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'FIFA 2000' doesn't survive American invasion


November 15, 1999
Web posted at: 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT)

By D. Ian Hopper
CNN Interactive Technology Editor

(CNN) -- In an attempt to make the North American version of "FIFA 2000" more palatable to the market, EA Sports made the controversial decision of American-izing its grand FIFA line. While it may appeal to those who think the sport is too slow and plodding, it's bound to disappoint the legions of soccer fans and lovers of the series.

The marquee addition to "FIFA 2000" is the inclusion of Major League Soccer teams and players. This is long overdue. But along with D.C. United and the L.A. Galaxy, a number of other American changes take away from the game.

The British commentators are gone, in favor of Americans Phil Schoen and women's World Cup team member Julie Foudy. Their talk, while usually appropriate for the action going on, assumes that the player knows absolutely nothing about the sport. For example, they note, aloud, that the keeper can't use his hands outside the penalty box. Further, they make references to "football," talking about the American kind. This inane blabber doesn't occur just within the MLS matches, but in all games. Overall, though, they're rather quiet and can be ignored -- or turned off.

The gameplay is far quicker than a real soccer game, and in recent FIFA installations. The players move faster and react quicker, and it'll take some serious button-mashing in order to keep possession of the ball.

While in possession, players are extremely physical. They constantly stick an arm out to ward off attackers, a maneuver that is patently illegal though a call never comes. This arm throw is automatic, requiring no input from the controller. It almost seems as if a few team members from EA Sports' "Madden 2000" got thrown into FIFA's group by mistake.

While the referee is blind to stiff-arming, he's hyperactive when it comes to offsides. After reviewing several instant replays after an offsides call is made, the player is almost never truly offsides. Sure, it's a somewhat complicated rule, but "FIFA '99" never had a problem with it.

As with many EA Sports titles, the difficulty levels are problematic. On the lowest level, Amateur, you'll have to kick the ball directly to a defender in order to have it taken away -- and it's just as easy to steal it back. But on the middle difficulty, Professional, you'll have to know most of the special moves to protect yourself from the charging attackers. It's very difficult, and is probably too daunting for players new to the series. The World Class level should not be tried by anyone who doesn't have reflexes like a 13-year-old after a dozen Pixie-Stix and a six-pack of Jolt Cola.

EA Sports doesn't disappoint when it comes to graphics. They're even improved over the absolutely excellent look of "FIFA '99," though it may be difficult to take time from frantic gamepad action in order to appreciate the eye candy. There was also an occasional but annoying bug that replaced the arena graphics with a blue field and resulted in some clipping problems. It could be confined to 3dfx cards, but as of this writing it has not been mentioned on EA Sports' tech support Web site.

There's also some good features, like historic teams, complete with sepia-toned look, international teams, national league squads and some great contemporary tunes. Oddly, though, it's impossible to play an MLS team through an entire season. The game doesn't offer the option, perhaps due to a contractual agreement.

If you're a die-hard MLS fan, it's hard to pass up "FIFA 2000." (Perhaps there's an unsupported MLS roster patch on the Web somewhere, painstakingly written by a devoted fan?) But if you're a soccer fan, or an EA Sports FIFA series fan, it's better to stick with "FIFA '99" - which can be had at a bargain price now that the next edition is out.

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