Thus far, few publishers have had success with their soccer games. Even though Konami's Winning Eleven is the better playing and sells like hotcakes in Europe and Japan, its American presence is very poor. Without the proper licensing behind them, it seems as the American gamers aren't as open to the idea of a non-FIFA branded soccer game.
The FIFA games, on the other hand, have never been bad games. They've just always had a smaller focus on being pure sims, and have often tilted towards arcade-like mechanics. Over the years, EA is improving their formula with tweaks here and there, and thus far they've been fairly successful with their fine tuning. Now comes FIFA 08, the first true next-gen soccer attempt from EA (FIFA 07 still shared a lot of assets from the PS2 and Xbox versions), and we're pretty excited about it.
Because FIFA Soccer 08 utilizes a true next-gen engine it features the most precise animations and response in control that the series has ever seen. Likewise, all new artificial intelligence code has been created that features a 35-point decision engine that allows players to process multiple decisions and reactions in real-time. How this will pan out is yet to be seen, but expect it to make a large difference in the fluidity of the game. The A.I. has what EA calls a "dynamic Threat Map" system. Meaning that the players on the field are aware of their immediate surroundings, and that allows them to react accordingly to them.
What's more is that EA has even implemented an engine for ball-striking, and how it works is purely dependent on a mixture of physics, defensive pressure, the athlete's attributes, and even the air pressure. So when attempting to make a shot, all of those variables will come in to play, on top of your personal skill and that of the goalie's.
The series will now get a long awaited career mode where you take control of a created soccer player and take him up the ranks. The mode is "Be A Pro", and just like many other sports games that feature something similar, your goal here will be to work on your player, control his positioning, passing, tackling, shooting, and reading the field — in other words, do the things that real footballers do.
"This year, FIFA Soccer 08 takes its second step into the next-generation. Last year, we kicked off the next-generation by introducing a new engine and stunning ball physics. This year, we are introducing new gameplay, new modes and a new feeling of soccer finesse," said Andrew Wilson, Executive Producer for FIFA Soccer 08. "Be A Pro forces you to think and react like a professional player — you will experience the whole range of emotions players go through during the course of a game. This feature, along with advancements to our gameplay engine, will deliver on our promise of authentic soccer gameplay."
For FIFA 08, EA will be introducing a moves system that'll allow gamers to perform knee-breaking tricks against an opponent in various combinations, many of which are unique to specific stars and signature based. If you've somehow began pulling off a wrong manuever, you'll be able to interrupt it immediately by performing another one – further enhancing your control over any given athlete that you control and increasing the realism, to boot.
Interactive Leagues will find their way into FIFA 08 so if you enjoyed that last year, you should be happy to know it's being carried over. "The Interactive Leagues is the most successful online tournament we've had for the FIFA franchise and I am thrilled to bring it into this year's next-gen game. As a Leeds United fan I was pained to see Manchester United win the first Interactive Premier League last season."
"However, I'm looking forward to redressing the balance this year through FIFA Soccer 08," said Joe Booth, Producer for FIFA Soccer 08 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. "One of my favourite things about Interactive Leagues is how it connects me and the development team with the FIFA gamers via our weekly in-game podcast. We have just broken the one million downloads mark and it's been a fantastic way to interact with other fans, share experiences and answer questions."
Lastly, EA promises a "dramatically more [realistic]" experience ad cites that FIFA Soccer 08 will feature 620 licensed teams, 30 leagues, and over 15,000 athletes Those numbers make FIFA Soccer 08 20% larger than last year's game.
Visually, once again, because the game is running on code that was specifically designed for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, you can expect to see a very impressive game of footy. The grass is no more a dull and flat texture, but instead a a physical property that can clearly be seen protruding from the ground. The details on each player have increased considerably, and gone are the zombie-like faces that have plagued the games from the past. While they still don't seem to be featuring dynamic facial animations, the facial detail is improved, regardless.
Bodies are sculpted from thousands of a plethora of polygons, and topped off with superb anti-aliasing and texture work. The only thing left to see are the crowds and how detailed they come out, but based on what we can see thus far, we wouldn't put too much stock into them being anything but generic. Still, a minor quirk shouldn't trouble FIFA 08, as it does look like a mighty fine game.
Look for EA's newest game of footy to hit shelves October 22nd for the PS3 and October 9th for other consoles.