Space World 2001 Hands-onFIFA 2002 Road to FIFA World Cup

We play EA Sports' first FIFA game for the GameCube.


At Nintendo's annual Space World show in Tokyo, EA Sports has its first soccer game for the GameCube on display in fully playable form. FIFA 2002: Road to FIFA World Cup is a direct port of FIFA 2002 for the PlayStation 2, and little has been changed when compared with the PS2 original.

The version of FIFA 2002 on display at Space World is listed as 90 percent complete, but there are still several aspects of the game that need to be polished. However, the gameplay is virtually complete and is already exuding a great deal of sophistication. EA Sports has implemented a new passing system for FIFA this year that is reliant upon a meter to gauge pass velocity. Passing is performed by pressing and holding the large A button on the GameCube controller. Thanks to the new interface, it's now easy to send the ball out ahead of your strikers so that they can sprint to it and make a charge in on goal. If you tap the pass button before the ball reaches your player, it's possible to perform one-touch passes for effective give-and-go plays. Shooting the ball is accomplished with the X button, and similar to the passing mechanics, a meter is used to control the strength of the shot. The longer you hold the shoot button, the more velocity your strikers will put on the ball. Aiming shots is extremely accurate, making it easy to choose your spot and put it in the net. Lobs are accomplished by pressing the B button, and they come in handy when attempting to loft the ball over the last line of defenders. New animations for slide tackles, which are triggered by pressing the B button, have been implemented. Referees are generous when handing out both yellow and red cards for any slide tackles performed from illegal angles. Anyone who's played past installments in the FIFA franchise knows the importance of the turbo button, and accelerated running in FIFA 2002 for the GameCube is accomplished with the Y button. The PS2 version of FIFA 2002 we saw back in July had some issues with player running speed, and this appears to have been fixed in the GameCube version.

FIFA 2002 will be the most feature-rich soccer game to arrive on video game consoles thus far, and the GameCube version is no different. In addition to an extensive World Cup 2002 qualifying mode, FIFA 2002 also features friendly play for up to four players, a full season mode, a training mode to teach you the finer points of the gameplay, and a custom option that allows you to create players, teams, and leagues. You may even use your created players and teams in the season and friendly modes. The only playable mode in the version on display at Space World is the exhibition mode, and attendees were able to go head-to-head in multiplayer competition. There will be more than 500 teams spanning 16 leagues in the final version of FIFA 2002, but there were just two teams to choose from in the Space World demo. Plenty of extras such as pop-up windows that recommend substitutions and a reward system that unlocks hidden secrets round out FIFA's rather healthy set of gameplay features.

From a graphical perspective, the GameCube version of FIFA 2002 looks very similar to the PlayStation 2 version. The only upgrades thus far are drastically improved stadium crowds and field textures that better demonstrate the pitch being chewed up as a match progresses. The player models have gone unchanged, but they are extremely accurate in body size, facial textures, and hairstyles. Players also feature fully animated faces that are shown off in stunning cinemas following goals and fouls. As with past FIFA games, the animation routines in FIFA 2002 are both varied and smooth. A small radar window is located at the bottom of the screen to help you track your players across the pitch. Save for the lack of a graphical upgrade when compared with the PlayStation 2 version, the only other issue with FIFA 2002's graphics is its erratic frame rate. It plays smoothly when the camera is panned in, but during especially long passes that sail high into the air, the game has a tendency to chug. Hopefully this is what the extra 10 percent of development time remaining will be used to correct.

It's too loud at Space World to hear the sound included in Road to FIFA World Cup, but the final game will include tracks from the popular UK dance label Ministry of Sound, stadium-specific crowd chants, and several commentators who will play off each other's statements.

One issue that should be noted is that the current version of EA Sports' first soccer game for the GameCube includes some lengthy load times, especially when compared with the other GameCube games on display, which feature virtually no load times at all. Hopefully this, too, will be remedied by the time the game is released. FIFA 2002: Road to FIFA World Cup will be released shortly after the launch of the GameCube in November.

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