Version tested: PC
PC System Requirements - Pentium 166 MMX or equivalent 32Mb RAM 80Mb hard drive space 4x CD-ROM drive 2Mb graphics card All screenshots are from PC version
There are games where you will play through the demo, read through reviews, um and ah over your bank account, and probably still never buy them. I can safely say that the FIFA series of football games does not fall into that scenario, and I will impulse buy every single time. Am I mad?
You'd think I would have learnt after the tragedy that "Euro 2000" turned out to be, that even the seemingly infallible FIFA games could come across a hiccup now and again. Not on your life matey, which is why I am now a proud owner of both the PC and PlayStation versions! This review is an amalgamation of my views on both games, which basically play pretty much the same as each other, with only a couple of differences.
So what has compelled me to once again shell out the best part of seventy of your wholesome English pounds on what most people are saying is just the same game as FIFA 2000 with slightly better graphics? Well, I liken FIFA to a pair of comfortable slippers. After a hard day's work you come home, have dinner, kick your shoes off, and put them on for hours of fun filled escapism. What makes the game even better still is to have another player to cram onto the sofa with and duke it out against, and it has become a tradition for me to have an annual Christmas tournament with my brother.
So what is different in FIFA 2001 then? The general trend from one revision to the next has been for the graphics to be noticeably beefed up, and this version does not disappoint, incorporating yet more pointless side animations and player facial contortions. Not much new then? Absolutely not, how dare you even think such a thing!
Taking the PSX version for example, you would be forgiven for not being able to discern the difference between FIFA 2000 and 2001 if they were played side by side. A default camera angle change and slightly re-designed menu system will probably give it away, but game wise there is very little to segregate the two. The graphics are definitely improved upon, but it is not that huge an improvement. No doubt the limits of the now ancient hardware the game is running on have been reached.
On the PC however, the graphics have been drastically overhauled, providing some of the most intricate player detail in a footy game to date. It does not stop there either, as numerous side-line animations bring the whole stadium to life, with substitutes warming up, stewards craning their necks looking for trouble-makers, and camera men swivelling the lens to keep up with the action. The result is utterly breathtaking, totally immersing you in this computerised football world, a mini-heaven for any footballing nut I can assure you. What makes the whole experience even better is that little things like the team badges and sponsors are all present on the player shirts. A Subbuteo filled childhood dream come true, as your team emerges from the dressing room and puts you in control.
Once again a nice set of tunes have been chosen, including the superb "Body Rock" by Moby and "Power To The Beats" by the Utah Saints. The sound has also gone under the surgeon's knife, with commentary now far more appropriate and varied than before. Other nice touches like the manager shouting from the dugout at his players, and the players shouting to one another on the pitch, serve to make the whole experience that bit more realistic.
The Usual Irritations
I feel pretty sure that the FIFA forums must get filled with requests to sort out the various control problems that plague one revision to the next, but it appears that fundamental annoyances still exist that are blatant, or at least they are to me. For starters, the ridiculous habit of a keeper to just stand still while an incoming ball heads towards goal. Although this does not happen too often, the game appears to take great pleasure in choosing the most match-losing of moments to spring it on you!
Once again there are far too many computer chosen moves when you are simply trying to pass the ball or lob it over a line of the opposing team. All too often the computer will choose to automatically overhead kick, volley or head the ball onwards, and most of the time to completely the wrong team. It is this aspect of the FIFA series that has irritated me from the start, and is still haunting me to this day. Why they cannot just make each pass or move completely and utterly your own amazes me. It makes for some very disjointed matches, where a move you have been brilliantly executing breaks down simply because the computer chooses to head the ball on for you where a simple pass would have been so much better.
Something that EA Sports have tried and failed to implement in the past is proper TCP/IP driven internet play. It was promised for FIFA 2000, but we ended up with the usual IPX backed LAN play or modem to modem options. These were decidedly difficult to get working, and even when you do the results are really quite abysmal.
But this time round FIFA sports internet play via the incredibly friendly EA Sports web-based game search engine. I created an account for myself and the site then proceeded to update my installation with the latest patch. All the while I am grinning like a Cheshire Cat in anticipation. Ten minutes later I get told that the service cannot connect me, and a sense of deja vu overwhelms me.
It has been nearly two weeks now, and I have yet to get a single online game going, and I think the only realistic way is to find someone else with the game and set up a match that way. So at this time, yes, there are internet options available to you, but no, I can't tell you whether it fills the gap in this type of game.
Both the PC and PSX versions of the game play very well, though you will probably make changing the default camera your first task. Unfortunately just another set of graphical tweaks can't quite make this game a classic, and with the usual annoying gameplay aspects rearing their ugly heads again, it almost makes the game a forgettable cash-in.
However, there is enough in both versions to prevent them from becoming dust gatherers, and with the PC's internet potential yet to be realised it could well be the making of a classic. I would suggest that if you have FIFA 2000, then you really do not need FIFA 2001 on either platform, unless like me you simply cannot help yourself! If you do not have a recent football title in your collection though, then this is currently the best arcade-style footy game on the market. PC Rating - 8/10 PSX Rating - 7/10