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Review: FIFA 08
by Linford Butler

Traditionally, EA's FIFA games have set the benchmark high for other aspiring footie sims. Often imitated, but never bettered, the FIFA games are undoubtedly the best the genre has to offer. So why should FIFA 08 be any different? It shouldn't. Because this game is pure class.

EA have really gone to town with this one - the player likenesses are fantastic, the crowd actually looks like a crowd rather than tacked on bits of plasticine and the physics engine is so realistic that Ronaldo would probably be impressed.

However, EA obviously haven't realised that first impressions matter immensely. Loading a game for the first time should be a thing of magic, but FIFA 08 disappoints in that field. The games first few minutes are a silent affair, leaving you wondering whether it was meant to be like that or if you've bought a dodgy disk and should go back and complain. Once those first solemn minutes are over, though, this game fails to disappoint.

The gameplay is truly stunning - the next-gen version of FIFA has done away with the old arcadey feel and replaced it with an impressive, new gameplay engine that makes you feel like you just scored that goal, rather than some generic football-shirt wearing loon high on testosterone. And this is certainly a step in the right direction, as FIFA needed something new to keep it from going straight from the shelf to the bargain bin.

Take dribbling, for instance. In previous incarnations of FIFA, it was very much a speed-of-light, thankyou-very-much, where-did-the-opposition-go process which took no real skill or brainpower to master. With this new lick of next-gen paint, however, the player is forced to anticipate the other team's paths and put into perspective which tactic will work in which situation, which makes the whole thing much more immersive and rewarding when you get it right.

A quick glance at FIFA's groundbreaking visuals can take your breath away. Left dumbfounded in the middle of HMV, you stand there gawping until 8:30, when you are asked to leave by the grumpy boss in the pinstriped suit. And it's very easy to become even more dumbfounded when you look at the back of the box and realise that the game is only running in humble 720p. This doesn't make this tour-de-force of a sports sim any less of a game though; if it was running in 4:3 on a 15 year old Sanyo dragged out of a garage it would still be up there with some of the best graphics available.

This game truly comes into it's own online. Integrated with the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live in a beautifully-crafted 126,000 lines of code, joining up with potential teammates couldn't be more simple. From the online menu (easily accessible from the main menu), you can join or create a tournament, become a 'pro' player or set up a good old one-on-one with little effort whatsoever. FIFA does not lose any gameplay quality when playing online, either, and the framerate is smooth.

By far the best online mode has to be 'Be A Pro'. This fantastic installment to the FIFA online mode allows you to take control of just one player in a team of eleven. With twenty-two players on one pitch at one time, teamwork becomes crucial, and you get the sense of playing a team game rather than on your own against the AI. This one mode adds a really special something to the online functionality, and gives it a distinctive feature to set it apart from other similar games.

In each and every way, this revamped FIFA excels. There is not one part of this game that left me feeling short-changed. It appeals to old and young, and it looks so cool even my technophobe of a mother snatched the controller from my hands. But there is one problem with FIFA 08.

Once you've begun playing, you won't want to stop.



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- Linford Butler

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