Get your kicks with FIFA 99

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Vancouver Computes, April 1999

Electronic Arts
for Windows PC (P-133 w. 16 megs RAM) or Sony PlayStation
about $60

What?s the world?s most popular sport?

Nope?not NBA basketball, not hockey?we said the world, right?

Score a point if you said ?soccer?, or as the rest of the world knows it, ?football?.

Game maker Electronic Arts owns the rights to market games under the name of ?FIFA?, the international soccer federation, and they?ve been milking the franchise for all it?s worth. Last year being a World Cup year, the first released FIFA 98: Road to the World Cup, then followed it up with World Cup 98.

This year, things are back to normal in the soccer world, so we just get a standard release: FIFA 99. Still, the game has been getting rave reviews?the British GameSpot web site, for example, rated it 11 out of 10 (shades of Spinal Tap!)

Go see what all the fuss was about, we tossed PC and PlayStation versions at Joey, our designated teen game player.

He found the program a nice update to last year?s version. Joey reported that both platforms sport nicer-looking graphics than last year?s duo, with more muted, more realistic looking colours. The weather feature finally works?no more sunny days if you?ve picked ?rain?. Players look more lifelike, having individual heights and even emotions. Watch a green-carded player grumble and complain as he leaves the field!

Improved animation makes the players quicker and more responsive. And for the first time, you get some control over the goalkeeper. Even if you don?t control the goalie, he has more moves, for an all-around more realistic play.

The game moves back from last year?s international competition to focus on national leagues. Pick a country, and you can choose from a wide range of teams?240. Manchester United vs. Arsenal? No problem. Or go Italian. Or set an Swedish team against Brazilian one, if you prefer.

Like other new EA Sports games, there?s a new Training mode, along with the ability to play an entire season or create a European Dream League. Last year?s Shoot Out mode has been replaced with a Golden Goal mode, where the first side to get 5 goals wins. Of course, there?s a Quick Match feature if you just want to play a match or two. Joey felt that last year?s Beginner?s level was too easy?this time around it?s more challenging, while still within range of a new player.

What?s missing? No Internet play (though multiple players can interact via modem or network). Joey wanted a few features that got dropped in the transition from last year?s version: the Shoot Out mode, and the indoor stadium option.  For these lacks, Joey rated the game at 8 out of a possible 10 points.

If you have either of last year?s versions, you could happily skip a year?the improvements, while real, are relatively modest. But if you wonder why Soccer is the world?s most popular sport, you?ll want to give this game a go.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan