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FIFA 2000 (PSX) Review

Background Info

Over the years, EA Sports' FIFA series has established itself as the company's most reliable franchise. While their other sports games have fluctuated in quality, often frustratingly so, each year's installment of FIFA has been like money in the bank. The game has consistently improved in terms of gameplay, graphics, and presentation since 1998's Road to the World Cup but, with FIFA 2000, the string of success has been broken.

Presentation/Graphics : 88
At first glance, FIFA 2000's graphics are indiscernible from FIFA 99. The look and animation of the players when viewed from a typically distant camera angle are fluid and realistic. Player close-ups reveal the same sort of blockiness that was evident in last year's game, and provide further indication that the Playstation has been taken as far as it can go graphically.

Where FIFA 2000 really departs from previous games in the series is in its scaled back presentation. There are still some nice little touches like players warming up and post-goal celebrations (which look very much like last year), but the overall presentation has been stripped down somewhat compared to what we've been accustomed to from FIFA. Gone are the real stadiums which have been replaced with generic stadiums that look, well, generic. EA Sports set the standard for sports game presentation, and I have no idea why they would choose to downplay it now. Don't get me wrong, FIFA 2000's presentation is still quite good, but in light of what EA have done to their NHL series (compare NHL '98 to 2000), it's troubling to think that FIFA might be headed in the same direction.

Presentation/Audio : 85
FIFA 2000 continues the series' tradition of good audio. The sound effects are well done and the crowds are responsive. The overall package lacks the clarity that I remember from FIFA 99, with the crowds in particular having a white noise effect. But, hey, that's probably not far from what you'd hear at a real soccer match!

The biggest change in the audio department comes in the form of a brand new broadcasting crew, which includes the familiar (to some) voice of Julie Foudy. The actual commentary is good, but the use of American announcers, in what would seem to be an attempt to make FIFA more palatable to the North American audience, is a major gaffe in my opinion. The British announcing team of past FIFA's added a lot of charm that is completely lacking in FIFA 2000.

Interface/Options : 95
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 : 80
FIFA 99 wasn't a perfect game, but it was certainly as close the series had come to a realistic simulation of soccer. Its only serious shortcoming was that the game moved too fast, WAY too fast. Speed aside, by '99 EA had fine-tuned FIFA's AI to the point where it looked and felt like real soccer. The good news is that the game speed has been slowed down to a realistic level for FIFA 2000. The bad news is that EA have succumbed to the temptation to mess with elements of the game that should have been left alone, especially the AI.

Like NHL 2000, the AI in FIFA 2000 has been relaxed considerably. In FIFA 99, I played 6-minute halves with realistic results. Using 4-minute halves, my games in FIFA 2000 have been score-fests. The AI is less aggressive, the keepers aren't as effective, and your CPU teammates, while generally well positioned, do nothing to help (why does the opposition player always have position following a goal kick?!). As a result, the game takes a step back towards the mad dashes up and down the field that were prevalent back in Road to the World Cup, with scoring completely dominated by one or two players. Why EA have decided to turn simulations like FIFA and NHL into arcade games is anybody's guess, but that's exactly what they've done here, and just when they almost had it right. I should have known what I was in for when I went to adjust my formation and strategy to a more defensive posture, and found that the "default" was full attack. What's more, adjusting it to full defense doesn't make a whit of difference other than to have your team sit on its heels. EA would do well to realize that, like American football, soccer is a game of ball control and field position. FIFA 2000 falls well short of simulating that.

FIFA 2000 delivers the usual plethora of teams and leagues that the series has become known for. In addition to the European and South American leagues, for the first time FIFA includes the MLS. This will no doubt be a major selling point in the North American market. Cup play is back, but fans of the World Cup are likely to be disappointed that regional qualifying rounds are still missing in action. It's possible to play your way through the entire tournament in a one-hour sitting. Watching the rather elaborate celebration after winning the championship left me feeling hollow, having invested so littlle time and effort in getting there.

Replay Value : 90
There are certainly no shortage of teams, leagues and play modes to keep you coming back to FIFA for more. If the offensively orientated gameplay appeals to you, FIFA 2000 will keep you and up to 7 friends going for a very long time indeed.

Overall : 88
FIFA has been one of the rare sports series where I've eagerly awaited each new edition of the game. Perhaps it's because I've been such a big fan of the previous games that I feel so let down by FIFA 2000. Apart from fixing the game speed and including the MLS teams, FIFA 2000 subtracts more than it adds. Longtime fans are strongly advised to try before you buy. Anyone looking for a high-scoring soccer game that features the MLS, this is your game.

By: Pete Anderson 12/9/99

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