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FIFA 2003 Review
publisher: EA Sports
developer: EA Sports
PII-300, 32MB RAM, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Nov 02, 02 (released)
|» All About FIFA 2003 on ActionTrip|
It would be really hard to imagine a year going by without another FIFA title hitting the shelves. A year without a new FIFA game is like a year without sunshine. The first year I don't see a FIFA title come out I'm gonna hit the bomb shelter or head for the hills and buy me one of those special tents that keep out bio poisons, mosquitoes and all that other nasty stuff that might flood the earth after the apocalypse. Luckily, there's no need to head for the hills yet - we've received our review copy of FIFA 2003, the latest installment in the popular football (soccer for all you Yanks out there) series by EA Sports.
Try following my steps, it's easy. One, and a two, and a three...
The match begins.
This game looks to be the most mainstream-looking FIFA game yet. A truckload of money went into promoting this game, and players like Ryan Gigs, Roberto Carlos, and Edgar Davids have offered their able young bodies for the sake of capturing the widest array of motion-captured moves yet. Not to mention the slew of popular bands, plenty of official licenses and everything else that goes with such a high-profile project. Even David Beckham's model looks like a spitting image of the man himself, and even has that famous Mohawk hairdo!
Extra care was taken to mirror the image and the appearance of the star players!
If you want to play a top-notch soccer simulation there's no other game of this type on the market that can rival the quality of the FIFA series. With that said, it becomes clear that the decision on whether or not you should buy this game becomes a mere question of determining if this year's installment brings anything radically new over the previous one that should make you want to go out and get it.
FIFA 2003 is concentrated solely on league championships, and of course the Euro League. Sure, there is still a choice of selecting the US League (MLS) but the accent in this game is entirely on the European big boys like Real Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan, etc. The training mode was left out (again), which is a real shame, as I really wanted to practice my free kicks before playing a competitive match. As far as the other changes go, I should also note that the default keys have been remapped. The "E" key is now used for sprinting, while the "W" key is the default key for headers/through balls. The "ASD" combo remained the same, but you'll now use "SPACE" for dribbling, rather than playing a 1-2 pass. Being a long-time FIFA fan I had a bitch of a time getting used to the new controls - but once I did, I realized that the game actually plays much better like this. More emphasis is put on individual (one-on-one) skills (dribbling) and accurate through passes, which definitely adds a bit of flare to the match, especially when your star players start spinning and dribbling defenders left and right - great stuff! Naturally, the fact that "SPACE" was assigned as the default dribble key means that the 1-2 pass is out of the picture. Personally, I think that this is a good move by the developers as I have found that option a bit awkward to begin with...
Other changes include a new system of taking free kicks and corners, as well as actually shooting the ball on the goal. The accuracy of your shot depends on proper timing, and the same goes for free kicks and corners. Again, this will take a bit of getting used to, but I'll go out on a limb here and say that this makes the gameplay more skill dependent than in previous versions of the game.
FIFA 2003 now supports two different gameplay modes. You can choose to play the simulation mode, or go for the faster-paced arcade mode. Personally, I doubt that any self-respecting soccer player would want to play the latter mode, so let's just concentrate on the sim portion of the game. In all honesty, there's not a whole lot of difference between the two modes, apart from the rules (or the lack of thereof in the arcade mode) and the game pace, which is quite faster in the arcade mode, so there's no point really in discussing this novelty any further.
Aaah! Who left this used condom lying around?
My, my, what ever are these three dudes up to?
When I first started playing the new FIFA game it felt very awkward. I couldn't get used to the new controls (yes, there is an option to remap the keys, but a bug prevented me from doing this), and it took me quite a while before I could comfortably beat the AI on semi-pro, even though I'm a long-time FIFA player. And while we're on the subject of AI, I must say that the new code has definitely gone through some changes since the last installment. Generally, it's much better at defending its goal, but some offensive tactics still leave plenty to be desired. What bugged the living hell out of me though was the freaking "game momentum". This feature doesn't necessarily have to do with the AI routines themselves. The developers added this feature in order to make the game more competitive by not letting one team achieve a huge goal margin over the other. Unfortunately, it seems that they have overdone it a bit this time, since the AI will always find a way to score after I've taken say a 2-0 lead. Seems a bit unfair that the outcome of the match depends not on your skill v. the skill of the AI, but also on a gameplay feature put in to supposedly make the game more interesting. All game momentum does is make the game seem unfair, and you'll hardly appreciate that if you're a real competitor. Still, there is always the option of upping the difficulty level, but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to thrash the AI every once in a while, just to feel good.
Finally, I should say that FIFA 2003 doesn't feel as "natural" as FIFA 2002. In other words, the much hyped gameplay novelty in the previous installment - the less automated defensive tackles and directional passes are now gone, and the AI is once again making the final decisions on conservative tackles and directional passes. I can't say I'm all too thrilled about this, as I have found these features to be rather entertaining, especially in the multiplayer. However, the addition of more dribbling moves, and their importance in FIFA 2003 should more than make up for this in terms of providing more opportunities for flashy individual moves.
Visually, FIFA 2003 is of course looking better than ever. It's prettier than FIFA 2002, but not by much. The only clear advancements in 3D code have to be the extreme close-up player models, which sometimes look like the spitting images of their real-life counterparts. The hair looks much better as well, as the developers have obviously made heavy use of pixel-shaders. Other than that, the motion captured moves look more natural, and I think the shadows are now more complex than in the previous installment.
The soundtrack is rockin' and the co-commentator sounds more Scottish than ever before. Some of the comments are generally funny and quite enjoyable. I just wish there were some more of them in the game. Nonetheless, I guess there's nothing to complain about when it comes to the sounds and visuals in FIFA 2003. They are indeed topnotch!
Overall, FIFA 2003 doesn't bring many novelties over its predecessors - no radical changes have been introduced. As I said, the gameplay might even seem retro at times. Still, the introduction of more intuitive controls and the emphasis on fancy dribbling and short passes might bring some of that Latin American flare to the game that was definitely absent from FIFA 2002. It's all a matter of tastes really, if you're going like the new gameplay style or not.
8.4 Very Good
Still the best soccer simulation on the market. I like the new controls and fancy dribbles;
No notable advancements over its predecessors in any of the important categories: sound, graphics, gameplay...
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