Football simulations are destined to accurately resemble the real-life game, but EA has been making remarkably slow progress with its infamous FIFA series. Each of the five titles in the last couple of years has been a predictable exercise in evolution rather than revolution. And with EA being the only developer churning out decent football games for the PC at the moment, it will be a long and agonising wait for truly realistic examples.
Don't get us wrong, though, as far as player animation goes, FIFA 2001 is definitely up there with the best of them. You can pull off tricks galore and the movement is impressively fluid and authentic. In fact, the general presentation and quality of graphics and sound are pretty much unsurpassed. However, the gameplay is still very reminiscent of the last outing, bar some minor improvements and tweaks, and so seasoned FIFA experts will start pretty much where they left off. All the usual options and customisations are available and, of course, everything has been brought bang up to date in terms of players, kits and so on. There are real linesmen on the touchline, added graphics for the players' tunnel and better crowd noises, making for increased atmosphere and a more enjoyable experience on the whole.
In real life, conceded goals are generally attributable to one of three factors: inadequate defending, bad luck, or just a piece of extraordinarily good play by the opposition. In FIFA 2001, however, especially on harder difficulties, the computer often seems 'destined' to score, and duly does so in a quite unfair way. Whenever it takes the fancy, the computer can suddenly run and pass far faster than you could ever hope to, and score from impossible positions. A perfect way to combat such disappointment is to score goals yourself, and there are countless ways in which to do so. However, the most popular methods include bicycle kicks from corners and crosses, and weaving through the defence before planting one in the top corner. Just another example of how far football games have to go before achieving true realism.
Thankfully, these two minor criticisms do not affect the playability as a whole, as FIFA 2001 is still undoubtedly the best and most fun football title on the PC. Until ISS makes its way to the best games platform, we're going to have to accept it - warts and all. Having said that, despite the unrealistic tricks, there are no obvious weaknesses in any area of the game and this contributes to its overall quality. Everyone should know what to expect from anew FIFA these days, and it seems EA is doing its best to live up to these expectations.
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The FIFA series doesn't carry quite the same weight here in the good ole US of A as it does in Europe. It does, however, have a long-standing tradition of being a nice blend of sim and action (arcade, if you will) soccer. The PS2 version does nothing to tarnish that reputation and actually improves upon it. One of the most appealing aspects of FIFA, to me, has always been its ability to represent a statistically complete soccer match in a 15-min. game (two six-minute halves). You get the ebb and flow, a fair number of scoring opportunities and the usual 2-1, 1-0 scores that soccer was founded on. The game's design also fosters a sense of accomplishment for newbies, as a few button presses can have you looking like Pele. It's kind of similar to being a button masher in a Fighting game. You might get some wins and do some pretty things, but you really don't know how you did it. Once you hit your stride, however, your enjoyment will increase ten-fold. There are plenty of killer moves on offense, but they have to be cleverly implemented to pose a serious threat to the defense. The goalies are no joke, either, which is the way it should be. Player models are superbly detailed and gracefully animated. All modes (international, MLS) are there for the taking. FIFA is definitely a solid notch in EA's PS2 belt. If you're looking for a break from the big four (hoops, hockey, football and baseball), this is a great choice.
Here's another outstanding and seamless transition to the next generation of consoles for EA Sports. There's no breakthroughs in this edition of FIFA, but that's all right, I'm satisfied with what they did here anyway. Basically, they juiced up the graphics to the point that we see exactly why we bought this new system and added a few other bells and whistles. The excellent visuals come at no price to the gameplay. The players move quickly and smoothly (as opposed to Madden, which is somewhat sluggish), and the controls are very responsive. It's a fun, great-looking soccer game, even though it has some lapses of realism.
Look at it. Doesn't it look great? Aren't you just itching to play it already? I was really torn on the score for this baby, but in the end it has to be acknowledged that this is one of the finest sports games around. Aside from the fabulous presentation. EA Sports has really got a lot of FIFA's problems licked now. Players no longer move in herds, defenders mark much more efficiently now (especially in their own half), and most importantly, you actually feel like you're fully in control of the ball now. Part of this is due to the faultless animation which really helps the gameplay. Problems? There's still a tendency for the CPU player to be a bit wimpy.