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.

What Happened?

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.

Feeling Nostalgic?

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'.

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FIFA '99
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It is a football (soccer) game where the player takes a football team and manages them to win games and eventually the championship.

World Cup 98 Downloads

World 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.

reggie posted a review

FIFA as FIFA's always been. Competent, licence-led but sluggish, frustrating and now with semi-automatic tackling. Hmm.

reggie posted a review

Overview

Lace up your soccer shoes and get ready to be kicked in the shin and a few other places. The renowned World Cup is at stake, and takes place in France so polish up your French and instill carpe diem, for you represent your country. Imagine if you will, 32 Cup hungry teams, millions of fans, and you controlling the free will of every man on your team. World Cup 98 brings the fever of soccer into your living room and slaps you in the face. The possession of the World Cup is the pinnacle of soccer and it's yours for the taking.

I spent most of my life on the basketball courts and not the soccer field so I felt this game would not be up my alley. Upon flipping the power button I was instantly enthralled by the opening of Chumbawamba's chart-topping song "Tubthumping", along with the mascot of this year's World Cup. I soon felt at home with the intensity of power this game has to offer. From the minds at EA Sports comes a vivid void of limitless action from Mexico's magic, to Brazil's amazing acrobats of ball handling, to the goatee of America's own Alexi Lales. This game focuses on the teams strong points as well as their weaknesses. So bicycle-kick the other soccer wannabes, get your hands on World Cup 98, and make your country proud.

Gameplay

Big field, small players, and a ball. The perfect combination when the bragging rights to each country are on the line. When EA Sports creates a game, usually you will find that they did their homework. Again they have come through and demanded that soccer should not just be played on those Spanish speaking television stations. They want you to pick up a game that you are not familiar with and make the sport something you would do if you had some spare time. Well, you don't have to go outside anymore to work up a sweat, just pop this puppy in and before you know it you will have soccer fever.

Let's now dissect the playing modes. First, we begin with the shoot-out, this is an all out war on the goalie. The object, for the soccerly impaired is a best of five shot on goal with you and the goalie and vice versa. Which means after you serve your soccer platter, you will be served an equally appetizing meal. I found this stage to be fun for the first 20 minutes but was mind numbing after awhile. I mean, you kick, they kick, you sleep, they kick, get the idea? However, it is a necessity to learn this because if on your way to the World Cup you come across a tie, well it's shoot-out time. Another mode which was called "Friendly" was not aptly named. A proper name would have been, "Hey this is just like the World Cup, but only for practice." This is really an exhibition mode which allows you get started kicking without all the formalities. This is the mode for the person who, like myself, opens the game and uses the directions for carpeting their birdcage. It is a great "get the feel for the game" mode. I highly suggest it to the first time players. The Training mode is next and allows you to understand the fundamentals of this fast paced game. It does a fairly decent job of getting you ready for the World Cup, but felt I learned everything I needed to survive in the Friendly mode. Last but not least, the big banana, World Cup mode. Well, depending on the difficulty level you felt you have attained, you will quickly find yourself on the soccer totem pole.

The game also has a sub-menu which allows you to configure things such as player management, team management, customizing players and squad. In player management you can change your players' aggression, so in a sense you can have a team consisting of Barney Fifes or Gypsy Savages running rampant on the field. I really couldn't tell the difference in the style except a lot more penalties were called, so it's good to be in between on their aggression. Now, in team management was were the complication of strategy entered the game. When objectively looking at the game you see a bunch of grown men running around chasing and kicking a ball around a field. Well, you are no longer a spectator, you must control your team and give them an offensive and defensive angle you feel comfortable with. In this you must decide what area is most important, a strong offense with weak defense, or the other way around, or just plain equal. Under the Squad customizing, I found that to be a trade-off. Yes you can compile a dream team of your favorite players and wreak havoc. The most compelling option had to be the customization of the players. This had me rolling because you get to change your players faces, hair color, and so on. The faces that EA Sports compiled must come straight from the show COPS. This made the game funny because if you wanted you can have a team of players that just left the cloning institute. The combinations you can create could be a game in itself, I fooled around with it for about an hour, made faces of people I knew, and gave them their names. All in all the modes and sub-menus make this an interesting game.

Upon playing this game you will quickly realize it's realistic. For instance, when you dribble the ball, you must quickly catch up to the ball because its very easy to get the ball ripped from you. Slowing down the tempo and setting up your offense is the key to this game. The feel of your player is very natural and easy to control and to switch from man to man. The only complaint I had in this department was that the game seemed to remember if you pressed the kick button while the ball was being passed, so the guy you pass it to launches it into the stratosphere. The handling of speed with your players is realistic especially with the power boost. This enables you to lose a player that is challenging you for dibs on the ball. Once you get accustomed to playing you will find that the tricks you can perform come naturally and at the proper times instead of having to show your buddy that you can do a fake with no one on you. Speaking of buddies you can have up to 8 people on the multi-tap. This allows for some all out damn good competition.

When you start going to the World Cup, you will find that every team gets harder the further you advance. So when playing, try to emulate the styles and control that your previous team displayed. For example I was burned by a corner kick and header that left my goalie with his shorts down. After practicing that in the training mode, I found that to be a great shot to attempt with success with good accuracy. Another aspect of this game that I found entertaining was when the other teams scored there were a couple of taunts and some silly airplane arms from celebrating soccer players. The replay is a great thing to always have in any game while playing a friend. The object is to show play by play how you made them look like they had the intelligence of a gnat. The commentators come up with some slick comments but for the most part are there to let you know who scored and who you pass to and from.

Graphics

The part that everyone usually just scrolls down to read, the graphics were actually very fluid and convincing. What's funny is that you don't pay attention to the graphics because the game gets you wrapped up in winning. When close-ups are taken you will find a polygon player with attention to detail on their uniforms and shoes. When I play and review games the graphics are a big selling point, but when you get down to it it's the gameplay that sells the title. For example, Gran Turismo has the most convincing replays known to the Playstation world, however the gameplay is what makes the game phenomenal. I could say the same for this game but I'm not, simply for the fact that I do not compare apples and oranges. This game has the gameplay that true soccer players can appreciate and be proud to call their own.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this, you want soccer, you get it in World Cup 98. From the bicycle kicks to the red flagging from taking down your opponent with an illegal kick, this game compiles everything you need to know about this gut wrenching sport. If you're like me and soccer is not your cup of tea, an evening rental is still worth your time and your money. However, if you are the die hard soccer enthusiast this game is for you, so get off your computer, get this game, and go kick some grass.

reggie posted a review

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.

Gameplay

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.

Graphics

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.

Bottom Line

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.

reggie posted a review
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