World Cup 98
Sigh... it's that time of year again, when the television schedules go to hell and everyone gets really excited because England manage to get past the first round of the World Cup without getting eliminated.
It used to be the case that footballphobes- hard to believe I know, but not everyone loves football - could take refuge in their videogame consoles. Until someone came up with the first football game. Now there's no escape, we're all doomed to suffer through the excessive football mania. It seems that everyone's jumping on the band-wagon to become the official World Cup '98 something - we've got the official World Cup soft drink, the official World Cup beer, the official World Cup hot milky beverage, the official World Cup washing-up liquid... you get the idea. Which brings us to the latest footie game - the official World Cup '98 game in fact - for the N64. And it's entitled, imaginatively enough, World Cup '98.
I'd like to start with a complaint. Anyone who read last issues preview of WC98 might remember the heavy praise heaped upon the intro sequence, which was an exciting, well-edited football montage sequence set to the pumping sounds of Chumbawamba's Tubthumping. If you've seen the PlayStation version of this game, then you'll understand. However, the new, current, finished and therefore final N64 version no longer includes this music and video masterpiece. Instead all we get is a quick shot of Footix the World Cup '98 mascot and a few seconds of the aforementioned tune - shame on you, EA Sports! The loss of the tune probably has something to do with memory allocation, but it's a real pity, because it was the best intro I have ever seen in a Nintendo game!
Right, that said... World Cup '98 is the best football game I have ever played! Aside from the rather disappointing intro, you'd have trouble faulting it! If you like football, or football games, then go out and buy WC98 now! In fact, if you don't like football games, go out and buy this game now, you won't regret it!
That's enough exclamation marks for the moment. While you're all putting on your hats and coats and digging under the sofa to find your wallet so that you can go out and buy this game, here's a run down of the features. Oh, and your wallet isn't actually under the sofa - your dog stole it. Except those of you that don't have a dog.
Down To Business
WC98 offers three difficulty levels. The amateur level is about right for pretty much anyone who's playing a soccer game for the first time, while players more familiar with the genre will probably find the professional level more suitable. For those among you who only bought your console for football games and who fancy yourselves as a bit of an armchair Alan Shearer, the world class mode should offer sufficient challenge even for you.
As is now pretty much a prerequisite in football games, WC98 provides a number of different playing modes, including World Cup, friendlies, penalties, training and World Cup classics, which we'll come to later.
The training mode gives the most clear, concise training sessions that has ever been seen in a football game, if at times it's a little too concise and borders on the patronising. During a training session on taking corners, for example, the game pointed out where the corner of he pitch was! I mean, I may not be the world's biggest football expert, but come on! World Cup mode in WC98 contains a complete line-up of all the teams in the current championship, correctly grouped, along with the option to randomise the groupings if you want to vary your World Cup experience. This is important when you consider that the current groupings are only going to be relevant for this year's championship, and when you've forked out your (or someone else's) hard-earned cash, you want the game to last.
Fairer Fair Play
For those gamers who are not usually very good at footie games and are fed up of being beaten constantly by their mates, the catch-up option may come in useful. Switch it on and - you'll find that when one team scores, the odds of the other team scoring increases through the use of subtle changes in player performance. It's also possible to handicap the teams, so that every side has a fighting chance, and a game between, say, Brazil and Croatia wouldn't be as one-sided as it might in real life.
Many football games have large management sections, allowing you to transfer players and play with formations to create your ideal team, and WC98 is no exception. What's new about this game is the use of three 'in-game management' functions. These can be set up before the game and basically define three formations that your team will implement at the press of a button. This means that if the play moves up he pitch towards the opposition's goal, you can tap a button and bring all your men up in support. If the tide of play changes, then you can send all your men back to defend.
You Too Can Show Off
Another neat feature of WC98 is the complex footballing techniques which are programmed into the gameplay. There are a number of impressive manoeuvres that your men can perform, and they are all accessed via simple button combinations that anyone can learn. This means that a relative beginner can pick up a controller, play for a bit, and within a few minutes be pulling off flashy techniques like rainbow kicks or stepover nutmegs (whatever they are), which are not only impressive to watch but also pretty effective in foxing the opposition.
If you've got good footballing knowledge, it's possible to take the game further by implementing a variety of predefined instant tactics. With these you can command players to perform various tactical plays, tike sending the wing back running off up the pitch to receive a ball, or using the rather devious tactic of the offside trap - sending all your men racing up the pitch and hence putting opposing players offside.
Be able to access the Cup Classics. These are a series of pre-set games which recreate famous matches in footballing history, like the England-Germany 1966 World Cup final for example. A lot of attention to detail has gone into this section, down to getting authentic-looking kit and even an old-style ball.
The best thing about WC98 is that it you're a seasoned player or a total beginner, you should be able to get everything that you want from this game. Added touches like the bitmapped kits, weather conditions and World Cup trivia just add to what is already an excellent game, and in my opinion one that beats ISS 64. Whether it'll top ISS 2000 is another matter, but since that isn't due out until September, we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, you can't go far wrong with World Cup '98. It looks like removing the four rather ominous letters which used to precede EA football games has finally lifted the 'curse of FIFA'.
World Cup 98 DownloadsWorld Cup 98 download
EA finally got it right, but then this was their third attempt. Very good soccer game based around the now-historic 1998 World Cup.
FIFA as FIFA's always been. Competent, licence-led but sluggish, frustrating and now with semi-automatic tackling. Hmm.
Soccer, soccer and more soccer. This seems to be the prevailing philosophy of the folks over at the EA Sports studio. Personally, I find soccer about as exciting to watch as most of the programs on PBS. Playing on the other hand, well, that is a totally different story. For some reason, I really enjoy playing soccer games and this one was no exception.
I am not quite sure why EA Sports released another soccer game so closely in the wake of FIFA 98 but for one thing, it helps add to the ever growing number of available games for the N64 and for another, if it fixes some of the problems from the other game, I say go for it. Anyway, World Cup 98 is an officially licensed product of the 1998 World Cup in France. This means that all of the players, stats and countries are there for you to take to the Cup. There are plenty of options and strategies available for you to tailor your teams performance to your liking. Throw in eight classic World Cup matches and out comes a pretty decent soccer game.
First of all, like I said above, this is the second soccer title released by EA Sports in the last few months. It does not bother me much but you may be a bit wary if you have already dropped you $60 on FIFA because this game seems to be very similar. If you did not purchase FIFA then this may be the time to get yourself a soccer game.
For some reason, soccer is not that big in the United States. Most of us grew up playing on a soccer team but when junior high and high school rolled around, most people stopped playing. Almost every attempt at a professional soccer league has failed but they just keep trying. This is not to say that there are not some people who really enjoy watching and playing soccer but I do find it a bit of overkill releasing two soccer games this close together. To me, it almost seems like World Cup 98 is the finished version of FIFA.
So let's talk about the game itself. If you don't understand the rules of soccer, it is quite simple. You need to kick the ball into the other team's goal while keeping them from kicking it into yours. Sounds simple enough but traditionally, soccer is very low scoring and the moments of excitement are not nearly as prevalent as in other sports. World Cup 98 does a great job of capturing the whole atmosphere and feel of the game. A problem with soccer games past is that they would either try to crank up the offense attempt to keep our miniscule attention spans satisfied or they would hit the opposite extreme, making goal scoring nearly impossible. WC 98 does a great job of finding the line in the middle of the road. This means you will have some exciting action and you will also spend some time working the ball upfield. All in all, they did a good job of keeping the balance even.
One thing I really liked about the game was that the play became quite addicting. I found myself continually playing just one more game. This is a sign that I really like what is going on. I found myself stressing because I was either down by a goal or tied and the other team started driving on my goal. As soon as I realized I was stressing, that told me that I was starting to get into the game. If I start getting into a game, that must mean the gameplay is at least decent. In this case, the more I played, the more I wanted to keep playing.
Another thing that I really enjoyed about the game was that the difficulty levels seemed to be a good mix. If you play on amateur, just about anyone can play and win. If you step it up to professional, the going gets tougher. You can no longer dribble down the field with just one guy. Your passing (which is easy to do) becomes more critical and goal scoring is much harder to come by. If you crank the difficulty up to World Cup, you better watch out because nothing comes easy anymore. You have to be on top of your game or else you will quickly be rolled from the tournament. I think that some games have a difficult time when it comes to balancing difficulty levels but WC 98 hits it dead on.
I do have a couple of complaints about the game. The first, which is really no fault of the game itself, is that the controller seems to be a bit awkward in the game. It was difficult to perform some of the slide tackles and other moves because they were controlled by the c buttons which I think are too small. Inevitably I would hit the wrong button and kick the ball away or do something equally as stupid. Like I said, it is not the fault of the game but it is still something to consider.
My second complaint was with the frame rate of the game. It seemed that when the action started to get heavy, particularly around the goal, the game would slow. This really surprised me on a cart-based system that is supposed to have the power to handle this type of situation. It did not always occur but when it did, it was really noticeable.
Like I just mentioned above, the frame rate at times was less than perfect. Also, the graphics always seemed just a bit on the dark side to me. Other than that, the players and the player animations were great. I really enjoyed watching the goalie make a diving stop or punch the ball away. The players were all pretty big and clean looking and it was cool to see them catch the ball with their chests, drop it down to their feet and start heading up field. Everything looked realistic and truly lifelike.
If you did not buy FIFA, this may be the soccer game you should pick up. The addicting gameplay is worth the price and the excellent difficulty scale will keep you playing at a level that is challenging to your own skills. I was a little disappointed in the dropping frame rate and the Nintendo controller is just awkward on games like this but if you can get past those things, it is worth checking out.