FIFA Soccer 08 Hands-On: Be A Pro mode

We strap on the shin guards and take to the field with FIFA Soccer 08's Be A Pro mode.

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As we mentioned in an earlier preview of FIFA Soccer 08, EA Sports is introducing a Madden-like Be A Superstar mode to this year's soccer offering (or to be more precise, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game). Called Be A Pro, this new mode will allow gamers to take the role of one specific player, controlling all of their actions within a match. We took Be A Pro through its paces at the Australian media launch of FIFA 08 recently, and it looks to be a great addition for those who take their football seriously.

According to EA reps, Be A Pro is all about training the legions of FIFA gamers out there how to play as an individual soccer player for the eventual introduction of full 11-on-11 online matches planned for FIFA 2010. As it stands, FIFA 08's Be A Pro mode will be limited to offline when it ships later this quarter, although EA has confirmed it will release an update which will allow 5-on-5 online matches shortly after release. The 5-on-5 mode is only planned for US and European gamers at this stage, so FIFA 08 players in other countries such as Australia will have to do with offline play.

As the Aussie FIFA 08 launch was partly to hype the fact that Australia's A-League will be included in the game, we played as Sydney FC defender Mark Rudan in our Be A Pro offline experience. Playing in Be A Pro automatically defaults the camera to a wide end-to-end shot which allows you to see your chosen player in relation to both team members and opponents on the field. In what was a neat touch, however, the camera would pan down and go right behind our player if we held the ball for longer than a few seconds. This close-up angle--which was reminiscent of the roadie run camera in Gears of War--gave a real sense of urgency to the play.

As the point of Be A Pro is to emulate what it would be like to be a real player, handy position markers popped up on screen to tell us exactly where we should be positioning our player--as Rudan is a defender, arrows pointing us back would appear every time we strayed too far into the top half of the field. Red circles would also appear underneath players we needed to mark, which occasionally ended up in hairy situations during our gameplay session as we had strayed too far away from our targets while attempting to chase the ball.

If you do feel the urge to attack or set up a play, gamers can call for the ball from their teammates using the pass button. Through balls can also be called for, although team mates did ignore our calls when we were clearly in a bad position. You can also urge one of your computer-controlled team members to take a shot for goal, although once again they won't blindly obey your instructions if they're not in an ideal scoring position.

Everything players do in Be A Pro mode will be scored (as per EA's stated goal of "training" gamers on how to be individuals). Good passing, intercepts, staying close to your marked targets, and more will earn you points. These points are tallied in an on-screen performance bar which rates your performance in the game so far--the more green on the bar, the better you're playing your position.

While we didn't see the 5-on-5 version of Be A Pro, our taste of the offline mode is making us keenly look forward to this feature (which is even more of a pity as us Australians probably won't be able to play it). FIFA 08 is slated for release in the third quarter of this year.

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