Here is a question for you. If you ask anybody who had a computer or console in the last 5 years, which football game would they probably mention? Well more then likely it would be one of the Fifa series of games.
Spanning many years the first Fifa brought a whole new fun element to playing football on the computer. I can remember playing it on the Sega Megadrive for the first time and thinking how lucky we are to have such a great console and an impressive game to go with it. The Xbox has only had one version of the game and that is the World Cup edition which was a good representation of football, but still you wanted something more. Well now the Xbox also has Fifa 2003 and apparently we are in for a real treat.
As with most Fifa’s you get the intro video with music you have heard before on either the radio or on TV. Something catchy to get your complete attention. The menu is very simple to operate with plenty of team swapping options. Covering leagues from all over the world you should find it easy to find a team you would like to play as. I myself love the English Premiership and always choose Manchester United. So now we have selected a team, now let’s get into the game.
With a relatively quick loading time you are shown the different controls and they are quite different to previous versions as I will explain further on in my review. First thing that hits you is the lovely graphics. These have been pushed a lot harder then the World Cup game with effects like blurring the background so you focus your eyes on the right areas of the screen. Beautiful colours, friendly handshakes and we are away. Like the previous version you control the power of crossing, passing long balls and also an option of a short pass by just a tap of a button. What is different though is running. No longer tapping the hell out of a button to keep the speed. Now you simply press one of the triggers and a running you go. Seeming too easy they have made it more difficult to turn when running and shooting accuracy is a lot less accurate when at a full pace encouraging some special thinking on your part.
Other areas that have been changed is the taking a corner system. Rather then having an arrow and a power gauge, you have a circle which you position and an indicator moves left to right and it is your job to hit the highlighted point on the bar. This is a much better system, but getting your player on the receiving end to react is something of a hit and miss affair.
It is far easier to just pass the ball along the ground with the pass button and at the edge of the box get your player then to pass or shoot. This provides much better results, but corners become tedious with this method, pull it off though and an amazing header will follow which looks fantastic on the replays.
Another big change is the free kick. Now you can add spin properly by choosing the part of the football you want to hit, setting the target and then hopefully hit the mark on the bar again. The beckham free kick has arrived and seeing as I use Manchester United you can get, shall we say, a little euphoric when you score.
Overall control is much better and more realistic, however players do seem very square in their movement and don’t flow very well when moving about the pitch. Animations are very good, it is just the movement when running.
Graphically the players, stadiums and lighting are superb and a much needed improvement over the last one. Rather then just the sunny days, we have some lovely rain effects and you can see the pitch deteriorate over a season. Also still there are day and night games casting shadows accordingly. Pitch detail is also much noticeably higher and the game feels like football should.
This is helped by the tremendous, and I mean that in a huge way, crowd sounds and chants. Over the last few years they have pretty much been unchanged and certainly not much more added. Playing as Manchester United you get the chant “Glory glory Man United” which is always good fun, also when say Liverpool you get the crowd singing “You”ll Never Walk Alone”. This is the same sort of thing for most teams and is a sure crowd ‘pleaser’. Another factor to mention is the home and away games. The crowd will soar into a frenzy of cheering if their home team score, however if the away team score, deadly silence. Commentary has changed also. You still have the ever popular Motty but now we have a different co-commentator.
Welcome in Ali McCoist with yet another strong accent. The commentary hasn’t really been changed much other then this factor but when Motty says something like “He is making a good run” if you lose the ball he sometimes corrects himself and says something like “Oh maybe I spoke too soon” which is great. We should have had this years ago but better late then never.
Fifa has changed and overall for the better. So much graphical detail and atmosphere with the crowd improvements have made the series a much bigger statement like it was all those years ago. Fifa is back and dribbling its way to your personal Xbox collection.