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2002 FIFA World Cup Review

publisher: EA
developer: EA
genre: Sports

PII-300, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD
ESRB rating: E

release date: Apr 23, 01
» All About 2002 FIFA World Cup on ActionTrip

You know, I've played so many FIFA games, I don't even know if I can distinguish the subtle differences between them anymore. The series has had its ups and downs over the years, but the general opinion of many FIFA fans that I've spoken to is that FIFA 2002 is by far, the best installment in the series.

Well, as you know, the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea is just around the corner, and just like in '98, Electronic Arts has once again decided to cash in on the whole World Cup hoopla by releasing an expansion pack (you might call it that) for FIFA 2002. This is not a new FIFA game, people. This is in fact, a solid marketing move by the publishers to try and cash in on the official FIFA license. That, and the fact that the EA Sports programmers are among the most capable and productive game makers on the planet.

2002 FIFA World Cup is concentrated solely on the World Cup matches. The only teams available are those that will take part in the WC finals, single player options pretty-much come down to Friendly and 2002 World Cup modes. With this more focused approach, the development team had enough time to pay extra attention to the national teams and their players, and I must say this installment provides some of the most accurate and detailed player stats yet. Furthermore, the visual aspect of 2002 FIFA WC was boosted accordingly, in order to produce a more detailed and life-like virtual models of their real-life counterparts. The dynamic level of detail technology used in WC 2002 works like a charm, when you zoom in with the camera, I swear you'll see the spitting images of Henry and Zidanne stretching on the pitch. The motion capture looks even more realistic than in FIFA 2002, and there's an even wider variety of moves available to each of the players. The stadium and the pitch also look more detailed, and that especially goes for the crowds, which are still represented with 2D sprites, but now looking livelier than ever. With all the details cranked up to the max, 2002 FIFA WC is by far the most beautiful game of the franchise.

Besides the excellent graphics, the developers have put in an extra effort into delivering an engrossing soccer atmosphere, on and off the court. By adding special player history dialogue for the commentators, accompanied by some of the most believable sound effects I've heard in a sports simulator yet. The screams and shouts of the players, the "thump" of a hard tackle, and that awesome SWOOSH! when the ball hits the net is what soccer games are all about. Well, outside of drinking beer and fighting on public squares, but that's beside the point.

Add to that the all new scoring celebrations with wonderful orchestral music playing in the background, and what you get is the closest thing to a World Cup game that most of us will ever get to see. The all-new orchestral soundtrack gives a monumental quality to the occasion and it further adds to the fantastic vibe that flows through all those millions of fans when they gather around their TV sets to cheer for their national team.

A+ for the visuals, sounds, and the atmosphere...

However, as much as I like how EA Sports conveyed the thrilling World Cup ambiance on the PC, I'm really not that excited about the gameplay changes that were introduced in the 2002 FIFA WC. First of all, the short passing game is literally non-existent, as it is the aerial duels that will determine which team gets most of the ball possession. To add to that, the "E" (dribble) key is practically useless, as the defenders will in most cases snatch the ball from the legs of the charging forward - even if you're playing as Ronaldo against the *mighty* Chinese defense! This design approach all but kills any traces of a one-on-one game, and the short pass style of play, which relies more on the individual player skill and technique gives way to a whole lot of punting, crosses and aerial duels. In terms of the sheer fun-factor, these are not the most eye-catching and exciting soccer matches you'll ever see. The directional pass has again been modified and made less directional than in FIFA 2002, which in a way represents a regression to FIFA 2001. And now the AI never seems to miss a tackle (on pro level or higher), though your tackling abilities remain strictly directional and therefore harder to perform ... and it rarely misses easy opportunities, making your defensive blunders that much costlier.

Consequently, the game becomes a lot more difficult on the pro level, and I remember I used to pound that World Cup level like crazy in the previous installments. You might claim that this is an improvement, but I would argue otherwise, as this type of gameplay takes away from the human skill factor and gives an unfair advantage to the AI. What's more, the regular defensive tackles have become far trickier, as your player might lose his balance (and his man) if he misses the ball while trying to tackle, and that just happens way too often in this game.

In order to win, you have to rely on your star players (now represented with stars above their heads), as they are the only ones fast enough to sprint and create chances. This in turn makes your offense more one-sided and ultimately lowers the game's fun factor. I was expecting a more balanced offensive game, but as it is, 2002 FIFA WC's offense relies too much on sporadic sprints of star players and a strong aerial game, especially in the midfield. Goalie punts the ball, and you battle with your opponent for possession in mid-air. Defenders usually have a huge advantage over the attackers here, so you'll have a pretty tough time getting to the goal, especially if we consider the fact that the short pass / dribble game is pretty much not there on higher levels of difficulty.

All in all, 2002 FIFA World Cup can be considered a mixed bag of blessings. We have the fantastic visuals, sounds, and atmosphere on one side, and some obvious gameplay drawbacks on the other. I am sure true fans will go out and buy this game regardless of what I say but, if you're not a die-hard, and don't particularly care about the World Cup; and you own a copy of FIFA 2002 by any chance, I suggest you give this one a miss and wait for the next bona fide sequel - FIFA 2003.

PS: There is also one rather disturbing fact I need to mention about this game. Someone from the development team has played a really sick joke in 2002 FIFA World Cup. If you listen closely, you'll hear the name of Dinko Sakic shouted by the fans in-game. He was a Nazi concentration camp commander who defected to Argentina after World War II. Naturally, we find this outrageous but (sadly) true, and as soon as a proper editor is released for the game, we'll offer evidence of this to the public.

EA didn't care to comment on this.


7.1   Good

Graphics, music, sound effects (well, most of them anyway) and World Cup atmosphere;

Gameplay is less fun than in FIFA 2002. Some rather questionable (gameplay) design decisions on the part of the developers.



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