The latest edition in the long-running franchise, FIFA 2008 is arguably the finest one yet and provides further proof of the growing synergy in gameplay and graphics between the two football game heavyweights (the other being Pro Evolution Soccer).
However, where it continues to have the edge over its nearest rival is in licensing, thanks to the backing of football’s governing body, giving you the opportunity to play as your favourite club and control your favourite players. The game contains 621 licensed teams and more than 15,000 players!
Brief history of the FIFA franchise
The FIFA series was responsible for establishing the EA Sports brand across the world. Started in 1993 with FIFA International Soccer, the series took a different tack to the established Sensible Soccer by featuring a variety of views when playing (isometric, top-down, side and bird’s eye) and was an immediate success on the various 8 bit and 16 bit systems.
Thus began the annual tradition, with EA Sports churning out game after game and transferring the format from console to console. Prior to the 2008 edition, no fewer than seven instalments had been released on the PlayStation 2. With so little development in the hardware arena, the series had been criticised for becoming stagnant and, to that end, FIFA 2008 looks to break the mould.
What’s so different?
The time was certainly ripe for change. FIFA 2008 is the first opportunity EA Sports has had to utilise the power of the next generation consoles, being the first edition available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. However, saying that, the game is also available on the less powerful PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii formats (a version has also been ported for the PC, while the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS are also covered).
With the new generation comes improvements in the graphics. The FIFA series has always been renowned for the incredible visuals (often to the detriment of gameplay), and FIFA 2008 is no different. The amount of work which has gone into replicating a vast number of the world’s finest professionals is reflected in the results, and certainly gives the game a sense of authenticity. The stadiums are equally impressive, and FIFA 2008 boasts all of football’s cathedrals, such as Ashburton Grove, Old Trafford, the Camp Nou, Anfield and the San Siro.
If you are a fan of the games, you will also notice a change in the audio. As well as the usual range of adrenaline-filled tracks blaring out while scrolling through the menus, including tracks from Digitalism and Cansei de Ser Sexy, the commentary team has changed for the next generation consoles. Martin Tyler has taken over from Clive Tyldesley and now partners Andy Gray (as he does on Sky Sports).
More importantly, the gameplay has noticeably been tweaked and expanded. The flashy nature which has become FIFA’s hallmark is evident in the Pro Skills feature, which allows you to incorporate all manner of tricks and flicks in sequence. To master the game, you will have to get to grips with this very quickly, as the AI of the computer opponent and all uncontrolled players has been vastly improved. Saying that, your stock features are all retained in the shape of the lob-through ball, the full range of passing and a number of different crosses.
The goal of any football game is to provide the player with full control over the team, and FIFA has made some strides in this direction as well. The right analog stick now provides players with the ability to manually select players to control. EA Sports has pushed the ‘control’ element to the extreme with the remarkable ‘Be A Pro’ mode. As you might have guessed, this feature allows a player to select one pro on their team and control them exclusively during the entire match.
Far from just giving you the opportunity to run about looking pretty, the mode runs an extensive marking system, whereby you are judged on every single run you make and every position you take. The feature will be further enhanced when it is unleashed online, allowing as many as ten players to take control of an individual player and form a full team.
A decent multiplayer system is vital to ensuring longevity, and FIFA 2008 serves up a fairly comprehensive treatment. The Interactive Leagues now allow players to select a side and take on fellow players across the world whenever they wish (but in accordance with a set list of fixtures). The results are then uploaded and you can see your ranking, as well as compare yourself with the world’s finest. Exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, you are also able to enjoy cooperative online play.
Is it any good?
The critical reception has largely been very positive and the game was nominated for a number of IGN Awards, including Best Sports Sim, Most Realistic Real Life Sim, Best Sports Gameplay and the coveted Game of the Year trophy.
Furthermore, alongside the aforementioned innovations, the finest elements of the previous games have been retained. The various playing modes are all here in their glory, including the Manager Mode, which gives the Football Manager series a run for its money.
However, there have been a few gripes. Certain changes suffer from a lack of development, with the ‘Be A Pro’ mode seriously damaged by terrible viewing angles. In addition, neat bonus features such as the new camera angle which takes note of explosive runs towards the goal have simply not been thought out fully. Nevertheless, these are but minor quibbles relative to the strong criticisms levelled at EA Sports after FIFA 2007.
- Fifth Difficulty Level – Complete all challenges in the Challenge mode from any two zones.