Soccer has never played better on the Sega Saturn than with FIFA 98. Loaded with control and play options, realistic physics and graphics, and great - if occasionally delayed - commentary, FIFA 98 is a blast as a single-player or multiplayer game. Its few flaws are easily overlooked, especially when you're in the middle of a tight head-to-head match.
The game is packed with control possibilities. From short, quick passes to long lobs across the field, from sprints to hops and flick-passes to yourself, from vicious slide tackles and clipping to hip checks and flying elbows, everything is there in one or two touches of a button. In addition, there is an option to enable special moves such as 360s and sudden jogs as well as combinations.
It can take hours to realize all the control options, but the basics can be mastered in a matter of minutes. Generous AI support is made to nonballcarriers. That is to say, when you pass the ball, you only need to point very generally in the direction of a teammate, and the CPU makes sure it goes right to him. Right out of the box you can play a fairly competitive game since control is so intuitive. If you don't want to get into pass backs, headers, or short flick-passes to yourself, don't. Just run, pass, and shoot.
FIFA 98's graphics are very fast, with no pop-up or slowdown. The motion-captured players move very realistically and texturally are fairly smooth, although at a distance they really start to break up. Occasionally the ball is a little hard to see if it's in the midst of a ton of players. In general, though, animations are pretty fluid. Sound is standard sporting fare, but the commentary is excellent. Always insightful, it provides a thorough analysis of play and is never repetitive, unlike a lot of sports gaming commentary. Unlike versions of FIFA 98 on other systems, however, occasionally the people do lag behind the play a little. If you score a goal in the first 15 seconds of the game, rather than jumping out of their seats and hollering about the speed with which the first team scored, the announcers will still be talking about "what to expect from today's big match."
Five different play modes are available, ranging from individual friendly matches, to worldwide league play in the pursuit of the World Cup, to penalty kick shootouts. As would be expected, multiplayer games can be played on the same or opposing teams. The game is also loaded with customization options, from whole squads and trades to individual players' stats.
EA Sports has rewritten the book on console soccer gaming. The sheer number of play and control options combined with the fluid animations and motion captures make for a solid soccer title. Electronic Arts has proven that in sports games, depth of play doesn't necessarily demand difficult interfaces or slow play mechanics.