When the soccer-on-the-brain Brits at GameSpot UK gave the PC version of FIFA 99 a score of 11 - out of 10 - it surely caused many gamers to set high expectations for the console ports of EA Sports' venerable franchise. While it can't match the PC in terms of graphics, the PlayStation version of FIFA 99 stands out as a soccer game that plays fast and looks good doing it.
The FIFA series on the PlayStation has made continuous strides to improve frame rate and game speed; FIFA 99 seems to have made the greatest leaps in this category. The default speed is very easy on the eyes, and when the gameplay speed is cranked to fastest, it still runs smoothly. Bottom line: no choppy animation, no sluggish player control... no complaints. It's a far cry from the PlayStation's FIFA days of (relative) old.
Visually, the game has its slight drawbacks. Up close, players look somewhat blocky and reveal the occasional polygon flicker. In some far-away camera views, the field textures show cracks. Fortunately, these cosmetic blemishes are hardly noticeable, thanks to the very realistic and eye-pleasing player animations such as when goals are missed or scored.
Like earlier FIFA titles, this game comes fully loaded with options. It boasts all the key international soccer leagues, teams, and players, along with the ability to customize anything from cup tournaments to the colors on a player's sock. This game's in-depth team strategies remain intact for players keen on coaching as well as playing. FIFA 99 also introduces two smart playing modes that will surely appeal to soccer fans. The first is a European dream league mode that pits the best teams from the various leagues against each other. The second is a golden goal mode that sets a goal limit between two teams. The latter option is a surprisingly great multiplayer mode since it kills the clock - it's odd no one thought of this before.
Once again, EA Sports tapped into the alt-rock realm to spruce up a soccer game, this time recruiting Fatboy Slim's "Rockafeller Skank" as the game's theme song. The various song tracks, along with accurately timed two-person play-by-play commentary, make FIFA 99 an enjoyable listening experience.
FIFA 99's main shortcomings are, for the most part, fixable, thanks to the game's wealth of options. The most glaring hole (at least for US gamers) will likely be the "fake" US league play with non-Major League Soccer teams and players. Granted, EA Sports doesn't own the rights to MLS, but it seems awfully cheesy when generic US teams have to duke it out in Istanbul or Paris. Fortunately, there's a partial fix for die-hard MLS fans: Use the team and player edit modes to rename the teams and players, and change their uniform colors. Another small blemish is the default difficulty, which seems a shade too easy, even for beginners. You should set the difficulty to professional to get the most realistic feel in terms of AI. Another AI gripe is that computer teammates usually play conservatively to a fault. Don't expect them to chase after loose balls or foul hard on their own, even after setting aggressive offense/defense team strategies.
It'll be a couple years until the next World Cup, but FIFA 99 surely packs enough punch to keep soccer fans satisfied in the meantime. While not completely perfect, it's deep on options, packed with real teams and players, and presented with a slick interface. This makes it arguably the best soccer game to date for the PlayStation.