Sometimes, I can be pretty stupid.
When it came time to submit yet another JGR review, I racked my brain to find out what I’d review. Most of the games I played were too crappy for me to even bother; the rest were either too recent or ran on platforms such as the Game Boy, not encompassed by this site.
But then it dawned on me: DUH! The perfect game had been sitting right there in front of me for years, and I hadn’t even noticed it. So today we take a look at one of my favorite games: FIFA 2000.
Now, this game came with one heck of a burden: following on the footsteps of FIFA ’99, the long-standing champion of soccer games until PES 6 came along to strip it of that title. So does the 2000 edition live up to that legendary game? No way. But it definitely measures up to its ’98 counterpart, and is vastly superior to either of the international competition games (World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000) released in the interim.
Again, you get a vast array of leagues, all updated for the 99/2000 season. Some, like the Malaysian League or the Portuguese League, have disappeared due to lack of rights, but hey look – the MLS! All the teams also have their more or less recognizable star players of that period. And, of course, there are the usual options, such as Exhibition (Friendly), League, Tournament (World Cup, Champions League or UEFA Cup) and Custom, which allows you to create your own championship or tournament with custom teams. There is also a practice mode, which, while fundamentally useless (you have the Amateur difficulty for that),is still fun, if only to see your players square off against clones of themselves. All in all, a pretty diverse roster that can keep you busy for a while.
Oddly enough, the first time I had contact with FIFA 2000, it looked a little different. I actually remember the demo having better graphics, or maybe I was just too amazed by them. But I distinctly remember players being a little more “squared” and realistic. And that leads us to the game’s main problem: its graphics. Not to say that they’re bad, much to the contrary. From a distance, everything looks fine and dandy, the movements are (somewhat) realistic and the players are proportionate.
From up close, however… The shit hits the fan. There is only a very limited number of faces (and hairstyles, and beard) in the game’s database, and none of them looks overtly realistic. This leads to the players looking more like ugly cartoons than real people. And what’s with the freakish goal celebrations?! It looks as though they’re having a seizure, or maybe just heavily constipated. Menu-wise, there has also been a step back towards simplification. Everything is easily accessible and manageable, but also pretty darn ugly.
Moving on, let’s go to sound. The excellency of John Motson and company is already known from previous titles, and here they maintain the norm. Some of their catchphrases are very common, and you will often hear them (to the point where you’ve almost memorized all of their dialogue); others, however, only appear in specific situations, such as the snippets that talk about tactics, scores or your position in the league. I also have reason to believe that you acquire more commentary as you go, since the World Class difficulty seems to have new phrases that don’t pop up in Amateur.
On the minus side, the commentary often gets chopped or overlapped when the action calls for a different phrase, so that for example, Mark Lawrenson will be analyzing the teams only to be cut short by some remark from Motson. While this happens in real life, too, here it seems exceedingly artificial, especially since Lawrenson doesn’t resume his line of thinking after the fact, like “real” commentators are bound to do.
Now let’s discuss the music. It’s…pretty damn good. Sure, it’s no Fatboy Slim, but the tracks on offer are actually pretty catchy and don’t grow old easily. Two of them are by Apollo 440, including the infectious “Can’t Stop The Rock”; another is by Robbie Williams (I think), and is just as catchy, encouraging everyone to “sell out with me tonight”. All in all, pretty classy stuff that measures up to previous editions.
Technical aspects aside, it’s time to discuss the key elements of FIFA: playability and fun. Both are on high, as is customary for the series. The controls are as simple as ever, with A, S and D controlling your basic attacking and defending moves. Another very important rule to remember is that you sprint with W. Believe me, you’ll need to memorize this, since you’ll spend around 90% of your game time sprinting past opponents. Add a dash of Ctrl and Alt (for dribbling) and Q (for precision passes and goalkeeper sorties) and you should be fine. In their essence, the controls are easy to pick up and learn quickly, leading to an easy adaptation.
In fact, it may be almost too easy: as we know, Amateur difficulty on FIFA is basically “newbie bashing time”. Seriously, even a blindfolded monkey could score in that setting. All you have to do is pass, pass, pass, run run run, shoot, goal. Repeat as necessary. In the other two settings – Professional and World Class – things get a little harder, but there’s still very definite formulas to score. And this leads to a problem: once you’ve learned the formulas, the game becomes repetitive and a little stale. Not to say that it isn’t fun, but once you can make the worst time in the Israeli league win the UEFA Cup…well, you’re pretty much done with this game.
Similarly, the game seems to have formulas to give opponents goals. For example: a corner at the far post? Forget about it. You’re gonna concede a goal. There is simply NO WAY to stop this move, and you’re either very lucky, or doomed. Similarly, certain leagues seem to keep the challenge artificially even, as in: “oh, you’re winning by 4-0?! Well, let me start making the referee blow for fouls all the time so they can pull back to 4-3 and eventually win the game”. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a game come to cheating, and it’s INFURIATING.
Still, it’s hard to actually be mad at FIFA 2000. The game’s kinda fun, and you have loads of options to keep you entertained. Some work well, such as Classic Matches, which feature legendary formations and are presented in retro-style sepia tones. Others, such as the transfers, are a little flawed, basically because players and clubs never turn down offers and no one but you ever signs new players. Still, the thrill of finding an actual gem at budget price is exactly the same as on any chapter of CM/FM (HINT: His name’s Ghareeb and he plays in an Arabian team. 70 goals in one season FTW), as is the disappointment of realising exactly WHY that big club was selling a given player for such a low price. Equally, the players pick up on value with every passing game and goal, which is also a semi-realistic element of FIFA’s transfer market.
And, of course, much as in other chapters of the series, you can customize everything, from weather conditions to languages and beyond. Example: if you’re a kinky voyeur, you can skip the side selection (leaving the cursor between the two teams) and just watch the computer control them both (although why anyone would want to watch a game of computer football is beyond me). You can also set the halves to last 45 minutes each, although I’ve never done that because: a – I’m easily bored and b – my mum would KILL me if I spent that long in front of the computer playing a game. You’re getting the reviews to 2- and 4- minute halves, and consider yourselves fortunate.
Another neat feature is the possibility of changing team and player names. So, if you’ve always wanted to have a team called the Fuckaroos where you are the star striker…now’s your chance. Surprisingly, despite the small array of faces and hairstyles, I’ve managed to make some of the players look surprisingly realistic (although I wish I was as handsome as my player looks in the picture up there).
Pretty much everything has been discussed, so it’s time to wrap up, recommending FIFA 200 to all those who like an entertaining game of PC soccer and don’t mind a few flaws. If you have FIFA ’99 or ’98, don’t bother getting this one; you can’t lead Tonga to the World Cup or play in the Portuguese leagues. If you don’t, however, this will be a worthy addition to your retro-soccer library. Just don’t forget to get PES 7, too.
Fun for a while. Great commentary. Nice Tunes. Simple yet functional control. Classic matches option.
Somewhat formulaic in design. Ugly players. Ridiculous goal celebrations. Abundance of implausible scorelines and too-easy bicycle kicks. Starts to get stale after a while.