While the battle between FIFA and Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution Soccer is closely fought in the UK, it seems like FIFA has trouble even getting a look in Japan At press day at this year's Tokyo Game Show, you face a wait of more than 20 minutes to play on one of the many Pro Evo 2008 machines, while at the Sony PlayStation stand, you can walk up and easily secure a place on a single FIFA 08 console. From what we played though, it was Japan's loss because FIFA 08 offers a very playable game of football.
We played a couple of games at the stand, one as AC Milan and another as Barcelona, against a couple of different demonstrators who were manning the booth. And despite losing the first game 2-0, we have to say that we still enjoyed our two 10-minute matches. The game feels tighter this year, with fewer fouls and penalties resulting in a very flowing game. Having said that, the referee seemed to be missing from the pitch, so maybe this is one of the last features waiting to be dropped into the game.
We already covered the new features of FIFA 08 in some depth at the Leipzig Game Convention, so this was really a chance to accustom ourselves with the gameplay itself. The animation system is as polished as ever, meaning that these sporting gods move in an incredibly realistic fashion. The effectiveness of sliding tackles seems to have been toned down, and we had more luck bringing two defenders onto opposing players instead.
Arguably the most fun we had was toying around with the trick system, which is mapped to the L2 button and the right analog stick. Players now perform advanced moves with even more finesse than in previous games, and depending on their skill level, they can now be used to cut swathes through the midfield. Exceptional players, such as Barcelona's Ronaldinho, are able to perform signature moves and feints. They also seemed to be more successful at doing them at speed.
Visually, the game is looking very polished, with the best player likenesses seen in any football game yet. In particular, the cloth deformation looked extremely realistic, while the kits and billboards naturally boasted all the correct sponsorship information.
We would have loved to see more of the modes in the latest FIFA, but with the game hitting the streets at the end of September, we won't have long to wait to play the finished thing. Will it be the football game to play through 2008? We look forward to finding out.