November 28, 2001 - As if the fact that GameCube launches late in Europe wasn't torture enough to PAL gamers, EA adds insult to injury by releasing its first soccer game for the platform early. Let's face it, MLS or no MLS, US football fans are still in the minority -- but that hasn't stopped EA from bringing another great footie game to those of us who care. Like FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 for N64, FIFA 2002 is designed to get you ready for next year's WC tournament. This translates into exciting league and qualification matches, but it also means that another, more complete game is just around the corner. We're not complaining, though. FIFA 2002 is an excellent soccer game that makes the wait for the World Cup a whole lot easier.
* Friendly, FIFA World Cup Qualification, Season and Tournaments game modes
* Creaton Centre mode enables customization/creation of players, teams, leagues, and tournaments
* More than 400 teams and 16 leagues, including the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish Premier League, the French LNF, and Major League Soccer (MLS). Sorry, no J-League
* New passing system lets you pass the ball into space, maximize through-balls, perform quick one-twos, and direct your teammates on strategic runs through the defense
* All new tackling and referee model. Timing and angle of your tackles determine success and potential ramifications from the ref
* Expanded injury/fatigue system and player transfers Rewards section: unlock hidden tournaments and cheats by winning cups or qualification matches
* Detailed players: FIFPro License for names and likenesses of FIFPro's member player associations
* Audio commentary by John Motson and Andy Gray
* Requires a minimum of 29 blocks on your Memory Card
For those of you who never played the FIFA titles on N64, know that (with the exception of FIFA 64), they usually improved on their PSX counterparts with better graphics and improved control. While GameCube isn't the lead platform for the franchise, FIFA 2002 continues the legacy to offer a great-playing soccer experience that will once again make football fans from all over the world very happy. The title may be FIFA Soccer 2002, but the game should really be called Road to the World Cup as you once again compete for the chance to play in the tournament -- you don't actually play in it. But don't let that deter you from getting this game. FIFA 2002 also features a full Season Mode (complete with transfers) and a variety of international tournaments in addition to numerous custom options like Player, Team and Tournament Creation.
The FIFA series has made some great strides over the years, and FIFA 2002 is no different for the most part. Besides obvious graphical improvements, EA and Software Creations have continued to develop the passing game until they finally got it right. FIFA 2002 gives players full control over the strength and direction of their passes. If a pass doesn't connect, it's really your fault this time around -- not flawed player AI. To successfully help you set up through passes, FIFA 2002 features subtle visual aids that show you exactly where a breaking runner is heading. These clues, which appear as dotted lines on the ground, should definitely become a recurring feature in the series. Shot and passing power is determined by how long you press the respective button (B=Lob, X=Shoot, A=Ground Pass). Tap it for a quick pass to a close-by player. Hold it down longer for a more powerful kick (in which case a pass goes past teammates that are close to you). You can also add ball spin at any time via the shoulder buttons (L for Left, R for Right. Z controls through runs or goalie charges).
You can also perform a one-touch, five different skill moves (stepovers and fake shot), and the all-important one-two pass. Instead of requiring you to press and hold a button like the N64 soccer games, one-twos are performed by simply flicking the C-Stick in the direction of your teammate. It works like a charm and makes for much quicker passes. Volleys and bicycle kicks are performed by double tapping buttons, but the timing for the latter is more tricky than in previous versions -- which is as it should be. Bicycle kicks aren't exactly easy to pull off in real life. It was far too easy to score with a bicycle kick in some of the older FIFA titles. All in all, FIFA controls very well with the GameCube controller and the adjustable speed and CPU help features ensure a fun experience for both die-hard soccer fans and newbies. (Just remember that if you've played FIFA before, you're advised to crank up the difficulty setting right away as the default AI setting is way too easy.) But as enjoyable as this game is, we have a couple of complaints that we hope will be fixed with the next incarnation of FIFA on GameCube.
FIFA 2002 definitely suffers from "launch game syndrome." As the first soccer game out on GameCube, it lacks many of the options that the developers have been able to add when moving into the third or fourth incarnation of the game on any given platform. It's the little things, like number of stadiums, the inability to assign certain players to certain controllers in multiplayer (and other controller configurations), limited weather and time of day conditions, occasionally "magnetic" ball physics, lack of player challenges, no penalty kick mode, and so on. But on the flipside, FIFA 2002 offers plenty of cup tournaments and more league licenses than ever. If you're the kind of gamer who needs an incentive to play a certain tournament, you'll be happy to hear that playing through the Qualification Mode unlocks new bonus tournaments as well as the FIFA equivalent of "Madden Cards" in the form of Panini covers. Overall, the new tweaks and gameplay additions make up for the sparse features -- but there is one glaring omission that will no doubt annoy football fans who are looking for more gameplay depth. Even though EA made huge improvements to the passing game, it chose to leave out an important feature that many of us have enjoyed in past ISS and FIFA games: in-game formation/strategy changes. It's sad, but true. Even though FIFA 2001 for PS2 had such a feature (dubbed IGM), the sequel lacks it on both platforms. The idea is that you can trigger formations on the fly during the game to set and off-side trap or send players forward. We can only imagine that EA left this feature out because of time constraints as it added an important element to the game. The only way you can change your formation in FIFA 2002 is to go to the options screen, which interrupts the flow of the game, not to mention the fact that other players can see your changes in a multiplayer game. On a similar note, you also can't control your teammates' formation when executing a free or corner kick (unless you're playing with a friend). Finally, given the fact that the FIFA games owe a lot of their success to the official FIFA license, it'd be great if EA could add some real-life facts to the team listings (ie: World Cup team history, player transfer history, etc).
But apart from these quibbles, FIFA 2002 certainly delivers. The overall control is refined, the four-player mode works like a charm (thanks to differently colored markers), and if you're playing on the highest difficulty, matches are every bit as exciting as being at a real game.Download: