Written by  :  Luis Silva (13621)
Written on  :  Jan 01, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
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The Good

Immersion. That's a word that was absent in the previous games using either a FIFA or UEFA tournament license. Everything was done to give the player the feeling of "being there", from the perfectly executed stadiums, the pre-match FMVs displaying the city where the game was to be played, the competition status screen with a rotating miniature of the stadium while Lineker is giving his insight on the stages... It was the first and last to give such a level of immersion.

Graphics were of the highest quality in 1998, and comparing to FIFA 98, released months later, show some great improvements. Better 3D card support (which results in some smooth colours all-around), individual kits for teams (and based on the real kits used, too), perfectly recognizable stadiums, well animated players and an excellent front-end are all improvements over the already finely produced FIFA 98.

Sound/music also does not fail the grade. In the sound department the game manages to have terrific commentary, composed by four commentators (Lineker, Motson, Lynam, Hoddle and even a trivia-filled Kenneth Wolstenholme for classic matches), the crowd sounds are equally good and the typical in-game sounds are pretty much what was required. Music is yet another sytong point in the game, and helped to popularize the theme track (Chumbawamba's Thubthumping) as a football tune.

Finally, gameplay. What was perhaps the strongest point of FIFA 98 required only minor tweaks to be even more enjoyable. Some of the tricks were changed, but the core of gameplay is still there. One of the most impressive features is how even the most simple ball tricks can send a defender to his knees if chosen at the right place and time. It's possible to score from most situations, including corners, freekicks, crosses, feinting the goalkeeper, blast outside the area, and so on. Team management is also important, and adjusting the attacking bias and aggressiveness do make a difference.

The game also features an editor that allows to change the game completely. For instance, a team with high skills but low endurance will suffer ahead in the tournament as fatigue starts wearing down the players or bringing up a lower team the top contenders by editing the players up and vice versa.

The Bad

Like I've said, the game is almost flawless, thanks to the base game and the full use of the license, instead of just plastering the logo and the cover and use real player names. There are only three things that can be pointed out:first, faces are poor, second, the classics mode could have included all players and finals since 1930 instead of just eight and replays of goals scored in overtime cut before entering the goal, which is a bit of a letdown when you have in mind to pass them to streaming video.

The Bottom Line

While EA is criticized now for doing little with their franchises and licenses, this game comes from a time where EA was leading in this genre. No other game before and after made such a good use of a license, and considering it was developed in the relatively little time between the release of FIFA 98 and a usable date (around May), it just makes the game look even more impressive. While none of the aspects (except presentation) can be a match to today's modern offerings, the game still remains a solid, entertaining title, and provides a good insight to the 1998 World Cup.