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FIFA Soccer 64

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Reviewed by Brian Taylor Throughout the video game industry, there has always been one constant. EA Sports delivers quality sports titles for all systems. Now, with FIFA Soccer 64, they have taken soccer video games to the next level. FIFA Soccer 64 will become the landmark by which all future soccer games will be judged. Nearly every gamers first impression of a game is derived from the graphical quality. FIFA Soccer 64 delivers the goods. There is virtually no pixelation (even in the close up camera views), no clipping, pop-up, or any other known graphic defects. The polygons are richly detailed in beautiful colors. At first glance, the introduction in which the players jog onto the "pitch" (soccer lingo for "field"), can almost be mistaken for FMV. The animation is flawless, using EA's patented motion blending technology. This prevents the jerky look of other sports games. The frame rate of the animation is also very good, running at an unprecedented 45 fps (that is, for sports games). For the first time, the physics on the soccer field have been reproduced precisely. Balls bounce off the turf realistically depending on the various weather conditions implemented in the game, and you can even put spin on the ball when you blast it up the field. The stadiums are rendered beautifully in 3D, using EA's Virtual Stadium technology which includes real-time stadium animations combined with the motion blending of the players themselves. The graphics and animation when viewed as a single package are simply stunning. FIFA Soccer 64 boasts possibly the best sound ever heard in a sports game. There are catchy, upbeat tunes during the menu selections. John Motson, Desmond Lynam and Andy Gray provide accurate, timely, and realistic commentary throughout the game. The inclusion of these recognizable names adds a rich British flavor to the game, increasing the atmosphere. There is enough speech that it doesn't really get repetitive, and the play-by-play is very well done. Also impressive are the actual game sounds. The ball sounds real when it hits the turf, and when it is kicked. Crowds get into the game with rousing chants and deafening cheers as the ball is advanced closer and closer to the goal. The control is also executed nicely. The analog control allows for precision control of passes and shots, a welcome addition to a soccer simulation. There are two different control sets, Complex and Simple. Needless to say, the Simple is good for a beginner to learn the game with, while Complex allows for sophisticated soccer moves and strategies. The control is a little unresponsive at first, but that is due to the arcade feel of most sports games. It takes very little getting used to. The button configuration is superb, allowing for scores of soccer moves and tricks that are normally impossible to include on another controller. Of course, if you don't like the configuration, you can always tailor it to your own specifications and save it to your Controller Pak. FIFA Soccer 64 includes three levels of play: Novice, Semi Pro, and Pro. Novice is perfect for someone just starting the game. It is a good learning curve and the average player can win at the Novice level after a few games. FIFA Soccer 64 has possibly the best AI ever seen in a sports game. In the upper levels of difficulty, the computer actually adapts to your strategies and tries to shut them down. In this way, the game can be very hard, but NOT cheap. This alone is a gigantic leap above other sports games, which are notorious for making the game harder by letting the computer cheat. I had a blast in both the single player and multi player modes. This rivals Mario Kart 64 as the best multi player game yet seen. It supports up to 4 players and they can all play on the same team, 2-on-2, or 3-1, etc. All sports games have a tremendous amount of replay value, but FIFA Soccer 64 takes it to the next level. There are over 140 teams in the game from around the world, including 6 authentic leagues like the German, English, and Italian leagues, sporting clubs from across the countries. The players are authentic and perform similar to their real-life counterparts. With the many teams, you can create thousands of match ups. Combined with the intriguing Pro difficulty level, you'll be playing this one for a long time. Although FIFA Soccer 64 is very close, it is not perfect. The USA national team is comprised of fictional characters, due to contract obligations. Also, there are not quite as many teams in this revision as there were in other versions. However, these are very minor quibbles and should not affect your feelings toward this game very much. I would highly recommend this game to any sports fan, and even those who aren't. This game might be good enough to change any skeptic's mind. Congratulations are in order for the king of sports video games, EA Sports.

Ratings (1.0 to 5.0 scale) Graphics - 4.4 Sound - 4.6 Control - 4.3 Gameplay - 4.7 Lastability - 4.8 Overall - 4.7

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