FIFA Soccer 64 is EA Sports' highly-anticipated foray into the mighty N64 universe. But like EA's initial, stumbling Super Nintendo titles, FIFA Soccer 64 is plagued by confusion, recycled designs, and hampered execution.
The play mechanics of FIFA Soccer 64 should be familiar: get the ball, pass, score, repeat. Getting started is surprisingly easy - select a game option (friendly "exhibition," playoff, tournament, or league); pick the play mode (action, simulation, or arcade); choose your team (from over 150 in five different leagues); and start playing. The fresh features the original FIFA introduced to the genre, such as multiple camera angles, a killer soundtrack, and vast quantities of animation, are all present in this version. EA has, however, upped the ante by combining these features with elaborated play controls. These new controls let you clear the ball after a goal attempt, execute a variety of tackles, and perform new moves and kicks on the ball (more than in any previous FIFA game). Even with two control options ("Semi Pro" and "Complex"), mastering the commands takes a lot of time - meaning that, at least initially, most players will probably stick to the basics.
It's fair to expect a lot graphically from an N64 title. While the graphics in this version look better than those of the PlayStation version, the improvements are not that significant. In fact, the animation isn't even as good as the PlayStation's - while it's crisp in parts, it is nowhere near as fluid. The game's camera angles provide a wide variety of perspectives, but many are imperfect and cause slowdown. In terms of audio, FIFA Soccer 64 offers a lot in the way of play-by-play commentary, but the soundtrack lacks the thunder of the earthshaking 3DO version. Simply put, in terms of presentation this is not the best EA Sports has done.
These points of contention aside, is this game any fun? The answer is a simple "Yes." If you can get past the cumbersome gameplay (something in the play control just doesn't feel smooth), the one-player mode against the computer proves to be quite a challenge. Add in a four-player mode, and this title boasts a goodly amount of OK gameplay. If you like soccer, it almost beats lacing up your cleats and eating orange slices in the damp morning grass at halftime. But the same can be said for the most recent PlayStation version, and when it comes down to it, more should be expected of an N64 game, especially from EA Sports.