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FIFA 08 Review for Xbox 360

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Here we are again to review yet another FIFA from EA Sports, but lets quickly remember the break through last year the series achieved in spades. Finally after many years of animations dictating the control and movement of the ball, introduced was the new ball physics system, which if you forgive the terrible pun that will follow, seriously kicked the game in the balls and gave the series the required lift into stardom yet again.

It wasn’t a perfect footy title, however I could see a lot of potential in this new system. FIFA ’07 was riddled with minor annoyances, but I suppose that is to be expected with something so different and new. FIFA ’08 promises a chance to correct these issues and maybe even convince those Pro Evolution Soccer fans that FIFA deserves a flutter as well.

Gameplay

So has enough been tweaked to bring the perfect football game to the masses? Well perfect is an almost impossible goal, but plenty has been corrected to make FIFA ’08 easily the best in many years! No more player jolts around the pitch, that broke the sense of realism in the previous title, in fact smoothness and flowing football is prevalent and it has taken FIFA ’08 into a whole new realm of excellence.

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The issue isn’t the graphics, the gameplay, the audio or anything else for that matter. One issue has probably pushed FIFA into the not so beautiful game by having a slightly slower pace. FIFA just feels too slow and although it gives a great sense of realism and precision, it does take away the magic of playing a game. Sometimes I feel developers get trapped in the simulation and arcade catagories, never quite finding the balance and here is probably another title that fits into this area. If only the game speed was a touch faster by default, I would be singing the praises of this game unbelievably high, but alas maybe next year (how many times have I had to say that about FIFA games though).

Game speed isn’t going to destroy the title and actually FIFA ’08 is a very strong physical presence for the Xbox 360 console. Absolutely brimming with content, leagues, stadiums and presentation qualities, you will be able to spend countless hours twisting the analogue stick.

As usual, skill moves have been added and adjusted and with the ball physics engine, it all merges from one motion to another. The most frustrating change though has to be the ever increasing scoring difficulty. It seems that every year they make it that little bit harder each time to get that frigging ball in the back of the net and the same is so true of the latest incarnation. Again this just becomes a slight tedium and you soon start to find new ways of exploiting the system, but still it is an area that really needs some looking at as somehow it just doesn’t seem quite right yet.

Minor button changes include how you can select your player on screen. You can (if you wish) use the right analogue stick to select a player on the pitch. This is actually very welcome, but again fits into that ‘needs perfecting’ category.

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One FIFA tradition still remains as well. That time when the ball is just sitting there, you have the player you control just standing there unable to move and the A.I. on the other team who is further away taking the ball and running ahead. When oh when will this get sorted I wonder?

Manager mode makes a successful return with all the same charms we are now very used to. With so many leagues to take control of, you really are spoilt for choice. Interactive Leagues also feature as a way to build a greater community around the FIFA series. Basically by winning as a team, that contributes towards their standing around the world. Fascinating stuff!

If you want to take the game even further, take control of a single player within a team and see how you fare. The game gives you plenty of icons that show you if you are playing in the wrong position and when we do see finally more people able to take this game online at once, it makes for perfect practice.

Graphics

Although not looking very dissimilar from FIFA ’07, the latest title does have much nicer looking pitches, although I still yet again wait for some minor weather options to be added to really add some interesting times.

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Presentation has always been the trump card of the FIFA series over its rivals and this year it still sits very comfortably on a pedestal as the best there is at the moment, but lets not get cocky about it. I know I go on about this weather thing in review after review, but it was actually a feature (although granted a little too much!) in a much earlier FIFA game. I forget exactly which one as there have been so many!

That default camera angle has changed yet again, and reading various reviews a few say this is a bad move due to you missing out on the quality of the graphics of those player models. Actually I don’t agree! Sometimes pretty things on screen have to be sacrificed a little to accommodate gameplay. For me it adds the much needed vision to pass the ball forward successfully as the radar even on high definition doesn’t quite cut it for instant decision making. Replays looks fantastic with Rooney looking as you would expect and even with the camera sitting further out during gameplay, the visuals still impress.

Sound

As usual the commentary is excellent for a week and then a little repetitive there on, but that is to be expected with any game that features this. For what it is, the expert voicing of two very well known Sky commentators adds that sparkle and interest for many a British gamer. I have noticed some American sites critisising the commentary for its less than lacklustre enthusiasm, but hey I think this is more a case of the British way and maybe yet another reason why EA Sports could go that extra mile and include American AND British commentary. The same could be said for Tiger Woods as well!

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Crowd chants are sublime, ball impacts have a very rewarding thud and the whole atmosphere is sparkling with football fever. Music is the typical mix of worldwide flavours that make a nice backing in the menus.

Longevity

Achievements are far better spread this year and if you want to unlock a good selection, you will need to beat teams on various difficulty settings and complete and win different world leagues. If you are after achievements, expect a long journey, but a more rewarding one than we have experienced in the past.

Conclusion

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FIFA ’08 is the sorely needed tweak we needed to see after the introduction of the ball physics system last year. It is one of the best experiences of the beautiful game, but the slightly slow pace of the title doesn’t quite encourage the excitement levels beyond anything substantial. It is again the best FIFA and certainly an impressive step forward, but still a few things need sorting to make it really shine.

Rating: ★★★★½