Overall Good Soccer Sim!
You can't talk about FIFA Soccer 2003 without first explaining the impressive control you have on the field. The physics have been completely redone, and everything from the way your player moves to how he interacts with the ball feels amazing. There's a tangible sensation of momentum that forces you to play in a realistic fashion. The ball seems to have its own identity, and it must be controlled as carefully as your player's movements. The A.I. of teammates and opponents is also smarter, so the action mirrors the way soccer is really played. Of the games that feature EA Sports' Freestyle stick, FIFA feels the least gimmicky since it uses it sparingly and in intuitive ways. There are no outlandishly overpowered juke moves that alter the balance here.
FIFA 2003 doesn't employ as many buttons as other sports titles, so the controls aren't drastically altered from console to console. The only noticeable drawback is a result of the shape of the GameCube's C Stick, which causes your thumb to slip for easy mistakes.
World Stage, World Groove
The graphics have also received a major facelift and sport some very good player likeness, although some lesser known teams have received short shrift. Player animations are graceful and flow smoothly from move to move. Frame rate was a problem for the PS2 version last year, but it's consistently jitter free this time out. The Xbox and GameCube versions also run smoothly and look graphically identical to the PlayStation 2's.
Play-by-play commentary is solid, and the music selection is packed with catchy world dance beat grooves. The wide variety of crowd chants is well done as are the various field sound effects. Audio quality across the three consoles is relatively uniform, but the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube games are a touch louder at the default volume setting than the Xbox version.
Soccer fans may have felt like they were getting soaked last year, having to buy the standard edition of FIFA and then a few months later buying a mildly updated, feature-starved World Cup edition. FIFA 2003 has the standard range of features fans of the series have come to expect, even if the various season and tournament modes don't give you as many player or club customization options as you'd like. Games like Virtua Striker for the GameCube have shown that a high degree of control is a perfect match for crazed soccer followers. Even with the vast selection of teams, there are bound to be countries and clubs that are left out, making a create-a-team and create-a-player function a sorely needed feature here. Nitpicking aside, the selection of clubs is satisfyingly diverse. The sheer number of possible dream matchups is worth the price of admission alone.
FIFA Soccer 2003 is such a tremendous effort that any gripes about features can be forgiven. This is a high watermark for the series that warrants an immediate purchase.