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FIFA 99 (PC) Review

Background Info

From FIFA 96 to the latest World Cup '98, using one player to run down the field for a shot at the net was the norm, but now EA Sports' latest release, FIFA 99, has become a playmaker's game. EA Sports decided to concentrate more on the club aspect of soccer with leagues, cups, etc. with over 240 teams to choose from. EA Sports has also included a very nice editor that allows the creation of customized leagues and cup competitions plus also the ability to transfer players. After playing FIFA 99, previous versions are soon forgotten!

Presentation/Graphics : 94
World Cup '98 graphics were improved over FIFA 98's and it didn't seem graphics could be improved beyond that. Wrong! EA Sports has somehow brought even more realism to the game with mind-blowing graphics that are a delight to the eyes. The player modeling graphics are more defined in this version to add to the realism of the player and the detailing of each of the stadiums is superb. The stadium lighting effects have been taken to a new level to provide such a real effect, it is like watching a real game on TV. New "post-goal" celebrations are added with players opening their mouths now letting out a roar! If you look close enough, you can even see the player's teeth when he opens his mouth! Also another new feature for the players on the field is that they "look-up" when the ball is in the air.

EA Sports has added new referee cut scenes for fouls. The players are now shown arguing with the referee when that yellow or red card comes out! Field details are improved and weather conditions have been improved drastically. Now you can see it snow, sleet, and rain while the game is playing. It can get confusing if it is monsoon season or a blizzard happens, as the ball is hard to track with all the rain or snow falling.

Presentation/Audio : 88
The opening track, Fatboy Slim's Rockafeller Skank, rips apart your speakers and prepares you for the game. EA provides even more cunning background music keep your feet tapping while playing. Commentary is taken to a new level with an increase in the number of commentary words in the game and also with a lot of new humorous "one-liners." Even transferring a player to another team brings along with it the correct commentary now. In-game audio is the same with no noticeable improvements from previous versions. EA Sports includes all the field sounds to give FIFA 99 a realistic feeling while playing, though when weather conditions are adverse, the ball or player hitting the field in a rainstorm still sounds like a "thud" instead of an expected "slosh."

Interface/Options : 90
FIFA shines brighter than ever when it comes to its interface. The game is deep, as always, in options, but EA have fine-tuned and simplified the menu system. It has a look and feel that FIFA 99 players will immediately be comfortable with, but everything is much better organized than last year's rather daunting presentation. Kudos on a job very well done.

Likewise, the control system is very familiar. Veteran players will have no trouble jumping right in. Load times are very good, but while you're waiting you can peruse a graphic of the game's control layout. Very nice.

The most notable addition to the control scheme is a "pass potential indicator." A green, yellow, or red arrow provides a visual cue of the probability of completing a pass. It's a good idea in principle, but I found it distracting and not particularly reliable.

Team management options are once again more than deep enough to keep most gamers happy, and IGM (In Game Management), which allows you to adjust formations, plays, and strategies, makes a return appearance. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Gameplay : 92
First of all, EA Sports has increased the frame rate to smooth out the action a lot better than in World Cup '98. The response of the controllers is a little faster, which was a critical point in previous versions. This provides a better flow of the game and gives you a better challenge against the AI at the hardest difficulty, although there can still be some lag in the response of the controller. The In-Game Management, which first appeared in World Cup 98, is also in FIFA 99: this allows you to change to 3 different preset formations and strategies for your team on the fly. This is one of the many helpful features and prevents you from going back to the Team Management screen every time to switch between offensive and defensive strategies and formations. EA Sports has also fixed the side and end line bug so now you can get the ball near the out of bounds lines without knocking the ball out. The AI is a fiercer competitor now, being able to man-mark your players. The game is more of a strategy and team play game now requiring a lot more passing to set up a good shot on net. Rarely now is the one player able to run the ball down the field bypassing the defenders for a shot on net. The AI players are a lot more aggressive and challenge the player with the ball if he holds it too long or is close to a defender. It almost looks like the AI is able to read an offensive play now and adjust accordingly.

The game includes new moves on both offense and defense though World Cup '98 provided enough to keep my fingers tangled together. The defense has a new hook tackle, but like the good old fashioned slide tackle, the referee likes to give out cards for this one. EA Sports has now given you the limited ability to control the goalkeeper now. An additional new move included in FIFA 99 is chest trapping. You can chest trap the ball to yourself or another player. EA Sports has also carried over the In-Game Tactics moves that first appeared in World Cup 98. The offside trap option is there where your defense can try to draw the offense offside. The attacking press moves two of your defenders toward the ball handler to pressure him. There is the through-ball run and also a command for a wing-back run to pull one of your defenders up into the play. There is no need now to go to the Team Management screen to see how tired your players are, EA Sports shows you this by the color of the highlight under a player. A fully-fit player with have a bright yellow circle underneath him, as the player gets tired, the circle turns to a darker and darker yellow.

Difficulty : 96
EA Sports has significantly increased the difficulty for FIFA 99 against the AI. The AI is fierce and will stop at nothing to win. Amateur level is still easy and a good starting point to get the feel of the game. Professional difficulty is marginally tougher than in previous versions which requires a lot more passing to avoid the aggressive AI defense that are more than willing to knock over your player to take the ball away. World Class difficulty is the crème de la crème of this game and scoring a goal in one of these games is a victory in itself. The AI is the strongest and most effective than in any other game at this level. The AI's playmaking is quick and accurate and before you know it, they have a shot on net before you have a chance to react. In FIFA 98 or World Cup 98, it took some time to master the game at World Class difficulty and the game started to lack interest after that. The only challenge that kept the game alive was the numerous modem leagues that popped up where you could compete against other players for a challenge. With FIFA 99, it might be the opposite: people might play in the modem leagues first to gain skills to come back and attack the game at World Class difficulty. The World Class difficulty will either make you or break you.

Overall : 92
EA Sports has done it again by pushing the envelope farther. Graphics are improved, Audio is still awesome, and the difficulty has been increased to extend the lifetime of the game. Internet play for FIFA 99 would be the coup de grace and put EA Sports as the unreachable master of soccer games, but it is still missing. The commentary is fresh and new and the new cut scenes are a pleasure to watch. EA Sports has marginally increased the control speed of the game, but there still is lag in the reaction of the controls.

There are enough features such as player editing and cup or league creation to tailor the game to a person's needs. The new weather effects are an interesting angle although they don't give the full feel of the game being played in those conditions. The harder difficulty is great and will keep the interest in the game for a lot longer time until you can master it. EA Sports has done a great job of adding these new features in the game and continues to keep people's interest to buy their continuing saga. If there is a bright center to the universe of soccer games, EA Sports comes the closest with FIFA 99!

By: Eric D. 12/3/98

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