EA Sports is synonymous with killer sports games. With titles like Madden Football 97, Triple Play Baseball 97, and NBA Live 97, EA has led the way in the sports gaming world. And true to form, EA's latest release, FIFA Soccer 97, does not disappoint.
FIFA Soccer 97 comes fully equipped with the options and flash you've come to expect: over 4,200 real players from 12 International Leagues; full play-by-play from three international commentators: John Motson, Des Lynam, and Andy Gray; four modes of play - Arcade, Simulation, Pro, and Semi-Pro; player transfers; and updated player stats and rankings. The game also contains the cool, new, additional option of indoor soccer, played on a smaller field with fast six-on-six action. Combine all this with EA's Virtual Stadium technology, FIFA's incredible gameplay, and you have one fierce soccer game.
Graphically, FIFA 97 definitely improved on FIFA 96. EA has created 22 fully-rendered players by using a new motion blending technology. Motion capture data, together with real-time rendering and motion blending, allow for more realistically drawn, smooth-moving players. Goalies sport multicolored jerseys, and players' numbers are clearly embossed on the backs of jerseys - yet more features that add to the realism of FIFA 97.
Gamers will notice the gameplay in FIFA 97 is a little slower, hence more realistic, than other soccer titles. Also, basic ball physics now come into play - gone are the days of super-speed bursts or incredibly long range shots on goal. This means the game emphasizes passing. Players dribble the ball like actual players - they tap it forward, catch up to it, then do it again. This, in turn, leaves more room for tackles and interceptions. Additionally, the AI has been boosted a couple of notches: You can almost see the defense men adjusting their position even before you start your attack. The control is tight, although a little complicated at times. Passback mode is particularly difficult.
The only aspect of the game that could have used some improvement is, believe it or not, the play-by-play commentary. Although usually dead on, it was occasionally way off. Misses included a shot on goal called a pass, and a sliding tackle labeled a wonderful piece of ball control.
Overall, FIFA 97 is a superb soccer sim. It combines killer graphics with incredible true-to-life gameplay. EA has delivered a serious soccer game for serious soccer players. For FIFA fans, this is a must buy.