FIFA Soccer 2005 Impressions

We take an up-close look at the PC version of EA Sports' next soccer game.

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The FIFA Soccer series is known the world over for its impressive breadth--the series has, in recent years, included a huge number of teams and championship tournaments in many, many different worldwide divisions. However, some critics have said that FIFA isn't number one in terms of gameplay, particularly with regard to control responsiveness and realistic give-and-go tactics. So, the FIFA team at EA Canada, which consists of some 120 staffers, has decided to focus primarily on gameplay this year, in an attempt to make a game that is highly realistic but still accessible for beginners.

To this end, all versions of FIFA 2005, as you may already have read in our previous coverage, will have a number of new gameplay features, including separately modeled body parts and what is described as "one-touch gameplay." The former feature will separately model the head, torso, and legs of each player so that players will move and react realistically on the field, rather than playing through the single, same trapping animation to grab hold of the ball. In fact, trapping and controlling the ball will be more fast-paced than in previous editions of the game, since the development team is including "one-touch" play--modeling the crucial real-world skill of both trapping and passing/moving the ball downfield with a single touch. Instead of going through lengthy trapping animations to gain control, players will instead take the ball on their insteps or shins and may perform quick fake moves to stay on top of the ball while keeping it away from defenders. Perhaps more importantly, the team has also tightened up the control scheme so that the game will be two to three times more responsive to player input than the previous game. You'll also be able to use "freestyle control" by using your right analog stick (for the PC version, you'll need a gamepad with analog sticks) to perform skill moves like overhead bicycle kicks.

The new game will also feature more-realistic player modeling, including realistic momentum. That is, the game will realistically model the movements of the ball and of players. For instance, when changing direction, players will no longer magically stop on a dime to deliver a pass or cross the ball over for a header; they'll instead twist to the side and may even fall over, as they would in real life. In addition, your teammates will be smarter about getting open on the field to receive passes; this should help make the game easier even for beginners who may not be able to place their passes well.

All versions of FIFA 2005 will also feature an enhanced career mode that will let you play through up to 30 seasons as a manager. As a manager, you'll constantly be in search of more funds (which you earn through victories) and more prestige (which you earn through winning championships and completing other goals set for you), measured on a five-star scale. The teams you can work with will be divided into specific geographical zones, but since you start off as a one-star manager, you'll begin by working with a one-star local team and will have to gradually work your way up to the top, using your handheld PDA computer to keep up with your team's progress and how happy the owner is with your work. You'll also need to hire a staff of offensive and defensive coaches, as well as medics, publicists, and other staffers to make your team successful in the long run--more money means you can afford better staff. The PC version of the game will also let you create your own custom tournament and will feature better hardware support for different gamepads. FIFA Soccer 2005 is scheduled for release on all platforms later this year.

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