Go back to FIFA 2000

Written by: Rik

Date posted: April 23, 2019

My rough memories of FIFA around this time are of FIFA 98: Road to the World Cup showing potential but being a bit slow; World Cup 98 being heralded as a genuinely great game; and FIFA 99 perhaps focusing on the wrong things to improve and focus upon.

I did own, and play all of these games, at the time, but as I said in the main review, I haven’t been able, or particularly inclined, to test them out again. But we can at least have a brief comb through some reviews from my chosen magazine of the era – PC Zone.

The January 1998 edition of Zone pitted FIFA 98 against Gremlin’s Actua Soccer 2, much as Gremlin’s own advertising campaign directly compared the review scores of the first Actua game with those of FIFA ’96. The Zone verdict was that Actua 2 was better, but Zone’s Chris Anderson had some words of praise for FIFA, noting that a lack of speed was one of the main things that let it down:

“There are two things everyone says when they first see FIFA 98. The first is “blimey, check out those graphics”, which is undoubtedly a good thing. The second is, “Jesus. This game is bloody slow”, which is undoubtedly a bad thing. Or is it? The fact the game plays slowly means you get more time on the ball to execute those complicated manoeuvres, but most people just find it downright irritating to the point where they simply refuse to play the game at all…If FIFA PC was a lot quicker, it would have scored a lot higher.”

Come the July 1998 edition of Zone, it was time to look at the official World Cup tie-in, and Zone reviewer Warren Chrismas again referenced the perceived failings of the previous FIFA, while praising this follow-up:

“[FIFA 98] may have looked the dog’s bollocks, but it was painfully, painfully slow. After five minutes’ play, nobody (other than Chris, who reviewed it) gave it a second look. But things are different in this ‘sequel’…No longer do the players ‘run’ as if they’re stuck in treacle…Now you’re free to enjoy what is an excellent game of football.”

My own memories were that World Cup 98 was smoother and faster than FIFA 98, but I always felt this emphasis on speed was slightly overplayed by Zone. I certainly wished for a version of FIFA with club teams and leagues, that utilised the better graphics and smoother engine of World Cup 98, but I figured FIFA 99 would be along soon enough.

And indeed it was, with a review in the Christmas 1998 edition of Zone bestowing another 90%+ score upon the latest instalment, and deeming it superior to World Cup 98, although some flaws were noted:

“Keeping possession against an opponent who’s got the hang of tackling is very difficult indeed, which means it can become a bit of a slog in the middle of the pitch. That said, once you’ve mastered a couple of the special ‘skill’ moves, retaining possession does become a lot easier…We’ve also discovered a couple of ‘score almost every time’ moves which the play-testers obviously missed.”

My dim-and-dusty recollections of FIFA 99 are that I was disappointed – it was now almost too fast, and as noted above, the ‘skill’ moves, previously a bit of an occasional ‘show-off’ move to beat a man, were now invoked regularly just to keep hold of the ball. In the quest for more speed, the considered elements of earlier games were being lost.

The roots of such a move were definitely in feedback from reviews, as noted in this quote from EA’s Matt Brown in Zone’s preview of FIFA 99 in the December 1998 issue: “We’ve played around with the camera a lot and have been trying to get the frame rate as high as possible – that was the main criticism we had from you guys and the public last time around. It just wasn’t quick enough.”

Memories are tricky things, but to me it felt at the time as if EA had a great game within their grasp, only to head off in the wrong direction, and FIFA 2000 seemed to provide confirmation to me that they wouldn’t be pulling it back any time soon.

(Thanks to Pix’s Origin Adventures: http://www.pixsoriginadventures.co.uk/ for the scans – Pix is building a (nearly-complete) archive of all Zones and their cover discs).