Earlier today we paid a visit to Electronic Arts' E3 booth to get hands-on with the PlayStation 2 version of FIFA Soccer 2005. The demo pitted Italy's AC Milan against England's Arsenal and, on this occasion, GameSpot against one of EA's UK-based representatives.
As has long been the case with the FIFA series, it's difficult not to be impressed by the game's visuals the first time you play it. Every single one of the players in the E3 demo was instantly recognizable long before we noticed the names on the back of their uniforms, and Arsenal's Highbury Stadium not only was accurately re-created but was also placed in surroundings that looked equally authentic. Incidentally, an Xbox version of FIFA Soccer 2005 was also on display at EA's booth, and it was pretty tough to differentiate between the visuals of the two.
EA's focus with FIFA Soccer 2004 was on "off-the-ball" play, but this year it is concentrating on "on-the-ball" play, although the features implemented last year are still present and have, in many cases, been refined somewhat. With the new on-the-ball skills at our disposal, we found that particularly skillful players such as Arsenal's Thierry Henry were able to perform swivels and turns quickly and easily and also exhibited great first-touch control when balls were passed to them, no matter what height they arrived at. The flip side, though, was that when our opponents were in possession of the ball it seemed unusually difficult to get the ball from them, or even to keep up with them. We mentioned the seemingly sluggish defense controls to the EA representative we were playing against and were told, believe it or not, that the E3 version of the game was deliberately weighted in the attacking side's favor so that showgoers wouldn't have too much difficulty scoring goals. Attacking in the game was also made easier by the fact that pressing the L1 button when in possession of the ball would invariably send another of our players on a near-perfect run forward, thus requiring us to do little more than deliver a nicely weighted pass at the right moment to create a scoring opportunity.
We didn't get to see any of the game's other new features (as covered in our preshow impressions) in action, which was unfortunate since we would have particularly liked to see some of the weather effects being implemented that were so conspicuous by their absence in last year's game. We'll bring you more information on FIFA Soccer 2005 as soon as it becomes available.