FIFA Soccer 08 Hands-On

We check out a work-in-progress version of EA Sports' upcoming soccer game for the Wii.

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During its recent pre-E3 press event in Los Angeles, Electronic Arts showed off playable versions of a number of its upcoming games for the first time. Among them was the Nintendo Wii version of FIFA Soccer 08 which, as you'll already know if you read last month's interview with the game's producer, promises to introduce a number of new features and a very different control scheme to the series.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

The first thing we noticed when kicking off against a member of the development team was that the default camera is now vertical rather than horizontal. It's been a while since any soccer games of note tasked you with scoring goals at the top or bottom of the screen rather than the left or right, but the perspective makes sense in this case, particularly if you're using the optional gesture-based control system.

FIFA Soccer 08 will support a number of different control setups, and regardless of how experienced you are with the series or which Wii peripherals you own, you should be able to find one that suits you. For newcomers, EA's new "Family Play" mode--which will feature in a number of EA Sports games this year--will let you play a part in the action by controlling passes and shots without having to concern yourself with player movement. A more traditional control scheme is also available via the Wii Remote but, when you plug in the Nunchuk controller--which you can do at any point during gameplay--you'll automatically activate the new gesture system.

The gesture system isn't as crazy as some of the Wii-specific control setups that we've seen, but it definitely takes a while to get used to. The Nunchuk's analog stick is used for player movement, but when passing or shooting you have to jerk the Wii Remote in the direction that you want the ball to travel. This makes it quite easy to pass the ball in directions other than that which your player who has possession is facing, but no more so than, say, a second analog stick would. The Wii Remote's buttons are used as modifiers to determine whether you kick the ball along the ground or through the air, and when you're on defense you'll be using the buttons to perform tackles while jerking the Wii Remote to change players. Set pieces such as free kicks and throw-ins employ some slightly more elaborate gestures, which will be demonstrated to you via a small onscreen diagram each time you need to use them. At this point you can choose to try out the gesture in a brief tutorial if you wish, which we'd certainly recommend before trying to take a throw-in by holding both controllers behind your head for the first time.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

Although much has been made of the Wii version of FIFA Soccer 08's minigames and Mii features, we should point out that the main game really isn't that different to previous entries in the series. There are still more than 30 licensed leagues from around the world, and although the player likenesses and uniforms aren't as detailed as those on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3, they're still in there. Having your Mii's face pop up on the screen when you successfully perform gestures or score a goal is a nice Wii touch, and it certainly doesn't interfere with the game's otherwise authentic feel.

The aforementioned minigames, as well as most of the Mii features, are found in the "Footii" party mode, which comprises three soccer-themed minigames. The Keep Up and Boot It minigames weren't shown at the event, but we had an opportunity to check out the table football game (or foosball, if you prefer), and we're pretty impressed with what we saw. There were clearly a number of different tables (presumably with different player formations) to unlock, but the only table we saw was a pretty standard one on which both players had two defensive and two offensive bars. You'll control defense with one hand and offense with the other and, although we didn't get to play ourselves, we can report that movements that other players were using looked no different to those that you'd use if you were standing at a foosball table.

FIFA Soccer 08 is currently scheduled for release this fall. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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