World Cup 98
Reviewed by Scott McCall
As improbable as it seems, EA Sports' World Cup 98 marks the
third FIFA soccer game the company has released on the N64 in
14 months. The good news is that each game has progressively
gotten better, and World Cup 98 is no exception. In fact, it has
now dethroned Konami's International Superstar Soccer 64 as the
best all-around soccer game available on any system.
World Cup 98 is running on a slightly improved version of the
FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 engine. But there are many
improvements, as small as they seem, in World Cup 98 to propel the
game to new levels. World Cup 98 just screams "extremely polished."
The one huge advantage World Cup 98 has over the competition
is that it's the only officially licensed World Cup soccer game
by FIFA that's available in the U.S. That means it's the only
game you'll see Footix, the Woody Woodpecker-lookalike
mascot of World Cup France 98, in. It's the only game with
all of the real-life sponsors. It's the only game with all of the
actual players. It's the only game with all of the actual team
uniforms and logos. It's the only game with all 10 of the
official French stadiums. Basically, it's the only game that can
capture the excitement of the World Cup.
World Cup 98 contains many new features and improvements
over FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 when it comes to gameplay,
control, and options. First of all, there are the 32 countries that
actually qualified plus eight EA "wish had qualified." (Those
extra eight teams, by the way, are Australia, Canada, China
PR, Greece, Portugal, R Ireland, Russia, and Sweden.) Some of the
important improvements and/or additions are faster gameplay,
control that's more precise with less delays, on-the-fly
play-calling, eight classic World Cup scenarios, better artificial
intelligence for the goalies, and skill moves.
There are also many more subtle and cosmetic additions and/or
improvements to the game. For example, there are on-screen stat
updates (time of possession, shots on target, corners won, etc.),
better after-goal celebrations, trivia questions during each game
(question at halftime with the answer at the end of the game),
random World Cup groupings, the ability to select the teams you
want in the World Cup, national anthems, more realistic weather
conditions (lightning flashes, sound of thunder), the capability
to save the progress of not just one World Cup but two, and an
Options aren't a problem in World Cup 98, either. In fact, neither
everything imaginable can be changed in some way. Here's a brief
look at some of the options: You can change the half length (2, 4,
6, 8, 10, 20, or 45), language, clock countdown style, display,
weather, injuries, bookings, game speed, sound levels, etc., not
to mention changing some of the rules (like offsides) and changing
the handicap levels.
Most of the problems in FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 have been fixed,
but World Cup 98 is still not perfect. The control still lags a
little compared to International Superstar Soccer 64, and in the
beginning I had trouble receiving some passes; it would sometimes
automatically kick the ball ahead like a give & go. I guess it has
something to do with using the Control Stick. The menu setup in
World Cup 98 is also kind of confusing at first.
Graphically, World Cup 98 looks incredible in motion. The game
features an even more TV-like presentation than its previous
incarnations, the player models are amazingly life-like and realistic,
and there is some very impressive camera work. Furthermore,
EA has even improved the animation from FIFA: Road to World Cup 98.
The same great weather effects, light-sourcing, and real-time
shadows are included, too.
Sound-wise, World Cup 98 is also very similar to its predecessor.
At the title screen this time around, though, you're treated to a
10-second sample of "Tubthumping" from Chumbawumba. You
know, the "I get knocked down, but I get up again..." song.
There's also a nice, random selection of background tunes
when you're in the menus. The selection is probably better than
the previous FIFA games. The commentary is once again solid,
but I wish someone would scream "Goal, gooaall, gooooaaaallll!"
By the way, for you European soccer fans, there's even some guest
commentary by Kenneth Wostenholme.
The old adage "the third time's the charm" certainly applies here.
World Cup 98 has finally surpassed International Superstar
Soccer 64 as the best soccer game around. The control and
intelligence are still just a smidgen below ISS64, but the
graphics, sound, FIFA World Cup license, and management options
make up for it. It will be interesting to see how Konami's
forthcoming International Superstar Soccer '98 compares with
this. For now, though, EA is the king.
Graphics: 4.8 out of 5
Sound: 4.5 out of 5
Control: 4.4 out of 5
Gameplay: 4.7 out of 5
Lastability: 4.7 out of 5
Overall: 4.7 out of 5