Every year, the FIFA series makes some slight improvements but always seems to end up playing second fiddle to Konami’s Winning Eleven franchise. We were interested to see if EA Sports would carry the momentum from its hockey and basketball games and make enough changes to its soccer game to catapult it to the top spot of soccer video games. Well, we can report there are some improvements but not enough to leapfrog the competition.Oi! Watch it!The biggest change in FIFA 08 is the gameplay tempo. The action has been slowed down to give the game a more realistic pace. This will undoubtedly put gamers into one of two camps – either they’ll hate it or love it. I actually like the slower pace but there are problems with how the rest of the gameplay is handled, specifically the surrounding action. The biggest problem is your teammates AI – they tend to stand around way too much. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the players on the other side of the pitch were doing the same but they aren’t. The players on the CPU-controlled team are extremely aggressive especially on defense so while you’re trying to dribble and move the ball through their defenses, your teammates seem to be slightly off the mark when reacting to your offensive moves. I understand going with a slower paced game results in less aggressive play but it shouldn’t be like a bunch of clueless 8 year-olds playing a youth soccer game. The same also holds true when playing defense. Your controlled player seems to be the only player who’s trying to stop the defense. Your teammates are passive until an offensive player physically enters their territory so if there is a breakaway by an offensive player, you can forget about a teammate charging in to help. This is pervasive regardless of how you’ve set your team mentality. The game literally feels like you’re a one-man team. I don’t know about you but playing one on eleven isn’t my idea of a fair and balanced soccer game.The other related problem is the absence of gameplay sliders for tweaking the gameplay to your liking. If you’re used to fine tuning gameplay elements like in other EA Sports games, then you’ll really be bummed about this. You will definitely find something that you want to adjust such as lowering the CPU’s uncanny ability to pull off successful tackles at will. Another adjustment would be the disparity between fouls for hard tackling – you’ll get plenty called against you but the CPU will get away with most. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the lower difficulty levels were more varied but they aren’t. The CPU controlled side of the field is way too proficient regardless of the difficulty level or the ranking of the team on the field. Hardcore gamers will probably eat this up since the games never backs down when it comes to a challenge but more casual gamers will lose quickly lose patience due to this.It’s only Beckham. He’ll never get that from there.Fortunately, the controls are very good even though there is a fairly high learning curve for consistently pulling off fancy dribbling moves since defenders are flawless at tackling. On the plus side, passing is fairly crisp and players are more effective with headers. Shots are a bit trickier since it’s relatively easy to overpower your shots and have them fly over the goal. There is a shot power meter but it’s a really too small to help so you end up adjusting your shot with a light tap of the shot button to order to get it under the top bar. This takes a bit of time to get used to since there is a tendency to hold the shot button down so you can get some strength behind your shot. It is a c*bersome setup since slow shots are easy pickings for the goalie. I was actually expecting the development team to adopt the use of the right analog stick for shots and passing, similar to the Skill Stick featured in NHL 08 since it would open up the controls especially for shot accuracy since taking shots on goal is a lot more difficult with the tight defenses that you’re up against. Instead, the game is stuck with the same old button layout that we’ve seen in previous years.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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