GC '07: FIFA 08 Hands-On

Having already played the PlayStation 2 version a couple of weeks ago, we took the chance at Leipzig to play the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of FIFA 08 for the first time.

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LEIPZIG, Germany--Given Leipzig's prominent European agenda, it's only fitting that two of the biggest games on show should be football games. Mere hours into the show's opening, the Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 and FIFA 08 demo areas were easily the best attended of the floor. Even ahead of the show's main opening to the public, we still had to wait and fight for a go ourselves. Luckily though, we were able to put both games to the test on a number of consoles, with EA's totally revamped effort playable on the Xbox 360 and--for the first time-- the PlayStation 3.

It's pretty much a given that EA's FIFA series is so polished you can nearly see your face in it. However, this year, the incidental details are almost so many that they become throwaway. For example, take the incredibly detailed cloth deformation on the players as they move: This is something that really only becomes apparent at the end of a match as you see them running off the pitch. The training mode that entertains while the game is loading also remains in the game this year, as do the mountains of official players, kits, and stadiums. The player likenesses are better than ever, but this time, the roster has been updated to include 30 worldwide leagues, 515 teams, and 15,000 players.

The big change for FIFA in terms of gameplay is the way that the artificial intelligence players adapt to what's going on in the game. Instead of depending on the script-based logic of before, each of the 21 computer-controlled players makes over 1,000 decisions per second depending on what's happening around them. That's over 35 times more CPU power than was used in FIFAs on previous-generation hardware. EA Sports says that the system is so sophisticated that it can even adapt to your style of play. So whether you play a direct passing game or a flashier, more continental approach, your players should be able to move accordingly.

But other technological achievements have been made in the latest FIFA aside from the AI. First of all, the game runs in 60 frames per second on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, an issue which caused quite a controversy with EA Sports' recent Madden release. Secondly, 10 people will be able to play against each other online for the first time, and they'll either be able to control a specific man of their choice or swap between players on the fly. The developer says that this is the start of a plan to have full 20-player support by the time FIFA 2010 comes around because it's a feature that fans have been demanding for some time.

In the meantime, FIFA addicts will have to console themselves with the wealth of new advanced moves that can be pulled off with the L2 or left trigger button. The modifier, which is called pace control, allows players to slow down then pull off a number of fakes and shimmies, while more famous players will also pull off signature moves. EA Sports is remaining quiet about many of these moves so that players can discover them for themselves, but we did manage to run riot with Ronaldinho in the training mode. Arguably one of the most gifted players in the real-life world, the Brazilian was able to pull off some impressive moves with a combination of fairly simple button presses. On our first try, we were able to flick the ball over our shoulder and volley it into the goal. Just to taunt the goalkeeper, we also threw in a quick bout of keep-up. Players who manage to perform some spectacular goals in this way will find that they can save the replays and upload up to five online to show their friends or just humiliate their opponents.

There's no doubt plenty more to be seen of FIFA 08 before its UK release in September (October in the US), so keep an eye on GameSpot for more on the game in the run-up to release.

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