FIFA 2002 for the PlayStation 2 is EA's latest and possibly greatest attempt at enjoyably re-creating the game of soccer. Not one to be left too far behind, the PlayStation 1 has been given its own version of FIFA 2002, and considering the hardware, it is pretty impressive. Previous entries in the internationally popular franchise favored arcadelike gameplay and encouraged button-mashing contests. Gone are the days when your team of choice could score a dozen goals a period, performing incredible crosses at will. Instead, EA has decided to convert its popular franchise into a more simulation-oriented game, and the results are definitely pleasing. With the addition of enhanced graphics, as well as an all-new passing system, fans of soccer will find that this latest FIFA game is the most challenging, most realistic, and also the greatest yet.
FIFA 2002 is a visually capable title, with nicely rendered character models. The player models look good, and they're best appreciated when in motion, performing particularly deft motions or stumbling after receiving a tackle. The audience, although composed of flat textures mainly composed of arms, look fairly decent when they wave frantically after a scored goal. Considering the dated PlayStation hardware, the game has an overall polished look and performs admirably. Several camera angles are available, some more functional than the other more attractive ones that showcase the graphics, but the choices available are satisfying. Each camera angle can be further modified for height and zoom, ensuring that you always get the perfect view of the pitch. FIFA 2002 has a slick interface, and the menus are simple to navigate.
Perhaps the most noticeable change made to the way one plays FIFA is the more realistic gameplay. In this renovated passing scheme, instead of simply using directional passing, players must now deal with the strength of passes, as well as the trajectory, by varying the length of time that the pass or lob buttons are pressed. Mastering this type of control is essential to success because the passes lead the players they're intended for rather than heading toward the players' current location. Therefore, accurate passers will be able to gauge which teammates will be able to make a through run and send the ball ahead of them properly enough to get it in their control. This change to the gameplay takes last year's shot power gauge one step further and forces you to pay attention to every ball movement. Slide tackles are a much riskier endeavor now than ever before, but properly completing them has also become much more satisfying. They are less effective than in last year's game, and the refs will not flinch at handing out the penalty cards. Defensive play is thus now challenging and fun, made more so by the in-game tactics options that let you call traps and presses on the fly. The strategic player will appreciate set piece plays that can be used in dead ball situations and can come in particularly handy to create two-on-one situations and great scoring opportunities. Ball control is just as important as positioning now, as players are more limited by fatigue and well-duplicated human error. The AI will second-guess a scoring attempt if your defense is set up properly, and the wise player will do the same conversely. The AI steps up and usually plays a very good match, so there's a true sense of reward for every goal scored. What these gameplay changes amount to is a slightly lower scoring game, but also a much more satisfying simulation of real-life soccer.
Those looking for a multitude of options in their sporting games will find that FIFA offers a wide selection of game modes to satisfy. In addition to playing a friendly match, you can take on the world in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier tournament or start a season with your favorite team. The FIFA World Cup pits national teams against each other in elimination matches that lead toward the coveted cup. Playing as France, Korea, or Japan will allow you to also select to play through their actual friendly schedule, where the challenge is to maintain their current world ranking or improve upon it. In the season mode, one of the hundreds of teams from 13 leagues is chosen to play through an entire season, with the league championship, the World Cup, and the European Cup all up for grabs. If this sort of time investment seems like too much, a tournament can be played for the European Champion's Cup or the EFA trophy, with more to unlock by defeating opponents in the World Cup mode. You can also create a custom cup with the elimination parameters you so desire. FIFA 2002 lets you customize your experience if it feels stale, including options for the editing of player appearances, skills, and team uniforms. For an even bolder move, you can trade players between teams or sell them off for money. Managing a team indirectly is nearly as important as playing the game, as you are expected to closely direct formations, lineups, substitutions, strategies, and kick takers. As a reward for doing well in the FIFA World Cup Tournament, you're rewarded by unlocking cheats, which can help motivate those players having a tough time against the formidable AI.
The audio features in FIFA 2002 match up well with the solid graphics and addictive gameplay. Returning are play-by-play commentators John Motsen and Andy Gray, providing a capable and often entertaining discourse throughout the matches. The commentary is often fresh, rarely repetitive, and very well timed with the course of the game. The crowd will add its contribution to the audible experience with clapping and cheering noises. Thirteen excellent, energetic electronica tracks set a vibrant pace to the action, courtesy of BT, Ministry of Sound, Gorillaz, and many others. The music may not be suitable to the tastes of many, but anyone who enjoys upbeat dance tracks should find something here worth listening to.
The PlayStation version of FIFA 2002 doesn't quite have all the features available on the PlayStation 2, but it makes a solid case for an investment on its own. The gameplay is tight, the game looks really good, and it presents enough of a challenge to tie up a soccer enthusiast until the wee hours of the morning. While die-hard fans of Konami's international hits ISS Pro Evolution and Winning Eleven may not find that the renovated gameplay is as realistic as those found in other titles, it would be hard to argue that FIFA 2002 is not in itself an enjoyable and fairly accurate representation of their favored sport. FIFA 2001 was a technically sound, albeit arcade-style soccer game, but those players willing to spend the money on an upgrade should find that the positive additions made to the series in 2002 are substantial and well worth the expense. Those fans still getting their money's worth out of the PlayStation hardware will find that this latest FIFA game is quite possibly the most challenging to master, but the rewards you reap for doing so make it quite worth the effort.