FIFA 08 Reader Review
There's no "manager mode."
Let's clear that one up right away. Of all the things that could get potential buyers of this game up in arms, that's right up there with forgetting to put in Manchester United. And yet. But. That doesn't immediately negate the rest of the game.
An admission: I have never owned a FIFA game prior to this one. Pro Evo, yep, sure. Bought and paid for, from 4 to 6. But not FIFA. So my view is somewhat coloured: for me, new year: same FIFA doesn't quite apply.
Also, it's the first "proper" football game made for the Wii.
So. How to deal with this game?
First, I'll talk about the Wii-exclusive aspects to it.
No, not just Table Football.
The second notable aspect following the lack of any sort of manager mode (realised on scouring the menus), is, once you start playing, the graphics.
Now, this is the Wii. No-one buys it for the graphics. But boy, does FIFA 08 make a bad first impression. The blocky, barely recognisable figures of the players do rather look as if they wouldn't look out of place on a Playstation One. Hell, we were playing games that looked like this a decade ago.
First impressions can be deceptive. Much of the difficulty comes from the camera angle. The top-down, Sensible Soccer-esque view masks what detail is there on the players. Granted, that doesn't mean they look perfect: far from it. But they aren't atrocious, and neither is their movement. The angle, and the graphics, grow on you.
This also informs how you play. Top-down views almost encourage you to ignore wing-play. Rather than being unable to see the opponent's goal, now you can't tell how far you are from the by-line. But give it time.
It's just a game...
For a straight game of football, the game is actually remarkably fun. It just has a bit of a curve to learning how to play it properly.
The Wii motion controls, mainly used for shooting or taking set pieces, are a strange experience. On some level, it does rather feel as if they've merely replaced a button-push with a waggle: they are, arguably, somewhat unnecessary.
Also striking the ball can feel a little soft, as if you've just hit a leather football with most of the air out of it. Blap should not be the sound of the winning goal.
But that's hardly the point.
The Wii controls, in this version, rather than being unnecessary, are the game. And there's a fun in that which pressing X can't quite capture. Flicking the ball into the net is great: the physicality of the movement making the goal all the more personal.
It's also more effort, and oddly, that makes you care more.
The one caveat I would put, is the Family Play. Here you only control passing and shooting, and the AI deals with the rest. EA has trumpeted this as a means to get family members to join in, those who can't (or more likely won't) figure out how to play it properly. While this may be fair enough, the execution leaves a little to be desired.
The main problem is not that the AI isn't good enough, although it has one or two "moments." But rather, it's that it wants to do too much. Including pass for you. In Family Play, therefore, it is not surprising for the AI to pass to "you," before "you" suddenly pass the ball, without doing anything. Now, this doesn't happen every time, but enough to hack at the semblence of control that Family Play gives you. Which, when trying to convince a family member that it's worth bothering with, isn't ideal.
Do I really want the Colorado Rapids Extra Kit?
This being FIFA, the number of teams on display is astonishing. Want to play as a team from the German Second Division, the Belgian League, or the Australian League? You can. All with official kits.
This is, after all, one of FIFA's selling points. A Pro Evo where only Arsenal and Manchester United feature from the Premier League in their true glory does feel somewhat limited, as does the substantial comparable lack of teams.
But I wouldn't have minded if they'd taken out half of them and kept a Manager Mode.
The lack of a Manager Mode, is, in Wii FIFA, argubably less of a worry than in other version (so the logic runs). And in one sense, that's true. The game is designed to be played in short, fun, bursts. Ideally with friends, as the minigames attest to. And if you want to play any of the tournaments that are in the other versions, you can. All Leagues are playable, all Cups, from the Spanish League Cup to the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
The players are noticably different from one another: their stats do matter. Gilberto Silva does not play like Fabregas, and vice versa.
But given that, and given the fun that can be had in buying/selling players, taking a club from the Second Division to the Premier League title, dealing with season-threatening injuries, all that good stuff, and given that the game is actually fun to play, the fact that EA cut it out seems all the more bizarre.
Mini-games. They're mini.
The three mini-games on offer are a mixed bag. Two good, one not so much.
Table Football is the natural winner here: like all three it's not a "serious" game, but the simulation is good, and it uses the Wiimote well. It would have fit right into Wii Play, and is genuinely good fun.
The keepy-uppy game has more in common with any dancing/musical game where you have to play the bongos/step in the right place on the mat in time with the music. Here it's waggling the Wiimote or pressing buttons. It's fun though, and diverting enough.
The third, a game where you take shots on goal, is pretty random and more of a diversion that fails to keep your attention than the other two.
The game is fun. You might not have got that impression for all the griping I've done, but I do enjoy this game one hell of a lot. I've already had some great moments playing it, in just two days. Real senses of achievment for FINALLY breaking that defence down, or scoring a blinder and desperately clinging on to the 1-0 lead for the rest of the match. I find it fun, anyway, and any review is always hamstrung by the subjective view of the reviewer. It may not be enough to put me off buying the new Pro-Evo as well (we shall see), but as a Wii football game it does the one thing that you want it to do: It works, and it is fun.
But that's a low eight. It was nearly a seven.
Not bad, don't get me wrong, but in my opinion EA are misguided.
It does give you a good game of football, in a unique way. It does provide end-to-end action (if you can break down the defences), and it does involve you in a way few football games manage.
But EA have their priorities out of whack. The various "Trax" EA have foisted on the game menus; Family Play; the focus on short-term fixes with three mini-games (just keep table football); are not what EA should spend their day worrying about. They more than the Wii controls, are unnecessary.
What should be necessary, is the feeling that you're taking a penalty in the last minute of a crucial cup tie, with a player you bought because he was on the cheap, to help a team you have put together yourself over the seasons, and that if you score it will be the greatest triumph in your club's history. And, unfortunately, EA don't see that as what Wii-users want. Wrongly, in my opinion.
So. Fun. Worth playing. But not quite all there.
8 / 10