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World Cup 98 (N64) Review

Background Info

Shortly after producing Fifa: Road To The World Cup '98, EA releases World Cup '98. The question most soccer fans were left to ponder was "Is it worth buying WC98 if I already own Road to the World Cup?" That one is tough to answer due to the striking similarities between the two titles. However some aspects have been drastically improved upon in the latest release.

Presentation/Graphics : 90
The graphics are probably the strongest feature of the game and really set the game above other soccer titles. The player have been animated very nicely and move much like real players. The 10 licensed World Cup stadiums have obviously been rendered with the greatest of care. The crowd is not animated; however, 1 large flag of each team is present in the stands. The small addition which impressed this reviewer was the fact the field will actually wear down as the game goes on. Around the goals and near center, the ground gradually turns brown and the field is subjected to the wear and tear provided by 22 players and the referee. The only possible criticism would be that despite the improved framerate, the game can be a little jerky at times. Road to World Cup also had a problem maintaining smoothness at all times, and this minor problem re-emerges in World Cup 98.

Presentation/Audio : 90
Another extremely strong feature of World Cup '98, the audio is second to none (by N64 standards). Despite being strapped for space on the cartridge format, World Cup '98 offers a variety of different sounds, including the opening music, which is Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping." Dolby Surround sound is utilized, which has not been used in too many games thus far. The crowd cheers and boos according to what is happening on the field. The only flaw in this department is the lack of commentary. This is more the fault of Nintendo for using the cartridge format, as it restricts the space available for sound. As in RTWC '98, Lynam and Motson will provide the commentary when it is appropriate. Though the limitations are unavoidable, WC '98 won't disappoint any soccer fans in terms of audio.

Interface : 79
When a game's only substantial problem lies in the interface, it is almost a sure sign of a quality game. The interface leaves a little to be desired, especially when saving or loading games. Instead of using words, miniscule icons appear in the corner for saving, loading, and options. However, the in-game interface has none of these problems. Pushing start will bring up a very straight-forward list of options which could have been made very difficult to access. Team management has been simplified since RTWC '98, and things like substitutions are easier to execute. You can even designate players to take corner kicks and free kicks through the team management menu.

Gameplay : 86
One of the most important improvements made in World Cup '98 is in the gameplay. The framerate has been increased, providing the gamer with a much faster and more realistic game than RTWC '98. The controls are smooth and the players are very responsive. While selecting teams, options and game mode, the controls are terrible. Thankfully this ends once the game begins. The game speed is also adjustable, and even on normal (the slowest setting) it is faster than RTWC '98. It would have been possible to make the players a little more responsive, but EA chose to portray accurate player motions so players will continue their motion rather than cutting them short and stopping on a dime. It translates to an excellent game to watch but can be a touch frustrating to control. The passing can be difficult, as it is easy to overshoot, but this adds to the realism. One of the most useful features is the strategy which can be changed any time. Your team can start with a very offensive, attacking style, then go into a defensive shell if they are able to score a goal or two. These strategies really add to the replay value and help you get the most realistic soccer experience.

Difficulty : 84
As in RTWC '98, there is a very distinct difference between each setting of difficulty. Amateur is far too easy, and will quickly become boring. On this setting all you have to do is get the ball and run end to end and shoot. Most of the time it'll go in and it is not uncommon to see scores like 8-0 on amatuer. Profesional is a lot of fun and really gives the player a challenge especially if they use a weaker team than the computer. Games rarely get out of hand and can often result in sudden death or even a shoot out. The AI goaltending has been drastically improved. The goalie will no longer sit back in his crease or kick the ball directly to his opponent. On a corner kick, he will often try to punch the ball away to avoid a shot on net. On World Class difficulty, it is extremely difficult to score. As of now, it has proved too difficult for this reviewer, especially since my team of choice is Canada.

Overall : 86
World Cup '98 is another step closer to the perfect soccer game. By improving the AI and speed, EA is very close to the ideal game and needs no major imporvements. If you have RTWC '98 and are unsure whether or not to buy World Cup '98, I would recommend against the purchase unless you are a hardcore soccer fan and money is not a major concern for you. The changes are noticeable but Road to the World Cup '98 is a solid game and even has a great deal of features left out of WC '98 such as the Fifa teams and the popular indoor stadium. That said, World Cup '98 plays a fair bit faster and is more fun than RTWC.

By: Dave T. 8/17/98

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