The years are becoming increasingly unkind to the original PlayStation. While it still sees a surprising number of releases for a console that's around seven years old, the PlayStation versions of multiplatform games can differ quite a bit in terms of extra features and production values. 2002 FIFA World Cup 2002 for the PlayStation, the latest in EA Sports' critically acclaimed soccer series, attempts to deliver all of the complexities and features of its other console counterparts. And while the gameplay is still as entertaining as ever, the game just lacks too many secondary features--both in comparison with FIFA 2002 and even with other versions of 2002 FIFA World Cup--to make it worthwhile for anyone but the biggest World Cup fan.
There are two match types in 2002 FIFA World Cup: "friendly" and World Cup tournament. That's it. The friendly mode lets you select the two teams, and if you go into the options menu, you can select the stadium and time of day. Like with its real-life counterpart, the World Cup tournament mode is set up so that teams (including the one you select) are placed into one of several groups. Within this group, your team will compete in a series of matches to try to win enough points to advance to the single-elimination stages of the tournament and eventually to the championship.
The gameplay in 2002 FIFA World Cup is largely the same as the gameplay in FIFA 2002, so if you've played that game, then you should be able to jump right in. But if you haven't played FIFA in the last few years, then you'll be surprised by some of the changes made to the series. The most obvious is that crosses are no longer simply a matter of performing a lob pass near the goal. You actually have to slow down, gauge where your teammates are in relation to the goal, and then pass to the player whom you think has the potential to make the shot. In the PlayStation version of 2002 FIFA World Cup, you don't have to worry about putting spin on the ball--as you do in the other console versions of the game--but passing is still more complicated than it has been in previous FIFA games, and it does an excellent job of slowing the pace of the game to a point where it mimics the flow of real-life soccer.
Even simple tasks such as ground passes and shots on goal require a little more strategy now, because the strength of the pass or shot--which is shown in the meter at the bottom of the screen--is determined by how long you hold down the corresponding button. Headers, quick shots, and other comparable maneuvers function in a similar fashion. These smaller changes to the gameplay make 2002 FIFA World Cup feel more like a pure simulation as opposed to a simple soccer game. Indeed, while the strategy in previous FIFA games focused mainly on the cross-field pass, 2002 FIFA World Cup relies more on the ground game, which include quick give-and-go passes and dribbling skills. Crosses are there if you want to use them, but they're no longer necessary for dominating a match.
And despite the relative complexity of the controls, you may find that you'll quickly be dominating your matches. With the exception of the hardest level, most of the difficulty settings in 2002 FIFA World Cup really aren't that challenging, and it doesn't really seem like there's a significant difference in the toughness of the AI from one setting to the next. This is unfortunate, because you won't be prepared for the sudden onslaught that occurs when you play your first game on the highest difficulty level. After some time, the computer's basic strategy and its failings will become apparent, and you'll eventually be able to exploit them--it just takes a little longer in the toughest setting than it does in the others. It's also worth noting that in the default settings, referees don't hand out nearly as many cards as they should. In fact, you can attack the ball handler with the intent of doing harm to him throughout the match and still not receive a significant number of cards. Thankfully, this can be adjusted in the game's option menu, but you might have a hard time adjusting the referee sensitivity so that it closely resembles what happens in the actual sport. At any rate, with some practice, you'll be able to get through the championship pretty quickly, and while you can unlock additional features, like new teams, by winning the championship with different nations, most of the replay value of 2002 FIFA World Cup will come from playing against your friends.
For hardware that's seven years old, the PlayStation makes a worthy attempt at trying to re-create the drama of a soccer match. The stadiums all look pretty good, but they lack the lively crowds and generally have a flat appearance. As expected, the player models aren't incredibly detailed, and many of the same character models are used repeatedly for players on each team. However, they still look solid, and the jerseys are all surprisingly accurate.
Commentary is once again provided by John Motsen and Andy Gray, who both deliver a variety of lines over the course of a match. However, as you progress through the tournament, or play multiple games, you'll notice that some lines are repeated much more often than others. The real attraction of 2002 FIFA World Cup's sound are the stadium noises, such as the country-specific chants and the chatter between players, which do an excellent job of replicating what it's like to be at a soccer game.
The game doesn't have as many extra features as its counterpart, FIFA 2002, and the only thing it really has going for it is the exclusive Korea/Japan World Cup license. The game even lacks many of the extras (like the numerous videos) found in other versions of 2002 FIFA World Cup. In any case, the bottom line is that FIFA 2002 is still the better soccer game for the PlayStation--unless you're a World Cup fanatic.