FIFA 08 Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Another year means another FIFA, and we have to struggle to once again come up with yet another fresh opening paragraph for this review, and one that avoids mentioning the age old debate of Pro Evo vs. FIFA (well apart from this once) and overused football clichés such as “EA scores a goal”. So what’s left to say? Nothing much so perhaps it’s best to move on before we are left with an embarrassing and awkward silence.

We’ve always more than suggested that we love FIFA in the past, with plenty of glowing reviews in our rather messy reviews database. This includes the likes of EA’s World Cup and UEFA Champions League games, as they’re basically repackaged FIFA titles, only with different names and additional options. It’s true that whether the series has been playing fast end-to-end football or giving us a more relaxed and realistic pace, we have mostly enjoyed EA’s footy titles. But this year FIFA has a few surprises in store, particularly for series devotees or those who have enjoyed a casual kick about every now and again on previous games in the always popular and always opinion-dividing series.

We particularly enjoyed FIFA 07, which of course was a very different game on PS2, Xbox and GameCube when sized up with the Xbox 360 version, but whatever console we played it on we came to the conclusion that 07 was a triumph of world cup winning proportions and thus with absolutely no deliberations we awarded both the 360 and PS2 versions a very championing 9/10. FIFA 08 shares many similarities to the next-gen version of 07, although it’s certainly not a simple, lazy and cheeky repackaging of last years game.

The first thing you’ll notice (well after the new music and front end menus) is that FIFA 08 has been slowed down, but you needn’t worry as this isn’t football Relegated to the OAP league, but it’s certainly football at a more realistic and patient pace. Upon returning to FIFA 07 we were really quite amazed as it now looks like someone has pressed the fast forward button, whilst 08’s pace looks about right, at least until FIFA 09 predictably hit’s the shelves anyway.

A less calorie burning speed isn’t all we are treated to this year, as the tricks have made their glorious return. We all know that EA would officially marry analog sticks if it was legal such is their infatuation with them, so it’s with little surprise that FIFA 08 makes great use of these fantastic inventions (we salute the predecessor that was the joystick). You might have already guessed that using a stick is exactly how you bring fancy showboating tricks into play on the latest FIFA, and these include everything from feints, step-overs, spins, up and overs, rainbow flicks and more. Some are obviously pretty simple to execute, whilst others require some masterful finger movements and are best made use of when a talented player is on the ball. If we attempted to do any of these tricks in reality we just know that we’d fall over our own feet in a very ungraceful and awkward manner.

The AI has seemingly got smarter alongside the trick system, as even on the lowly amateur difficulty level, they’ll be sometimes giving you the run around and making your outfield players look like headless chickens. Perhaps it’s because we aren’t capable of making the 1000 decisions that these intelligent players are apparently making every second? If we were making so many decisions per second we would probably end up with a nasty and persistent migraine.

The shooting system is perhaps the most realistic we’ve seen so far. EA promised unpredictability, and have certainly delivered on that bold promise. The outcome of each shot you take is determined by ball speed, ball height, ball bounce, balance, momentum and more, certainly giving you the potential to create many different shots and even goals if you’re good enough.

As previously, FIFA 08 plays a tight game of football, and in a really uncompromising game it’s almost like you have to take a chisel to a very big rock in order to break through an opponents defence, and then there‘s the goalkeeper to nervously contend with. Whilst the men between the sticks may not be heroes of Superman proportions (take a tip and never trust Clark Kent as a goalie anyway, his alter ego is always needed elsewhere and there‘s also that Kryponite stuff to always be concerned about) on FIFA 08, but they certainly attempt to impress as they perform some impossibly good saves by showing off their catlike agility and blatant disregard for their bones, or their lives even.

Because of this you may find games finishing in goalless draws or going right down to the wire to be decided by a tense penalty shootout, particularly to begin with. But eventually things do get easier, even if the majority of goals are initially scored through cheeky rebounds or headed crosses. We soon also realised that keepers aren’t as impossible to dupe in one-on-one situations as we first thought, as a little dancing footwork gives you the chance to coolly slot the ball past him and out of reach of his magic gloves. During net busting moments like this you’ll truly feel like rubbing the keepers nose in the turf to further his embarrassment of letting the ball sail past him. An optimistic drive from outside the box can also quite often get you a glorious goal, and if not for the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome it would be a great reason to punch the air in excitable jubilation.

If you enjoyed the two Libero Grande games, and perhaps thought that controlling a single player was the future of the genre back then, then FIFA 08 should have you whooping in delight. The Be a Pro mode allows you to do just that, choosing any outfield player and being part of a team opposed to the full team. A performance bar signals to you how well you are fairing, and you must keep yourself in position (an arrow warns you when you are out of position), win tackles when necessary and of course pass the ball when it is required. Even if you are held to a penalty shootout, you’ll only be playing as your selected player, which is a nice touch. In all reality, it’s a basic and barebones training mode, which should tutor everyone on how to work with the different positions, and then when the Be A Pro: Online Team Play 5vs5 mode is introduced shortly, many of us will know what to expect from our selected positions. We still think that greedy players will refuse to pass the ball, we’re also sure that we’ll see defenders zipping right from the back of the field to the front, taking shots and no doubt completely fluffing them. It should be good when everyone is playing to the strengths of their positions though, when 12 year olds aren‘t arguing over who should be the front men, and if connections don‘t regularly conflict with one another. We’ll see.

The Interactive League also makes its debut on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 version, having shown up last year on the PS2 and Xbox versions. Basically collective supporters play as their favourite teams and follow their real life fixtures, hoping to get the most wins over their current opponent within a given timeframe, which will then earn them three points to add to the Interactive League table. If teams seemingly only have a handful of supporters, in a nice touch you can also play as the rivals of your selected team to attempt to put the spoils on their results, in this way you are mostly always guaranteed a game. When the Interactive League emerged last year we loved it, and we’re certainly glad to see its debut on the more powerful of consoles this year, and EA’s servers are as smooth as ever, with lag rarely threatening to spoil your game with its unwelcome presence.

The usual top presentation, improved commentary from Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, a sea of options (manager mode, loads of leagues, and the lounge etc), more teams than last time, and some great visuals round off a superb game of football. FIFA 08 certainly has some worthwhile improvements and we’ve still got the revolutionary 5vs5 online mode to look forward to.

Still no handballs though..