Football is a seriously lucrative business nowadays. Merchandising has taken off in a big way, developing from replica kits to scarves, mugs, videos, just about whatever you want. Most fans would love an opportunity to emulate their favourite star on the park but generally being unfit and unskilled makes running about with a ball limited fun, after the first ten minutes many are doubled up on the sidelines coughing and struggling to breath. Console games are the perfect way to fill the gap. Best enjoyed with a few mates and some beer you can perform like a football genius and only knacker your thumbs.
Most people choose a game and then stick to that license as the games improve. For example I started off playing Fifa and so continued to buy their updates, loyally each year. The final straw came with Fifa 2001 on the PS2, which is absolutely rubbish. They lazily made no attempt to improve or even alter the game play and seemed to concentrate on facial expressions and new commentary, background stuff. I finally lost patience and bought Konami´s Pro Evolution Soccer instead. Typically they have belatedly tried to copy Pro Evolution a bit more with Fifa 2002 but it is still not as good.
The game is excellent. All of their energy has gone into the game play making this the most realistic football game available. Never mind the player names or the fancy commentary they remembered to make sure the game was fun and challenging to play. I´ll get the criticism out of the way first. The commentary is some guy I never heard of and Terry Butcher; it is truly appalling but has some comic appeal for the first little while. The names and some of the clubs have strange variations on their real names, this is annoying but you can tell who everyone is meant to be and must be down to sponsorship arguments and stuff like that. Weirdly Holland has all the correct names while the Argentina ones are all wrong. Club teams are also limited, I was disappointed that Celtic didn´t appear.
That is the criticism finished. Everything else about the game is superior to Fifa. Firstly much more skill is involved, the ball actually goes in the direction you pass it, there is no auto-correcting like in Fifa which would always inevitably make you pass it to the wrong guy. Secondly the movement of the ball and the players is much better, more realistic and exciting to watch. The goals are much harder to score and there are no set goals that always work, this adds to the satisfaction of scoring and keeps the score lines more realistic and competitive. The control system is difficult to get used to after playing Fifa but allows more freedom and makes more sense.
The game is incredibly addictive once you are hooked. The graphics are smooth and attractive and the game play is unsurpassed. It is also more challenging than any of the other football games available at the moment. Sound wise although the commentary is bad, the crowd noise is great, you will even hear specific songs and chants relevant to the team that is playing, for example Rule Britannia can be heard when England are playing. This adds to the atmosphere.
One of the best features is the fact it shows highlights of each game at the end. Obviously if you don't want to watch them you can click through, but if you have just had an exciting game it is great to be able to relive your goals. Also after you score there is a clip of the goal, you can change the angle, zoom in and out and save it if you want. The team tactics are much more in depth than Fifa and you can set your free kick takers, captain, attack attitude, line up and more in the team management section.
There are national sides, a few club sides and European and World dream teams to choose from. The referees are strict in the extreme and a tackle from behind will nearly always result in a card being shown. If you have not played any game in particular then you should master this quickly. If you are used to Fifa you may struggle at first, as you will constantly find yourself reverting to the Fifa controls.
Overall a brilliant game. The best football game available with flowing graphics, amazing game play and a high satisfaction factor. Forget Fifa this is way beyond it.