FIFA Soccer 96
I Wanna Tell You A Story. Way Back when (I can't remember how long, but it must be at least a couple of years because Ipswich were still in the Premier League), a colleague called Tony rushed into the office in a state of great excitement, with a large Argos carrier bag tucked under his arm.
Before I could construct a sentence using the words 'cheap' and 'tacky', he'd pulled out a Mega Drive and a copy of FIFA Soccer. His face fell instantly i when he saw my look of disgust. We'd just got two new pcs in the office (everyone else had Amstrads and were suitably jealous), and I was introducing him to the delights of Doom, SimCity, Sensible Soccer et al in an attempt to lure him away from his nephew's snes.
I almost had him. SimCity saw him phoning home to the wife with the excuse that he was 'snowed under', when really he was trying to work out how to pipe water in from a reservoir the other side of a mountain. I'd even let him win at Sensi (I was using the keyboard) and take a few frags off me playing DeathMatch. It was all going perfectly, and then he goes and buys a bloody Mega Drive. Berk. "What's that?" I enquired, ripping out the serial link from the back of his machine and snatching back my Gravis gamepad from his desk.
"It's a Mega Drive." "I know what it is, stupid. Why?" "You're not gonna believe this..." "You're right there."
"Well, I was walking down the High Street and wandered past Argos..." "So far so good. But don't tell me -then you fell over and smashed your head on the pavement, and when you came to, to your astonishment you had a Mega Drive under your arm?" "Well, not quite. You see, I saw what I thought was a televised footie match on a telly in the shop window." I nodded and gave a wry smile.
"And when I got closer, I realised it was actually a running demo of a computer game. Can you believe it?" "No, I can't."
"It was, no shit! I went inside to see what it was running on - I thought it must be some new pc (this was blatantly a crap attempt at trying to butter me up, and he knew it!) and it was a Mega Drive. I couldn't believe it! So I bought a Mega Drive and a copy of FIFA Soccer there and then. It looks awesome! I can't wait to get it home."
Later that day I sneaked out to Argos to see this miracle for myself, and yes, I had to reluctantly admit that it did look pretty tasty. It didn't make me want to buy a Mega Drive, but I was impressed nevertheless. I didn't tell Tony, I just hammered him at Sensi every lunchtime for the next three weeks (in other words, I made him use the keyboard).
Yeah well, maybe, but the point I was trying to make through this little story (it worked for Jesus...) was that FIFA Soccer was, and always has been, a bloody good-looking game. I'll admit that on the Mega Drive it was even quite playable, although it didn't have that grab-you-by-the-(foot)balls appeal and level of control of Sensi. The pc conversion was, well, let's just say I didn't dare let Tony see it, let alone play it, he was better off with his console. I honestly tried to get on with it, but it just left me feeling more frustrated than Matt Le Tissier.
EA Sports wouldn't officially confirm that this was the general consensus, but it did admit that it wouldn't hurt to make a few changes. If it could produce a half-playable version for the ailing 3do, surely it could create something magical for the pc second time round?
One engine for all
The biggest problem with FIFA on the pc was that it didn't really play like a football game. The players seemed to have their own agenda and you never really felt that you were in control as they leapt about the pitch, tackling players, making weird passes and diving about in the box doing overhead kicks. Another big problem was that although it looked good it was pathetically slow, even on a high-spec machine. The only tactic seemed to be to get the ball, run with it for as long as you could and then bang it, long range at goal, and hope for the best. It was quite possible to score from the halfway line (Nayim-style), even when you couldn't see the goal and as the game itself was so slow following the ball, you'd never actually see it fly into the back of the net, just hear the crowd roar with approval. Okay for Arsenal and Wimbledon fans maybe, but distinctly lacking in any real skill. Other games in the series, World Cup Rugby '95 and even NHL Hockey suffered from symptoms, it was just that it seemed even more noticeable with FIFA. Consequently, if the games were to become more playable, some new technology was in order. And that's why EA Sports has developed a new 3D engine thing that will (supposedly) change the way sports games look and play forever on every format; enter stage left Virtual Stadium technology.
Now, super new technology that makes things look nice is all very well, but when you see what VS does and why EA Sports has developed it, it leads you to wonder whether it's about to make the same mistake twice - in other words, nice presentation, shame about the gameplay. True, eight different camera angles, motion capture technology, lush animations and a rivetting commentary from John Motson all combine to add weight to a game, but if half the camera angles make it too difficult to play, and players insist on doing their own thing at the most inopportune moments, then come back Sensi, we still love you and your basic ways.
On the other hand...
Yeah, it's still early days, and a 20 minute play of a Beta version was encouraging. You can't fail to be impressed by the presentation of it all, the intro, music, animations, player options and graphics, and then on top of that EA Sports has incorporated loads of new league options and special moves to heighten the whole gaming experience. It's faster than it was, it's less intense in midfield, keepers come out rather than hang back on the goal line (which means more goal mouth action) and the seamless commentary by Motty is just tops - the best we've ever heard. They haven't quite finished putting in the finer points yet, such as corners and free kicks, and when you run away from the ref after a foul, he doesn't chase you (boo-hoo).
This time round original player names have been included, and because you can see more of the pitch it's easier to make long passes and run with the ball. A sprint feature is going to be added so you can Kanchelskis-it down the wing, short passes are now a reality and overall, you feel a lot more in control and less of a vision mixer. On the down side however, to get the full commentary you're going to need more than 8mb of ram (basically, the more ram you have, the more John says) and the ai still needs a bit of work to get the game flowing - but EA's working on this, so fingers crossed.
All in all, FIFA '96 is still not quite as hands-on as Sensi, but it's getting there and it still looks gorgeous. If Konami can produce a game that looks good and plays well on the snes, surely EA Sports can do the same on a Pentium with 8mb of ram? We shall see.
Jack of all engines
EA Sports has spent ages working on super-flash new presentation routines and creating a gaming engine that enables you to view the play area from almost any angle, throw detailed sprites around at a fair old whack and make the sound realistic. Once it's all up and running, it then has a model that can be used for most sport sims that involve two teams running around a pitch (or court) attempting to score a goal (or basket) - this is Virtual Stadium technology. Change the grass to ice, tweak the engine a bit, and you've got yourself an ice hockey game. Swap the ice for a court and replace the goals with baskets and you've got the makings of a basket ball game. Smart, huh?
Well, yes and no. Smart for EA but maybe not for the end user, who ultimately ends up with variations of the same game, albeit with alternative graphics and a few gaming tweaks. It stands to reason that a game engine designed to run an ice hockey game is not necessarily the best place to start when you want to produce a footie game. Let's hope they change the engine to fit the game and not the gameplay to fit the engine.
Download FIFA Soccer 96
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- Game modes: Single game mode
- Up, Down, Left, Right - Arrow keys
- Start - Enter (Pause, Menu select, Skip intro, Inventory)
- "A" Gamepad button - Ctrl (usually Jump or Change weapon)
- "B" button - Space (Jump, Fire, Menu select)
- "C" button - Left Shift (Item select)
Use the F12 key to toggle mouse capture / release when using the mouse as a controller.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- Pentium II (or equivalent) 266MHz (500MHz recommended), RAM: 64MB (128MB recommended), DirectX v8.0a or later must be installed
Gamepad at the ready, speakers up full, straight out of the CD case and into the caddie. Fingers crossed, say a little prayer, the FI FA 96 CD whirred away in the drive...
Welcome To Virtual Stadium
Bloody Hell! I mean, you really just can't help but be amazed by the standard of presentation: the graphics, the sound, the music. It's like your pc's swiped Jim Carrey's mask and eaten it for breakfast. I was immediately wooed (well almost). Nice menu and set-up system, simple and well laid out. I opt to play a fairly friendly match. Arsenal versus Everton (shouldn't be too difficult), configure my gamepad, switch to svga mode (it is running on a P75 after all), sit back and wait for the match to start.
Hey that's Motty introducing the teams, isn't it? - smart! Don't bother messing with the tactics, starting line up and all that. I just want to play. How many camera angles? Seven! Opt for 'EndZone' Cam, whatever that is. Win the toss, choose to kick off and play down the pitch. The graphics have certainly improved: the players look smart and they actually seem to run rather than skate onto the pitch. It's all going so well, please don't fail me now. The whistle blows and kick-off to Arsenal. Ian Wright collects the ball and I guide him towards Southall's goal. Who's that coming up in support? Merson? I make a short pass as Merson flies down the wing and takes the ball in his stride. I guide him towards the corner flag as he accelerates and shrugs off two tackles. Motty's getting a bit excited, you can hear it in his voice. And the crowd, they're shouting louder than ever, they can sense this is a good run too. Almost to the by-line and then I make the cross. Long and high into the danger area. Wrighty's there. How do I head the goddamn ball? Southall gathers it easily (and for once holds onto it). Wright picks himself up from the floor. Good effort!
Bloody Hell! This is a bit good isn't it? What have they done? And I was worrying that it wouldn't be comparable with FIFA on the 3do or even International Superstar Soccer on the snes!
So there is a god?
Well. yes. So it would seem. Not only has EA Sports improved the graphics, but it's made it a lot more hands-on to play, and it's heaped in atmosphere. It's pretty quick too. considering what it's throwing around the screen. EA's even included a modem option so you can play across the phone lines. This is going to cost me! Now where did I put the bloody manual?
A few days later...
Bloody Hell! Why are the FMV bits so jerky on my machine at home? It runs PGA 96 all right. And what's the deal with the controls? Are there really 38 different combinations? How am I supposed to remember them all? This is a footie game, not a Rowan flight sim! And why haven't the Premiership teams from last year been updated? I want Bergkamp. Ginola. Platt and Gullit! What if I was a Bolton or Middles-borough fan (Heaven forbid)? At least Klinsman is still there. I suppose, which will please the Spurs supporters, and East Anglian fans will be happy. And since when did Arsenal play the sweeper system last year?
And with Adams as left back and Dixon in the middle? And when I finally move everyone to the right place, switch to the correct formation and apply the tactics, why do I have to do it all over again every time I play a match? Why can't it remember? Oh yeah, and Adams hasn't got blond hair! You could forgive the developers for getting it wrong with Gascoigne, but since when has our Tony looked like Billy Idol? Other players look like they've become regulars at the local salon too. And how come when I sometimes leave a player standing still with the ball, go and make a cup of tea and sit down again, the opposition don't always manage to get the ball off him? Are they scared or something? Julian Dicks doesn't play for Arsenal!
This player select business is a bit awkward as well. Why can't it just automatically select the player nearest the ball, or at least do it a bit quicker? And how come you can do a 180 degree spin using the keyboard, but not when you're playing with a gamepad or joystick? You can't do shallow lobs or 'Rainbow' kicks either (er, whatever they are). Presumably the computer can, which certainly puts you at a bit of a disadvantage unless you use the keyboard (which, by the way, isn't really recommended) so isn't that a bit unfair? And what's this sudden death business in 'Over Time'? Surely you're supposed to play out the whole period, not stop as soon as a goal is scored? You'd have thought with this being a FIFA-licensed product, it could have got the rules right? And what's this 'Defense' and 'Offense' business, does that make my attackers 'offenders'? And this passing lark, it's not exactly what you'd call accurate, is it? And when my keeper hoofs it up pitch, why does one of my defenders insist on trying to 'bicycle kick' it back at him? Talk about dangerous play!
And a devil too...
Unfortunately, something tells me that dear Motty himself would not be at all impressed. There are plenty of, well, let's call them anomalies, that crop up with an alarming regularity with the all new FIFA 96, most of which could have been rectified if the developers had given it to a play tester who knew about football. (Presumably Motty himself wasn't available.) But these niggling to down right annoying things aside, is FIFA 96 much of an improvement over the last FIFA game on the pc?
Well, it'd have to be an unreserved 'YES', it is much better, much more playable. For starters, you no longer feel as though you're fighting the control system instead of the opposing team (well, not as much). It's a bit tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can work your way through some pretty complicated moves. Having to constantly select a player adds to the difficulty at first, but because the game looks (and sounds) so good, you want to keep playing. Little touches, such as the keeper waving back his team before he kicks the ball out, give the game a very slick feel. The commentary is quite brilliant (apart from when Motty exclaims "Oh! He's put it wide!" when you were clearing it from your own half and it goes out), as is the increasingly deafening roar of the crowd when you launch an attack. Even the music is pretty top. Overall, the presentation is great, and the playability, though not perfect, is a definite step in the right direction, but it still isn't ideal.
So should I wait for Flfa 97?
If you already own last year's FIFA, and you quite liked it, I'd recommend that you buy FIFA 96 - I don't think you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you want a simple and easy to use control system and feel you couldn't cope with a myriad of footballing inaccuracies, look elsewhere. It's difficult to make a complete judgement without playing Gremlin's Actua Soccer for a while first, so I can't say whether FIFA 96 is the best footie game on the pc at the moment, but it's definitely better than Sensi, which now looks terribly dated. If the player select, passing and let's face it, tackling were a little more instinctive, it would be just fab! I'll recommend it because it's very addictive, not necessarily because it's so good, but because to a certain extent you just hope that it gets better and all comes together. Over to you Trevor...
FIFA '96 for the Game Boy may be the best sports title of the year for the handheld systems. All the moves-like tackles, headers, and bicycle kicks-are included along with countless teams from the U.S., Europe, and South America. Sports fans of all kinds will enjoy the nonstop action.
FIFA Soccer '96 for the Genesis is the best 16-bit soccer simulation. Period.
No Strikes, Just Strikers
When FIFA first hit the market three years ago, it became the standard by which all other soccer sims were measured. The latest edition in the FIFA series is no different.
FIFA '96 adds faster and more realistic gameplay; new options like expanded league play, an expert mode, and practice mode; and two playing levels. The Semipro level is a faster-paced arcade game, while the Professional level is tougher and more realistic.
The gameplay and controls, which were choppy at times in the past, have been smoothed out. While the Genesis version still plays a little slower than the SNES version, it also still controls better.
- If you have the ball near your goal and a defender is closely guarding you, press Button C to shoot. The ball will be cleared from your part of the field.
- Let the computer take over as keeper. Unless you've mastered the game, the computer will always be a better keeper.
The one knock against FIFA in the past was that it didn't have a Practice mode, which most soccer sims offered. Critics can offer that complaint no more: The new Practice mode is a great place for beginners to hone their skills and for experts to perfect trick shots.
On corner kicks, aim for the back post. When the ball is in the air, move one of your players into position for a shot Press Button C quickly to catch the keeper offguard with a one- touch shot.
The graphics have improved from last year, especially for the players. New SGI-rendered animations give these larger sprites more realistic movements.
The superb sound for FIFA Genesis is more exciting than the SNES version's. The crowd chants, sings songs, and basically goes crazy whenever a goal is scored.
If you're into soccer and you're in the market for a Genesis sim, look no further than FIFA Soccer '96. If you don't own a Genesis, go out and buy one. FIFA'96 is that good.
Companies with competing Soccer games will be frustrated when they plug in FIFA '96. No other SNES sim on the market offers the depth found here.
FIFA '96 adds features that make this game one of the top sports sims. New options include two playing levels (Semipro and a tougher Professional level), an expert mode, a new practice mode, and expanded league play. The expanded leagues now feature 12 international leagues with more than 100 teams and 3000 real player names and ratings.
ProTip: If you're playing without any penalties, frequently use the sliding tackle. It's the best way to steal the ball or stop an opponent's attack.
The gameplay and controls are improved, and surprisingly, the SNES version plays much faster than its Genesis counterpart. The players really move across the screen, and a fast dribble feature allows for more breakaway opportunities. No longer can you put one of your strikers directly in front of the computer's keeper, block his punt, and score a goal.
Let your strikers shoot on goal. A fullback won't have as good a shot rating as a striker.
Bound for the Cup
With SGI-rendered graphics, the players sport a much cleaner and slightly larger look. The character animations are more realistic, and even the stadium looks better. The sound for FIFA is a little disappointing for the SNES. It's still better than most, but you won't get that European flavor of crowd noise (like chanting and singing) that made past FIFA games so authentic. The announcer used to go wild when a team scored, but the new English announcer blandly says, "It's a goal."
Although the sound earns a yellow card in this go-around, FIFA '96 delves deeper into the international world of soccer. FIFA Soccer '96 still has no worthy SNES rivals.
This is the Best game of FIFA series from Electronic Arts. Unlike other games, the computer is cleverer, the passes are better given - the ball follows the way you intend it to follow. There are three new leagues: Malaysia, Scotland and Sweden. It is possible to create your own team, player, tournament or league...
Snapshots and Media
Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Screenshots
SNES/Super Nintendo/Super Famicom Screenshots
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