffy. The stadiums and crowd look great though, as do the opening videos and replays.

Audiophiles are in for a treat as well. The commentary from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Gray is excellent, staking a claim as arguably the most realistic and least annoying commentary in a sports game. While there are the occasional errors, it’s certainly an improvement on the laughable attempts offered by some games. Combine the play by play announcing with real chants from the crowds, relative to which teams are playing at the time, and you really could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to an actual TV broadcast.

Those of you fearing another collection of unknown hip-hop artists as part of the obligatory EA Trax feature will be pleasantly surprised to hear that there’s a good variety of genres on offer from a wealth of international artists. Granted, most of them are still unknowns, but the tunes sound good and fit the game well.

With the aesthetics out of the way, let’s get down to the football itself. Firstly, you really need a controller to play FIFA 08 on the PC. Anyone who’s tried playing a football game with a keyboard will testify that the inaccuracy of the arrow keys and sheer lack of comfort mars the whole experience. A PS2 or 360 controller would be ideal, and analogue sticks are a must. This is because of the way the game makes you manually choose the direction of every pass, cross, shot and through ball. No longer can you just cross the ball and have it sail perfectly into the six yard box – you have to make sure it gets there yourself. It’s hard to get the hang of initially, but the feeling of stringing a series of passes together and threading a through-ball perfectly between two defenders, all of your own doing, is enough of a reward to make sure you’ll persevere.

It’s this mechanic that makes FIFA 08 so good, and also so frustrating, to play. One minute you’ll be pumping your fist as you swing an inch perfect cross right into your forward’s path and he tucks it away sweetly. The next minute you’ll be cursing like there’s no tomorrow as you end a series of great passes by crossing the ball right into the goalkeeper’s hands. It’s one of those instances though where if you mess something up, you know it’s your fault and not the game’s. If you practise, you’ll get better, and that’s just like real football. The option’s there to have the computer assist you with through-balls and such, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re really struggling. The ball physics add to the realism too, as shots ricochet pinball-style off players, and tricks get messed up midway through execution, sending the ball into the path of an opposition player. The right analogue stick is used for step-overs, flicks and other touches, and again practice is the key to mastering these.

All of the usual modes and match types are present and correct, along with a few new leagues in the form of the English Championship and Coca Cola League’s 1 and 2. Pitting Accrington Stanley against Brazil is ill-advised, however. The proper team names and kits do nothing but add to the presentation value, and the inclusion of more teams and leagues is a nice touch for fans of the less prominent teams. The much vaunted Be A Pro mode is a new addition to the series, and is a great idea. Simply put, you pick one player, either a created one or an existing player from any team, and play solely as him throughout a match. Playable in either single player or co-op, it adds a whole new dimension to the way you play a match, and allows for some great moments of tactical play. Having to look for space to run into, balls to get on the end of and making sure you’re covering your man are things that become a lot more important, and each position you play in brings new challenges and tactical opportunities.

It’s hard to not come across as gushing with praise for FIFA 08, but the fact of the matter is, there isn’t a better football game currently out there. There are faults with it, of course, but they’re mainly aesthetic and very minor when compared to what the game does well, and picking up on them would just be doing so for the sake of it. Online leagues, the ability to save and export replays, the excellent Be A Pro mode, combined with all the usual gubbins and top drawer presentation, make FIFA 08 the best football game available.

If you want a football game, FIFA 08 is what you’re looking for. Simple as.

9 out of 10
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