Soccer game fans of recent years will know there are only two contenders for the title of best soccer sim and every year it never changes. Whilst Konami's Winning Eleven series has boasted a more realistic feel in the gameplay, EA's FIFA titles have always focused on delivering a fully licensed, detailed game. This year hasn't changed a bit with hundreds of teams ranging from different leagues all over the world; people looking for authenticity will not be disappointed.
The series has been declining for awhile, with the 2004 version feeling cumbersome and unfinished, it made you feel like tossing it away and sticking a copy of 2002 into your PS2. This year though, everything has changed. The best parts of 2004 have stayed in and things that didn't work have been improved greatly. The most obvious improvement is the horrible "off the ball" control system which has been sorted out and is no longer a main focus of the game. Also the character sprites have been enhanced with more realistic players and a lot less glitches than the previous installments.
The addition of the first touch control is also nice development, making it easier to get past your opponent with the first touch. This works well as it shows off what real stars of soccer do in almost every game but, it can also result in loosing the ball pretty easily. Staying true to how things work in a game of soccer, only the best players with high stats can pull these moves off successfully, which can prove annoying or delightful depending on the way you look at it.
The generic soccer game modes are all in here, ranging from a quick match to seasons and tournaments and like in any other FIFA game, the chance to create your own cup is featured in the tournament section. Whilst it is fun to put the world's greatest club teams into one big play off, it does get rather annoying as you try to work with the irritating set up process.
There is also a totally revamped career mode that spans over 15 seasons, as you try to make a name for yourself as soccer coach. You can chose from an array of clubs from different parts of the world, but, this isn't quite what it seems. The ability to choose any club is taken from you as you are forced to chose a lower league club and bring fame and fortune to them.
If you have been successful, when the season finishes you have a choice of staying on with your current team or signing up with a team in a higher division, but it may take a couple of seasons to be asked to join a more desirable team like Barcelona, Juventus or Arsenal. Some people may enjoy the idea of bringing a run down, bottom division squad to the top league, but for the average gamer the season mode may prove more enjoyable.
The career mode is very fun but doesn't go without its problems; you can choose whether to play the game or simulate the next match, but it is a lot easier to play as the simulations tend to be unrealistic. Another problem some gamers might find is the unrealistically high standards off the board, even if you are at the top of the league and have won some major cups, one loss can send their happiness percentage right down. Another feature is the ability to improve the coaching staff and managerial staff. For example, a high level financial staff will mean you gain more points when a player is sold.
The graphics on FIFA games have always had the advantage over the WE series and on 2005 the visuals are stunning. The detail put into each player is of very high standard, although younger or lower league players are just generic character models, you will recognize big money players almost straight away. The kits (uniforms) stay truthful to this season's set of strips with the top few leagues, but may contain older kits with little or unknown clubs. The grounds and pitches range from real to universal stadiums; these all look fine but could have been enhanced, however, this isn't a real issue. The crowd are also quite bland and don't differ from any other FIFA title. The weather is also variable and can alter the visuals quite a lot, showing nice range from sunny to dull and so on.
The audio brags several tracks from charts across the globe, differing from weird German tracks to songs from bands like Franz Ferdinand. These differ from band to band, country to country so some people may find themselves tearing their hair out to certain tracks whilst getting pumped up with others. The in game commentary is nothing special, featuring the voices of Ally McCoist and John Motson (who are ironically from rival British TV stations) and there is a lack of accuracy as you tend to hear Motson get over excited at some attack moves that fail and being overly dull at ones that succeed.
With an online play that supports dial up users, FIFA 2005 is definitely the soccer game for those casual gamers looking to play online. Those who are fans of the FIFA series will not be as disappointed as last year, but may still feel there is something missing that hasn't been there since the 32-bit era. Those looking for a more in-depth, realistic feeling should go pick up Winning Eleven 8 instead but, if you consider yourself a huge soccer fan, this title will appeal to you more.