FIFA: Road to World Cup 98
Banishing the memory of FIFA 64, there's plenty of promise here and a seemingly rosy future for the World Cup '98 version.
FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 DownloadsFIFA: Road to World Cup 98 download
Let's be brutally honest - FIFA 64 was so much of a dog it was shedding hair and slobbering. It played so clumsily that it might as well have been programmed in '64! A lot people had written off the once-proud licence as a result, thinking that it descended into the Hell Of The Sequel Too Far occupied by Alien Resurrection and all those Friday The 13th films.
EA Sports obviously realised this, and rather than just knock out another lacklustre update that would top the charts anyway purely on the basis of the name, they've completely tweaked everything about FIFA and come up with a footy game that's finally worthy of the N64, in the rectangular shape of FIFA: Road To World Cup '98. Every single aspect of the game has been improved, from the opening of the game (complete with Blur's 'Song 2' blasting out from your TV and getting you straight into the proper mood) to the animation and responsiveness of the players.
Although it's not an actual World Cup licence, the cunningly titled FIFA: Road To World Cup '98 might as well be, taking international teams as close as they can get to the actual final without having some important French bloke handing over the silverware. It's not just World Cup games, though - just about every world league you can think of is included in the game, from the obvious ones like UEFA to regional groupings like the South Pacific's OFC. You can then go down even further, and choose the actual teams that make up the leagues! Taking things to a ridiculously local extreme, you can then edit the teams - and the appearance of the players - so that you can actually jog out onto the pitch alongside Beckham or slam a few balls into the back of Blackburn's net. All that's missing is a way to slap your own face onto one of the players - something for the 64DD version, perhaps?
Off the pitch, FIFA '98 offers a hugely comprehensive management option, which is detailed enough that it almost qualifies as a game in its own right. Players from all over the world can be bought and sold, tactics developed and your chosen team generally honed into a world-class side - if you get things right, of course!
It's actually possible to play FIFA '98 entirely as a management game. At the start of a match, you're given a controller selection screen - by leaving this in its default position, the match will play itself without any intervention on your part at all. If you don't think your playing skills are up to par, but instead fancy yourself more in the Glenn Hoddle role, this is the one for you. People will look at you funny when you admit to buying a game with the intention of not actually playing in it, though.
Team tactics play a much increased role in FIFA '98 over its predecessor. Although it's perfectly possible just to jump into the game and start playing, tinkering with formations and strategy can improve your chances of slotting one into the onion bag, and new options like 'man marking' and 'aggression' (now you can turn your whole team into raging psychopaths!) add considerably to the variety of play. If the team are performing badly, you can give them a dressing-down at half time and try to psyche them up for the second half by whacking up their aggression and sending them back out there with a red haze in front of their eyes. You just have to hope that they don't end up seeing too many red cards as well!
When you actually start to play a game, the first thing you notice is how much the graphics have been improved over FIFA 64. It's probably hard to tell here, because PAL machines and our video grabbers still don't get on quite as well as they ought to, but FIFA's use of a nonstandard graphics mode gives everything a look rarely seen on the N64. It's still not pin-sharp by any means, but it's far better than the Coke-bottle glasses effect of old.
The animation of the players is much better than it was; if you think that everyone's got the moves of David Ginola, it's because they have!
The posy Frenchman was motion-captured doing his stuff for the benefit of EA Sports' computers, and it pays off. Having fully animated players does cause some annoyances from time time, because there are occasional points in the game when it seems like you have to wait for a particular animation sequence to finish before you can regain full control of your player. It's especially apparent when you're trying to make tight turns, where what should be a single smooth movement feels like move-turn-move-turn-move. This time lag is short, but just noticeable enough when it happens to be irritating.
He Shoots, He Scores
The animation isn't the only thing that's better about FIFA '98. The players are now a lot more controllable than the hobbling pensioners of old, and the drastically improved control system now lets you pass the ball about with some degree of accuracy, rather than just hoofing it up the pitch and hoping for the best. It's much more of a passing game than it used to be, and is a lot more fun as a result.
Although the intelligence of the opposition has been improved, they thankfully aren't the invincible supermen that some football games over the years have provided. The keepers aren't infallible, and providing you're quick enough on your feet you can get shots past them from all distances without having to resort to the little slippy kicks and specific tight angles that often plague soccer sims.
A very good new addition to the game is the on-screen directional arrow that accompanies corners, free kicks and dead balls. The arrow itself is pointed at its target with the analogue stick, while the Z and R buttons bend it so you can belt out curve balls without messing around with aftertouch. Although some people might not like it in a multiplayer game, on the grounds that it gives away your intentions, it makes things a lot easier for the player taking the kick - which is as it should be, as they're meant to have the advantage!
FIFA '98 is so much better than FIFA 64 that it's hard to believe that they're actually part of the same series. From the more varied chatter of the commentators (Motty, Des and Andy Grey) to the extremely in-depth management options, FIFA '98 is polished in every way. But is it as good as Konami's International Superstar Soccer 64? Well... not quite. ISS 64 still pips the new FIFA in playability, because the game flows that crucial bit more smoothly, and despite FIFA '98 using a higher resolution, ISS seems just a little bit clearer on screen. On the other hand, FIFA's management and customisation options and more up-to-date teams, as well as its greater variety of camera angles and familiar commentators, might tip the balance back for some people, and unlike ISS versus FIFA 64, there isn't a huge difference in playability. Plus there's the rather obvious point that FIFA '98 is cheaper!
Which you buy is up to you, of course. But for the first time in ages, you won't be falling for the old trap of 'big licence over gameplay' if you buy FIFA '98. If you want to take your home team to the World Cup, you can't go wrong with this!
As excitement builds up for France '98, you can get your home team there early on the N64, and liven things up with these cheats!
Edit Players And Colours
While on the EA Sports screen, enter А, В, А, В, В, B, A, Z.
During the game, push various directions ori the d-pad and the crowd will hurl abuse at the other team!
Different Scoring Animation
Enter С Left, С Right, С Up, or С Down directly after a goal for a variety of scoring animations.
Choose Slovakia as your team and enter LASKO on the player edit screen.
Choose Sheffield Wednesday as your team and enter WAYNE on the player edit screen.
Choose Vancouver as your team and enter KERRY on the player edit screen.
Choose Vancouver as your team and enter ANATOLI on the player edit screen.
Black & White Mode
Choose Canada as your team and enter MARC on the player edit screen.
Increase the speed of the game by choosing any team and entering CATCH22 on the player edit screen.
A vastly improved follow-up to FIFA 64, FIFA '98 remembers to include little game-enhancing things like realism and playability. The players now respond to your actions, for a start. A hugely comprehensive management option makes this the definitive choice for budding Glenn Hoddles, though in terms of gameplay /55 64 still just slots the winner home.
To skip to round 1 of the World Cup. type in ANATOCI under Vancouver on the player edit screen.
A massive improvement on FIFA 64, but almost immediately rendered obsolete by World Cup '98, its own sequel.