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FIFA Soccer 2003

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

In the last 6 months, Soccer has seen its fare share of time on the PC. EA Sports alone provided us with both FIFA Soccer 2002 and FIFA World Cup Soccer 2002. If that wasn't enough, these guys are back to work yet again with a new title, FIFA Soccer 2003. Could there be enough changes and additions to the game to validate the need for so many editions in FIFA's long lasting franchise? Surprisingly, FIFA Soccer 2003 has some innovative content, which could possibly separate it from previous FIFA soccer incarnations.

At first glance, the visuals in FIFA 2003 are not much different from those seen in World Cup or FIFA 2002. However, a few hidden gems enhance FIFA 2003's visuals nicely. Such examples included the addition of the current score and the team logos superimposed on screen after a goal at the center of the pitch, and the automatic replays of each goal and infraction shown at the end of each half. These new visuals make the game feel like it is being watched from a television on ESPN or some other sports network.

While these visuals are nice, they seem to some with a price. Other features found in previous FIFA editions such as ritualistic dances after scoring a goal and frivolous festivities upon winning a championship are surprisingly absent in this edition. Celebrations occur in a much more conservative manner.

These visual differences aside, FIFA 2003 still harnesses some exciting graphical capabilities. Details are abundant in the believability of characters, locations, and action. Each of the 24 stadiums available in FIFA 2003 is unique and true to their real life counterparts. The same goes for the players. Facial and body features seem accurate for the bulk of each teams roster, which is quite an accomplishment considering there are over 10,000 available players.

Probably the most exciting addition in FIFA 2003 is the powerful audio, made possible by the reactive spectators and FIFA's signature announcer. Spectators respond dramatically to the action on the field, cheering on their favorite team and changing attitudes depending on the current situation of the match. Certain teams may even hear specific chants that are actually yelled during a real life match. John Motson makes yet another appearance in the FIFA announcers booth as he and newcomer Ally McCoist deliver seamless commentaries throughout matches.


Gameplay:

FIFA Soccer 2003 also takes a stab at increased realism throughout the game. A problem that has plagued the FIFA series, as well as all video soccer games, has been the difficulty to include every aspect of the game and keep it exciting and inviting for both hardcore soccer fans and newcomers to the sport. FIFA 2003 tries to honor the wishes of gameplay enthusiasts by providing more support for advanced soccer strategies.

A new metering system lets you keep track of the power, velocity or direction of a given pass or shot. Freestyle controls let advanced players who want to experiment perform a series of unique moves.

An impressive AI works hard on both sides of the pitch. However, sometimes the defending team who should have obvious chances to steal a ball or deflect against passes may stand motionless allowing the offence to travel past them unharmed. Similarly when passing, team members who are targeted to receive, wait for the ball in stationary positions, often allowing a defender to intercept.

Perhaps the most unbelievable feature in FIFA 2003 is the enormous amount of playable teams and players. Focusing on club competition, FIFA 2003's scope includes over 450 teams with more than 10,000 players. While all players are presumably modeled after real life counterparts, some players actually feature their real life signature moves. Teams range from the globally known local favorites, to the hardly heard of. Also, even though it's only been 5 months since the 2002 World Cup, FIFA 2003 also includes the rosters from all 40 squads in that competition. Teams can play against each other in one-off skirmishes, league specific competitions, and a variety of tournaments. Completion of certain tasks can even unlock special stadiums or other tournaments.


Difficulty:

With enhanced gameplay making FIFA Soccer 2003 more realistic, it should be obvious that it also makes it a more difficult game than its predecessor. More players are observant towards stopping the office, which requires better planning and reactions. To truly overcome the complex competition an understanding of advanced soccer maneuvers and FIFA 2003's equivalent enhancements should aid troubled players.

Some of the tricks that used to allow players to trick the difficulty, such as the previously popular speed burst, have been edited for realism. Speed bursts now make it difficult to keep hold of a ball and control the balls direction. Also, defenders stand much closer in the offensive's path and take every possible opportunity to steal the ball.

Similarly, scoring a goal has taken a turn for added realism. In what used to be a simple key press and goal type situation, FIFA 2003's goal scoring setup is slightly more challenging. You are now forced to line up your shots precisely before attempting a shot, and exactly the right amount of pressure must be added to the kick else your ball will likely shoot off in the wrong direction or zoom by much too fast to make it in the net.


Game Mechanics:

Even though FIFA 2003 seems to be calling towards veterans to the FIFA franchise by adding features for advanced players, the interface still provides enough ease for new comers to take the helm without too much difficulty learning the ropes. Customization is merely an optional feature and the standard set of features seems enough for most casual gamers. The pace of the game is still fast compared to the long 90-minute games that true fans may long for. Even the slowest setting seems fast, and the fastest setting is a complete menace.

With FIFA 2003, we definitely see some changes in store for the popular series of soccer games. Making the move towards satisfying hard-core soccer fans with more realism than previous FIFA games, EA has definitely taken a risk. Thankfully the essence of the game is still intact, and with a simple learning curve for beginners, FIFA 2003 isn't terribly out of reach.

Players who are happy with recent FIFA games but long for that edge of realistic game play should definitely gain a lot for FIFA 2003. This incarnation definitely isn't for everybody, but it does provide enough exciting innovations to be a great addition to the already strong FIFA franchise.


-==Boy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Kyle Prestenback

Minimum System Requirements:



300 Mhz Processor, 64 MB RAM, 8 MB Video Card, 4X CD-ROM, 680 MB Hard Drive Space
 

Test System:



AMD Athlon 1800+, 1GB RAM, 16X DVD-ROM, Geforce 4 TI4200 3D Accelerator with 64MB VRAM

Windows FIFA World Cup 2002 Windows FIM Speedway

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated