To say that FIFA Soccer 96 is the best-ever soccer simulation for the PC is like saying that Sergei Bubka is the greatest pole-vaulter in history. They're both very good, but there's really nothing out there to measure them against. Soccer sims have never been a big deal in the American market, and FIFA's only real competition comes from football products that are rarely available outside of Europe, and thus not an option for most U.S. players. But don't think FIFA Soccer '96 gets its good score by default. Quite the contrary; FIFA Soccer '96 is one of the most enjoyable PC sports titles available. Although the kick-and-run style may grate on the most self-important soccer enthusiasts, you still have enough control to put together some fairly complex goal-scoring plays. EA's Virtual Stadium graphic technology works well, providing a convincing feeling of being right in the stadium on game day. Cheering crowds (with different chants depending on your opponent), realistic weather and pitch, and the hilarious play-by-play of renowned soccer commentator John Motson (What a cheeky little play!) combine to give you an adrenaline-pumping, in-the-heart-of-the-action gaming sensation. EA brags about the player animations, and deservedly so; they really are quite incredible. You can easily execute jumping headers, bicycle kicks and other moves you've only dreamed of before. And there are plenty of venues to showcase these skills. The 300 teams from around the world have their own discernible strengths and weaknesses, and they can be arranged into custom leagues or World Cup tourneys for some intense international matchups.
Even with the league features, FIFA Soccer '96 might ultimately be viewed as too simplistic for real soccer strategy junkies, who'd probably prefer a text-based player management simulation anyway. But as John Motson might say, for the rest of us, it's one cheeky little game.