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2002 FIFA World Cup (PS2) Review

Background Info

PS2 Screens(87)

Fifa World Cup 2002 is the latest game in EA Sports' Fifa franchise. A few minor gameplay changes, a mere handful of international teams, and just two gameplay modes make this game a rental-only for Fifa fans and a waste of time for anyone else.

Presentation/Graphics : 60
WC 2002 looks very similar to Fifa 2002 (which itself looked almost identical to Fifa 2001), however there are two minor improvements in WC 2002; the player faces and the stadia.

While the player faces in Fifa 2002 were hideous ogres, the player faces in WC 2002 are much better and bear a good resemblance to their real-life counterparts. Note, however, that I only mentioned the player faces; the player models themselves still look hunchbacked and have heads that are far too big for their bodies. This means that Fabian Barthez may look perfect but the rest of the players in the game look rather silly from playable angles – especially when compared to the magnificent player models in PES and Winning Eleven 6.

The stadia in WC 2002 are much better than those in Fifa 2002 and there are a lot more of them – all of the stadia that will be used for the World Cup this summer are in the game. These are well done but they seem a bit too colorful and the same stadia are depicted much more accurately in J-League Wining Eleven 5. One positive is that WC 2002 has some excellent crowds – the fans look great holding up banners, throwing bog rolls, waving flags, jumping around after a goal is scored, and wearing the colors of the team they support.

Unfortunately, these minor improvements come at a cost – the frame-rate. At a playable (distant) camera angle the game slows down every time you lob the ball in the air or take a goal kick and after a while it can get quite annoying.

In terms of frills and TV-style presentation, there are replays after good scoring chances (that nicely show the game's wacky ball physics), bizarre laser trails on long shots, and some hilarious (though I don't think EA Sports meant them to be funny) cinematic slow motion sequences after you score goals complete with blaring orchestral music, dynamic camera angles and the players acting as if they have saved the fate of humanity by scoring the first goal against Austria in the 3rd minute of the match. The same thing happens at the end of each match regardless of whom you beat--it's so absurd it's hilarious. Often when you miss a chance the camera instantly zooms in and the player drops to his knees staring up at the heavens as if he's just been diagnosed with a terminal illness – meanwhile his team is up by 6 goals with 2 minutes left to play….

Presentation/Audio : 85
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. When you want to market a sports game what things that you might want to stress? The gameplay? The gameplay modes? Well in WC 2002's case one of the most touted 'features' is the music of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Heck the intro sequence features footage of the orchestra playing alternating with gameplay footage! Now I must say the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra do a great job, and the music sounds nice, but I just gotta ask EA Sports one question; why bother? Surely this is time and money that could have been better spent elsewhere - like on improving the gameplay maybe, or perhaps paying the Dutch football federation the Guilders they want for a Dutch license (Holland are not in the game). I know the music was meant to illustrate a sense of the grandeur of the World Cup but it's not even the official theme for the tournament! And, as mentioned before, EA Sports' attempt to illustrate the grandeur of the world stage using the music and the cinematic sequences falls flat on its face – it just takes itself far too seriously and ends up being a joke.

In another case of lost priorities is the fact that EA Sports got this massive orchestra to help them do the music but didn't even bother to include the national anthems of each of the countries! The game comes on a massive DVD and yet each national team stands at the touchline before each match hands to their hearts paying homage to music composed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. This is a major opportunity lost – there are only around 40 international teams in the game, surely they could have recorded the national anthems for these countries?

The crowd sounds are fairly well done with a small selection of chants and on-field shouts, accompanied by some authentic rocket/artillery sounds when you fire off a long shot (I'm not joking). Motty and Andy Gray do the commentary, and as usual they are excellent. It's also nice to hear Andy chime in with some player and team-specific comments.

Interface/Options : 30
Two gameplay modes; Friendly Match and World Cup 2002 - that's it, $50 please. WC 2002 game features more teams than just the 32 teams that made Korea and Japan – but only slightly more with about 40 total teams in all, and notable absentees include Morocco, Iran, and as mentioned before, Holland.

You'd think with only a handful of teams the stats and rosters would be correct, right? Think again! Ever heard of a guy named Ronaldo? Young Brazilian, former Fifa World Player of the Year, plays for Inter, gap in his teeth, and a top class striker – someone forgot to tell EA Sports this because they have Ronaldo as Brazil's default left winger!!! This is absolutely ridiculous, Ronaldo is easily one of the most famous strikers in the world and yet these guys have him completely out of position. Heck, Ze Roberto is listed as a right-sided midfielder! I hope the Fifa programmers don't do NHL 2003 or we might see Joe Sakic on defense and Jaromir Jagr in net. Even the player ratings are a joke (still only a handful of categories and each out of a paltry 7); England and West Ham's speedy winger Trevor Sinclair has a Speed rating of 5/7, which somehow happens to be the same speed rating given to Jamie Carragher and Mark Viduka! Liverpool and Poland's rock solid keeper Jerzy Dudek has an overall rating of 64 while David 'Calamity' James has a rating of 73 and even Mark Schwarzer has a rating of 70!

In the World Cup mode you can only play in the finals itself (no qualifying at all) though you can load up your Fifa 2002 save game file. Stats tracking is still only goals and cards, and there is no actual stats screen – it scrolls across a ticker in the World Cup menu.

So where did the bulk of EA Sports' work go when it comes to the options? The bonus DVD movies of course! EA Sports included 7 'video montages' ranging from a behind the scenes look at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, several interviews with fans from different countries, an interview with John Motson (they ask him which soccer player has the weirdest hairstyle he's ever seen…), and even a cartoon featuring the mascots from the World Cup! Each of these videos is several minutes long and all have one common trait: they're utterly pointless!! Why the heck are they in the game? The saddest thing of all is that EA Sports spent time including these videos (which do have very high production values) and yet when you win the World Cup in the actual game the winning sequence is absolutely crap (a stroll around the pitch with the trophy) and lasts about 20 seconds!

Gameplay : 50
I could pretty much cut and paste the gameplay section from our Fifa 2002 review and put it here – the basic control scheme, variety of goals that can be scored and so on are all pretty much the same with the same failings – for that reason I'm not going to go into much detail about the nuances of the gameplay. There are, however, three additions/changes to the gameplay engine in WC 2002 that are worthy of mention--slightly tweaked ball physics, star players, and juggling (yes, juggling).

The ball physics in WC 2002 are slightly different than in Fifa 2002 with the ball far less 'floaty' than before; however, the ball physics are still clearly scripted with the ball still acting as if it were filled with iron filings and players had magnets in their boots. When players shape to shoot, the ball magically moves backwards to their feet, and there's just no real variation or even some semblance of realism in the way the ball moves.

The Star Player feature entails having a few players on your team that are designated as your best players (they have a star over their heads) and these players usually have a 7/7 rating in a particular attribute so they may tackle slightly better, when they shoot there may be more pronounced vapor trails/cannon sounds etc. This gives you a slight variation between Star Players and regular players but variation between 90% of the other players is absent – no preferred foot (I've seen a CPU-controlled Beckham score a free kick with his left foot!), the fact that you manually control the strength and total trajectory of passes mean there's no difference between a pass from Zidane and Phil Neville, even ball control is the same between players – the ball just sticks to their feet when 'controlling' a pass or doing a 'skill' move.

The final addition to the gameplay in WC 2002 is juggling. Press L1 when the ball is at your feet and your player will scoop the ball into the air, now L1 makes you do a kick-up with your left foot, R1 do a kick-up with your right foot, L2 your left thigh, R2 with your right thigh. Different combinations of the button perform different juggling moves and you can also juggle the ball as you move your player down the field. You can even control a high pass and start juggling immediately by pressing L2 as the ball reaches your player in the air. Have EA Sports ever seen a football match in their lives? Do they seriously think players in the middle of a match just start playing a little game of keepy-uppy? Perhaps NBA Live 2003's new feature will be the ability to spin the ball on your finger.

The inclusion of juggling is simply the biggest indication that EA Sports' just don't “get it” – they don't understand soccer and have no idea what the heck the sport is about. Instead of concentrating on ball physics - with the understanding that soccer is, at its very heart, a game of pass and move - they concentrate on lavish, extravagant moves that you only really see in Adidas commercials and as a result the gameplay is the same, bland, monotonous, boring, button-mashing fare EA Sports have been feeding soccer gamers for the past few years.

Replay Value : 40
If you've played Fifa 2002 before then you'll probably be able to win the World Cup on your first try and then that's about it. The un-lockable teams are nothing special; just 'All-Star' teams with present-day players from Europe, S. America, Africa etc. The videos are good for about 20-25 minutes, after which I guess you could use the DVD as a $50 coaster.

Overall : 40
What's the difference between EA Sports' Fifa series and a dairy cow? A dairy cow is only milked for 3 years….. With WC 2002 EA Sports take their bastardization of the beautiful game, and of the world's greatest football tournament, to the next level. I think it's time for the Fifa series to pack it in, scrap the game engine, get some new programmers – just do something positive because Fifa still hasn't even reached the level of the original ISS Pro Evolution and it's about 3 years since that game engine (WE4) first appeared in Japan! The one positive of the Fifa series used to be its stellar presentation and graphics – but even that's been upstaged by the recent efforts from the soccer gods at KCET. About the only good thing WC 2002 has going for it is its great commentary and perhaps the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Rent if you're a Fifa fan; stay far, far away if you're a soccer fan.

By: Lavan Chandran 6/20/02

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