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Critical Reception: Electronic Arts' FIFA Soccer 08

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to FIFA Soccer 08, the newest entry in EA's long-running soccer series that critics claim is "a football game that's going to stick with you all season" - review excerpts and commen
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to FIFA Soccer 08, the newest entry in EA's long-running soccer series that critics claim is "a football game that's going to stick with you all season." Soccer sim fans have placed EA's FIFA series and Konami's Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer in close proximity in recent years, with each side earning its share of devoted players. Many critics felt that last year's FIFA Soccer 07 lagged behind its competition, however, earning the title an average review score of 73 out of 100. This year's offering, FIFA Soccer 08, appears to fare a bit better, boasting a Metacritic-averaged rating of 83 out of 100. Harry Neary at Boomtown gives FIFA Soccer 08 an overall rating of 9 out of 10. "FIFA 07 and UEFA Champions' League showed that EA was taking its football franchise very seriously," he begins. "It's only until now – nearly two years after the release of Xbox 360 – that we get a full-on complete FIFA package." Neary explains: "Finally we get all the teams and features – four divisions of English teams for example and the introduction to next-gen systems of the interactive leagues system that debuted on the older consoles last year." Neary is impressed with FIFA 08's new single-player "Be a Pro" mode, in particular. "Here play switches to a single player rather than a whole team – which offers an experience not a million miles away from Namco's Libero Grand," he writes. "Surprisingly it works and works very well indeed." The review cites minor concerns regarding lack of polish and an occasionally poor framerate. However: "Such small errors don't dampen what is otherwise a really wonderful game and, finally for EA, one that that is likely to win over converts from the main rival franchise," Neary concludes. "Whether you enjoy one of the many solo modes or take on friends with the excellent and – in my experience so far – lag free online multiplayer, you've a football game that's going to stick with you all season." Eurogamer's Martin Korda finds that FIFA 08 is a step forward after last year's promising FIFA 07. "Having had its nose blooded by the mesmerising Pro Evolution Soccer series, FIFA 07 was an attempt to bite back. But it wasn't quite enough," he writes in his 8-out-of-10 review. "Now, FIFA has returned, refocused, leaner, hungrier and eager to retake the crown that PES swiped off its cocky head a few seasons ago." "From the first moment you kick off, the sheer amount of love that's been lavished on FIFA 08 is immediately apparent," Korda praises. "Charge forward in a cocksure attempt to dribble past the opposition with a journeyman midfielder and you'll be left more red faced than an exfoliated tomato. As is the case with every part of FIFA 08, you're going to need to put in some serious practice if you're going to master its subtleties." Korda acknowledges that FIFA 08's speed takes a hit in comparison to its competition. "FIFA 08's pace has been toned right down when compared to the likes of PES," he says. "Not to the treacle-like plodding of UEFA Champions League 06-07, but rather to the tactical, considered, multi-tempo pace you'd associate with real football." However, Korda explains that this choice is implemented to the game's benefit: "FIFA 08 is perhaps the most realistic virtual rendition of football you've ever played, one that requires you to think like a real player, to probe and pass and ping the ball around the field rather than charge forward en masse like an invading army." In the end, Korda has difficulty in recommending FIFA 08 over Pro Evolution Soccer, or vice-versa. "Perhaps the most pertinent point here is that FIFA 08 now feels more like an alternative to PES rather than a direct rival, due to its slower, more considered and realistic approach," he reasons. "The two series feel very much like they're on opposite ends of the spectrum now, with both possessing a host of merits, but ultimately providing two very different experiences." Jon Miller at Yahoo! Games expresses disappointment in FIFA 08, scoring it at 3.5 out of 5 stars. "This season we were promised more leagues and teams, new skill moves, a clever Be A Pro mode, and the most satisfying FIFA gameplay to date," he says. "But, inevitably, FIFA 08 does what its predecessors did before it: excellent graphics, sound and presentation elements capped off with lackluster gameplay." "Some may even say that FIFA 08 is a realistic soccer sim in which goals are seldom and the satisfaction is in the offensive build up," Miller counters. "We, on the other hand, say that players are slow and clunky, and even the best offenses such as Arsenal have trouble scoring against doormats like Derby, no matter the difficult setting." Miller explains how this approach works in the context of gameplay. "Players get into open space by accelerating from a slow jog to a jailbreak sprint, which never seems to fail along the wing," he writes. "But from there, probing the defense and creating offensive chances proves difficult as defenders suddenly become impervious to attack. Yes, goals are that much more rewarding, but they tend to feel as products of dumb luck rather than a monumental offensive triumph." "Still," Miller continues, "FIFA 08 improves in both passing and shooting as you have noticeably more control over the trajectory of long, aerial passes and cracks from the top of the box. The only real hole in the passing game -- and it's a doozy -- is the lack of control when waiting to receive a pass. Your player is simply stuck in the mud as a slow roller approaches, and these are too often intercepted." "FIFA 08 is a satisfactory update to the franchise, but still has yet to really hit its stride on the next-gen platforms," Miller notes in conclusion. "It took the FIFA team years to get it right on the PS2. Let's hope we don't have to wait quite so long for this FIFA to reach its amazing potential." Despite earning a higher aggregate score than its predecessor, reaction to FIFA Soccer 08 is mixed. Most critics acknowledge that the title is a step up from FIFA Soccer 07, but many are hesitant to recommend it over Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series. If a choice must be made between both franchises, soccer fans may want to wait and see what critics say about the upcoming Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 before making a purchase.

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