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Fifa 2000 Game Fixed

Being a Major League Soccer (MLS) fan sometimes makes you question your perception of reality. How else can you explain watching an entire ESPN Sportscenter on some Saturday night in the middle of June and not hearing a single mention of the games played that evening? Does the league even exist? Maybe I wasn't at a game that night at all, but simply at a mass hallucination. So what kind of drugs can induce a person to see a shelf of computer games at a major retailer whose boxes all scream "Major League Soccer" in large letters? I can't answer that because as it turned out, those boxes were real. In even larger letters were the words " FIFA 2000." That explains it. Sepp Blatter must be in town.

Fifa 2000 Game

Each year, gamers are treated to a new iteration of the FIFA engine in typical EA style: the game's graphics are improved to the current standard, the team rosters are updated, and various other minor improvements are made to make each year's "upgrade" more than just a full-priced add-on but less than a really new game. Somewhere in this in-between zone is a wonderful marketing strategy, because the FIFA series is EA's best-selling sports game line ever. Marketing aside, the last two releases have been pretty darn good. Is the third time a charm or curse?

One problem with the previous FIFA games for Stateside buyers has been the almost laughable treatment of U.S. professional soccer. Lacking a license, FIFA 99 simply chose some American cities (without regard for whether they had MLS franchises, A-League franchises, or none at all), put them in a league, and filled the rosters with made-up players that all had below-average attributes. This year, for the first time, EA has obtained the license of Major League Soccer (the United States' first division) and has produced a game specifically for the U.S. market which includes actual MLS clubs rather than the fictitious garbage foisted upon purchasers of previous games in the series. Entitled FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer, the game box depicts D.C. United's U.S. international Eddie Pope and bears the boot-and-ball logo of MLS. The game differs from the European release in its title and in-game commentary, but otherwise it's the same game.

As I said above, releases in the FIFA series are usually along the lines of incremental upgrades. FIFA 2000 follows in this grand tradition by presenting us with new graphics and new play options, some of which are truly new but the vast majority of which are really tweaked versions of something else. I'll deal with every change in due course, but before I get to that I should point out one nice thing about the game: EA seems to finally be dropping its fascination with 3dfx and Glide. FIFA 98 wouldn't run in Direct3D at all, while the D3D implementation in FIFA 99 left something to be desired, occasionally giving my TNT 2 Ultra card problems since it recognized it only as a generic Direct3D device. FIFA 2000 picks up my Nvidia-based card for what it is, and runs just fine. A promising start.

Well, in a sense. Except that this exact feature has already been provided courtesy of EA's "other" soccer release, F.A. Premier League Stars. In fact, an awful lot of things that were done in Stars could have been done here but weren't, which leaves import-crazy saddos like myself to wonder why EAseems to be developing a parallel arcade footy game with different features, some of which are superior to those in FIFA 99. One such feature is the depiction of league kits. The Premiership kits in Stars are much more detailed than those in FIFA 2000. This is partially a function of the graphics engine in Stars, which seems to be more detailed at some levels than the one in FIFA 2000. Okay, the faces in FIFA might be better, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that the game's graphics are much better overall than those in Stars. The players tend to have different builds: the ones in FIFA look more like Kanu whereas those in Stars are shaped a lot like Gazza. In short, if you've played Stars, the look of FIFA 2000 won't knock you off your seat.

The one big gripe everyone has had about this otherwise excellent series is the lack of career play. Actually, you can now say "was the lack of career play." Because FIFA 2000 has it. It's not terribly sophisticated, mind you. For instance, the transfer system is quite primitive, and certainly not anywhere near that of a proper footy management sim, but it's there. Another problem is that while the game must have a Carling Premier League license there must be some problem with AXA and the F.A., since the F.A. Cup is called the "English Cup." Or maybe the Nationwide League wouldn't surrender the precious rights to the name "Birmingham City." Likewise with UEFA: if you finish at the top of the Premiership, you won't be playing in the "Champions League" next season, let me tell you. However, the basic framework is all there. So if you want to take Brann Bergen through five seasons of Norwegian football, you're quite able to do so. You can even create custom leagues and set their calendar start dates. For the record, the leagues involved are Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. Oh, and the United States! Major League Soccer. How silly of me. But we'll get to that later.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the game is the sound effects. Particularly at fault is the match commentary, which recycles itself at an alarming rate. The pre-match comments are particularly irritating, as they invariably make such comments as "so-and-so has a full squad to choose from today." The only saving grace is that there are also occasional touches of spot-on remarks, such as when a team scores quickly after the opposition has gone up by one: "So often a team concedes a quick equalizer after having scored, which must infuriate the manager," or something like that. This is a nice imitation of "match awareness" on the part of the commentators, which would be better if the illusion weren't constantly punctured by naff one-liners.

Another commentary problem is the complete lack of stadium identification. F.A. Premier League Stars created a nice atmosphere with little comments like, "we're here at Anfield to see Liverpool take on Everton," and so on. This kind of flavor has been completely stripped, probably because there is now no way to set the venue for your matches. I guess after the stadium slip-ups in FIFA 99 (where there were supposed to be all these authentic stadiums but the game ended up having only a handful) the EA team decided to get rid of this altogether. I don't know if Highbury looks like Highbury, but I sure know Columbus Crew stadium doesn't have a roof! So I think the choice has been for the generic here. Shame.

Also puzzling is the crowd noise. The applause sounds a heck of a lot more like the audience at Covent Garden applauding the concertmaster when he precedes the conductor onto the stage than it does the crowd at Old Trafford screaming hysterically as Alan Shearer converts Sol Campbell's bizarre handball into a place for Newcastle in the F.A. Cup Final. What's worse, the crowd often loudly boos the referee for failing to award a free kick for a hard tackle, even if the offender is on the home side! And all of this after EA producer Kerry Whelan was quoted in the New York Times as saying that crowd noises were one of the specific game areas under development. "If you just scored your 19th goal against Lichtenstein [sic], the crowd isn't going to be very excited,"Whelan says. Gee, that's great. So what will they get excited about? Chelsea's injury-time winner at Stamford Bridge against Arsenal? Yes? Then why do they sound like they're applauding the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields? Neville Marriner doesn't play soccer.

The music, while really not an important part of the game (since you only hear it when you're not playing) is a little disappointing this year, as we're treated to Robbie Williams. Not much needs to be said about this, except that after last year's music, anything else was bound to fall short. Oh well. "The funk soul brother right about NOW!" Sigh.

If the audio serves to detract from the game's portrayal of soccer, the video does the opposite. The subtle improvements from FIFA 99 add up to a game which resembles actual soccer action much more than its predecessors. First, the players' body movements are far more convincing. Players shoulder charge, shield the ball with their bodies, and hold off defenders with their arms as they try to fend off challenges. You can even control a player's arm shielding, and as you try and touch the ball past an opposing player the game acts very much like an actual soccer game. In addition, while you shield the ball, your skill move options are different from when you are in free space. What the player faces do for the close-ups, the player movements do for the gameplay.

Furthermore, the tactical behavior of the players is much more realistic. Goalkeepers come out of the box to clear balls that have gotten behind the last defender. They also punch away free kicks believably. Passes are also more varied, and I have seen some nice backheels which left me applauding the EA animation crew. The soccer ball also acts more like it should: it deflects off of other players in a very realistic manner, and I have had shots deflected away for corners or passes knocked over to different players because the game accurately modeled the collisions. This part of the game is steadily improving, and is finally starting to really look authentic. 041b061a72

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