Internationally, FIFA 2001 on the PS2 is easily the most anticipated EA Sports title. FIFA 2001 will mark the first time the renowned soccer series has appeared on a next-generation console, and while this year's effort on the PlayStation was a tired rehash of last year's brilliant game, the PS2 version of FIFA is an entirely different matter. FIFA 2001 on the PlayStation 2 is nothing short of stunning, and while it may not be as graphically impressive as its PC counterpart, the PS2 version of FIFA 2001 is the best console soccer game available.
FIFA 2001 includes all the standard game modes from the FIFA series. You'll be able to play a quick and friendly exhibition or take the team of your choice through a complete season. Glory seekers will be able to jump directly to actual tournaments, and you'll even be able to construct custom tournaments. The game also offers a training mode, as well as complete create-a-player and create-a-team modes. Unfortunately, all of these game modes are buried under a clunky and poorly designed interface that makes it needlessly difficult to access all the game's options. The game packs plenty of value this time around, with 17 national leagues ranging from soccer powerhouses like the leagues in England and Brazil to lesser leagues like those found in Israel and Norway. The teams of the MLS and 60 international sides complement the international leagues, making for hundreds of playable teams, each with its own stats, strategies, tactics, and accurately modeled players.
The game really struts its stuff on the field. The gameplay in this year's offering is classic FIFA, and it features plenty of depth and a very intuitive control scheme. The game takes advantage of every button on the PS2's controller, and the control scheme should appeal to both long-time FIFA veterans and those new to the series. Offense and defense are both controlled through the four primary buttons on the pad, while more advanced maneuvers and in-game strategies can be executed through the shoulder buttons. Using different combinations of these buttons will allow you to execute complex passing routines, difficult goal shots, and flashy maneuvers. Passing in the game is once again performed through the passing indicator icon - a reticle that highlights both the pass target and the estimated reliability of the pass. Icon passing and defending from corner kicks and penalty locations are alive and well in this year's game, and the penalty kick layouts have been improved. A new feature in this year's game is a striking-power gauge that appears when you attempt a shot on goal. This gauge is similar to the one found in EA Sports' NHL series - the gauge quickly fills as you hold down the shoot button, and it will eventually turn red if held long enough. A full bar translates into a quick and powerful shot, but a red bar is a wild and inaccurate shot. This new scheme brings more strategy into shooting, and it gives goaltenders a better chance against solo strikers.
This year's game boasts the most advanced AI the series has seen. The computer controls the offense and defense of teams in exactly the manner the team's coach would. Less talented defenses rely on penalties and the offside trap, while powerful offensive lines plan their attacks and deliver the ball to speedy strikers. Defenders will work offenses and disrupt passing lines without overcommitting, while forwards and wings will rush the box and try to retain possession during the attack. The game features three different difficulty levels, and each level raises the ruthlessness of the AI in classic FIFA fashion. The lowest setting is a little too easy for returning FIFA players, but the next two settings are sure to smash the confidence of everyone but the hardened pros. Unfortunately, the AI in FIFA 2001 still suffers from a few glaring flaws. Goaltenders will occasionally defy gravity and physics to make amazing saves, and defenders will sometimes forget to claim a loose ball after a harrowing save. Still, FIFA 2001 easily flaunts the most complete and accurate AI yet.
While not as refined or detailed as the graphics found in the PC version, the graphics in the PS2 version of FIFA 2001 are still the most amazing that you'll find in a console soccer game. The players in the PS2 version of FIFA 2001 are all appropriately detailed, from proportional body sizes to extremely accurate faces and hair. The stadiums and their pitches are all realistically drawn, and they add to the realism of the game. One of the most impressive aspects of the game's graphical package is its animation. FIFA 2001 sports plenty of new motion-captured animations, and the work really stands out. The players move and react in a very convincing manner, with silky smooth animations that seamless flow from one set to the next. Between plays, the game cuts to instant replays, player reactions, and close-up shots quite often, and it uses a very stylish broadcasting-inspired technique to spice up the transfers. It's in these sequences that you can really see the painstaking amount of detail in every player model - animated hair, faces, and mouths make the in-game cutscenes extremely realistic, and they up the graphical standard of the series.
EA Sports continues the long tradition of securing prominent musical contributors for FIFA's soundtrack this year, and FIFA 2001 features tracks from Moby and the Utah Saints blaring behind the in-game menus. Like its PC and PS counterparts, the PS2 version of FIFA 2001 marks a return to the commentary that made the series by ousting last year's Schoen and Foudy and placing the play-by-play back in the hands of popular BBC commentator John Motson. Motson brings his usual barrage of British wit to the game, and he helps sort out the action with some excellent timing. Motson is joined this year by controversial BBC color commentator Mark Lawrenson, who provides very few lines and might as well not be in the game at all. The game has plenty of audio effects, from ball-handling sound effects to accurate crowd reactions.
FIFA 2001 isn't flawless, but the game is extremely well rounded and it excels in every category. The game follows in the footsteps of last year's amazing game and sets new graphical and gameplay standards for the series. And though FIFA 2001 leaves plenty of room for improvement in the future, this game is an excellent first effort on the PS2 and it offers some of the best soccer available on a console.