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FIFA 2001 (PS2) Review


PS2 Screens(29)

Call me an optimist, but I was actually looking forward to playing the PS2 version of Fifa 2001. After playing great EA titles like SSX and Madden 2001 on Sony's new machine I was hoping that EA Sports would correct many of the problems that plagued the PC version of Fifa 2001, and perhaps the series could compete with Konami's masterpiece ISS Pro Evolution/ESPN MLS GameNight. Boy, am I a sucker! Not only is Fifa 2001 for the PS2 actually worse than the PC version, it's a complete bastardization of the Beautiful Game and one of the most shallow and boring games I have ever played.

Presentation/Graphics : 77
The first time I saw Madden 2001 for the PS2 my jaw dropped to the floor after seeing the intricate details, wonderful textures and amazing animations. I thought it'd take a lot to top Madden's visuals - then I played SSX! It's a testament to EA Sports that two of the finest looking PS2 titles are theirs, and with such a strong foundation laid Fifa 2001 also dazzles in the same manner as SSX and Madden 2001….right? Unfortunately, the Fifa 2001's graphics could be best described as underwhelming.

When you step out onto the pitch the stadiums are beautifully modeled, however, once the match kicks off things start to go wrong. Firstly, Fifa 2001's camera angles are pretty poor and there are only a paltry four angles available, the Tele Cam (too close), the Tower Cam (too far), the End to End Cam (useless), and the Action Cam (useless). Once you settle on a camera angle, you start to notice something else that's wrong with Fifa 2001's graphics – the player models. While EA Sport's other games feature differential player sizes, Fifa 2001 still uses cookie cutter player models with every player the same height and size. So little Gianfranco Zola is of the same build as Jaap Stam! When you consider that Fifa 2001 is on the most powerful console on the market this is particularly pathetic, and it's even more sad when you recall that ISS Pro Evolution and ESPN MLS GameNight on the PSX feature differential player sizes and those two games are built upon a game engine that is more than two years old!

Player animations are also disappointing; the transitions between animations are poor compared to ISS PE/GameNight, and the players look very robotic. Furthermore, Fifa 2001 still doesn't feature context-specific celebrations like in ISS PE/GameNight, so if you're being hammered 10-0 and pull a goal back, expect your players to do joyous back-flips and a whole host of other over-the-top celebrations.

The stadiums are modeled very nicely; however, there's one problem: there are only five stadiums! Madden 2001's stadiums are better and there are more than thirty of them! Another problem is the crowd; yet again EA Sports fail to realize that most home fans wear their team's colors and as a result the crowds are still a multicolored jumble.

Fifa 2001's overall resolution is very crisp, but there's just not nearly as much attention to detail as there is in other sports games. For example there are no captain's armbands as in ISS Pro Evolution/MLS GameNight, nor are there any long sleeved shirts! While Madden 2001 for the PS2 has numerous players and officials on the sidelines, Fifa 2001's sidelines are sparse and I would have liked to have seen more subs warming up, irate managers at the touchline, and the fourth official with his electronic board. Automatic replays only occur when you score a goal, whereas in ISS PE/MLS GameNight when you come close to scoring the game will kick in with a replay of the action.

Presentation/Audio : 72
Like the graphics, Fifa 2001's audio is acceptable, though uninspired. The commentary is the same as the PC version with John Motson and Mark Lawrenson calling the shots, and although they're the best commentating duo in videogame soccer, they're a long way behind other sports games. While Summerall and Madden will give little tidbits of info about specific players in Madden 2001, Motty and Lawro are tight lipped to say the least. Even small comments about the sport's premier players, like “Zidane shot to stardom when he moved from Bordeaux to Juventus”, would have been nice, but alas no such comments are made and the aural experience suffers because of it.

Fifa 2001 also features the most confused crowd in the history of sports videogames. During an Argentina vs. Thailand match, the entire crowd began to chant; “Eng-land, Eng-land”!

As you'd expect, Fifa 2001's soundtrack is great. However, music in a sports game usually doesn't add to the gameplay experience and despite the decent commentary Fifa 2001 falls far behind many other PS2 sports games in terms of the overall aural experience.

Interface/Options : 60
Sixteen leagues, numerous cups, and a truckload of international teams– wow! Fifa 2001 is packed full of options right? Yes it is, but they're all pretty darn poor! Take the season mode, for example, in each season you participate in domestic cups and European competition. Sound good? Now, realize that only computer controlled teams can get relegated, stats tracking is virtually non-existent, rosters are incorrect, players often play in the wrong position, you get no cash for winning trophies, there are no computer controlled transfers, players never reject a transfer (Beckham to Liverpool? No problem!), and they never age or retire. Sounds great, eh?

I cannot fathom how EA Sports could mess-up the rosters so badly. Take, for example, Barcelona who have the largest fan base on the planet (yes, larger than Manchester United). Five players have incorrect squad numbers; most notable is former Fifa World Player of the Year, Rivaldo. What number is Rivaldo for Barca? He's #10 you say? Then perhaps you could tell EA Sports, who still think he's #11. At least they managed to put Figo on Real's squad! Player ratings are just as asinine, with Paul Scholes being ranked higher than Beckham, Veron, Batigol, Amoroso, Zidane, Totti, Nedved, and Figo!

Despite the number of international teams, there are some major absences; Morocco, Iran, Nigeria, Ukraine, and most stunning of all, Portugal, are all absent from Fifa 2001. In their place we get soccer powerhouses Bahrain, Mauritius, Lebanon and Palestine.

Stats tracking in tournaments and leagues is ridiculously basic: goals and cards – that's it. EA Sports didn't even bother to have separate tallies for goals scored in the League and in Europe. Message to EA Sports: Soccer is just as stats-heavy a sport as gridiron football. Perhaps EA Sports should direct themselves to the Carling Opta site, and see EPL stats for number of tackles won, assists, passes completed, shooting percentage, headers won, etc. Even ESPN MLS GameNight tracks, goals, assists and points!

Gameplay : 35
Picture the scene: The English Premier League, Southampton vs. Manchester United at Southampton's home stadium, the San Siro in Italy. Southampton defender, Francis Benali (with only one goal in his 13-year professional career) picks up the ball in his own penalty area and runs at United forward Andy Cole. Cole attempts to tackle, but Benali does a 360-degree spin on the ball with all the grace and poise of Maradona in his prime, leaving Cole in his wake. Benali continues forward, Roy Keane dives in with a sliding tackle, but Benali 360 spins his way past him too. Benali is now alone in acres of space in the middle of the park and none of the other United players want to cover him as they man mark opposing Southampton players who refuse to make runs into space. The confused crowd begin to chant, 'Eng-land, Eng-land'. Francis continues forward, the last defender Jaap Stam dives in with a tackle, but Benali turns, and flicks the ball up in the air to himself and over Stam! Suddenly Benali has a clear breakaway! He races towards the net, but out of nowhere Gary Neville performs an amazing slide tackle, covering 10 yards in a split second and scything Benali down! The crowd jeers, the commentators react to the foul, surely a red card for Neville, surely a penalty - but no! The ref does nothing! Neville gets the ball at his feet and looks up. Suddenly, Southampton striker Matt LeTissier elbows Neville to the floor! LeTissier turns, 360 spins his way past Wes Brown and with his weaker right foot fires an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner! The crowd goes crazy, LeTissier rushes to the touchline performs a perfect back-flip, and is congratulated by his ecstatic teammates! Southampton have scored in the last minute of the game, it's now Southampton 1, Manchester United 7.

Sound absolutely ridiculous? Well that basically sums up Fifa 2001 for the PS2; absolutely ridiculous. Words cannot fully express what a complete and utter bastardization of the Beautiful Game Fifa 2001 represents. A message to EA Sports; as much as you would like it to be, Soccer is not ice hockey. Vicious tackles, mid-air body checks, and elbow strikes are not what soccer is about.

The referees in the PS2 version of Fifa 2001 are even more blind than the PC ones, and after more than a month of playing this horrible game engine (basically the same as the PC version, and in hindsight I gave that game far too high a grade) I further appreciate how useless this game is. The shooting is ridiculously simple and unrealistic – no preferred foot, the powerbar is nothing more than a useless gimmick, and there are only five or six ways to score. The bicycle kick is the ultimate 'money play'; even on the World Class setting it equals an instant goal if you can be bothered to aim towards a corner of the net. Did you know you can't even miss the net on a penalty shot? The only way to miss a penalty is for the goalie to save it. Wonderful!

The professional foul rule still isn't called, and I thoroughly enjoy being hacked down on a breakaway, having no foul called, and upon the odd occasion the whistle is blown and a card is shown it's usually yellow and not red. This is a fundamental rule of the sport! Would EA Sports release Madden 2001 without Pass Interference being called?

Passing is the same useless system as before, and complements the scripted ball physics. Nice to see crosses always go directly to the forward in the middle – Mr. Beckham, you have been made redundant. Dribbling is also a joke as the ball is glued to your feet.

Fifa wouldn't be Fifa without 'skill moves' and during a 4-minute CPU vs. CPU game between Bahrain and Thailand, I saw a total of thirteen 360-degree spins, nineteen step-overs, and twelve hurdles. To say that's ridiculous would be a gross understatement. The absurdity of the skill moves is worsened by the fact that any and every player can perform them – even goalkeepers!

The final nail in Fifa 2001's coffin is the pathetic computer A.I. In a nutshell, they're dumb. Very, very dumb. They stick to their positions like glue – there's no dynamic movement whatsoever. Dribble up with a midfielder towards a forward and instead of moving into space the forward will just stand there and watch as you 360 spin your way by. There's no awareness, there's no overlapping movement, nothing. By contrast ISS PE/GameNight's players are veritable geniuses.

Basically, Fifa 2001 is the antithesis of everything soccer represents. There's no movement, no build-up play, and no strategy or knowledge of soccer tactics required. The game is also practically devoid of any required skill to play. You simply win the ball by kicking an opponent's legs from under him, pass it to a forward, hammer the speed burst button Track and Field style, hit the 360 spin button a few times, press shoot and you've scored. There's absolutely no sense of satisfaction in scoring or defending. Even on World Class setting the main skill component of the game is being able to get away from the illegal slide tackles. Just watching someone play Fifa 2001 is a painful experience, you see a soccer pitch, a stadium, 22 men dressed up like soccer players but they're not playing soccer; they're playing 'Fifa' - a bad game of pinball-ice-hockey on grass.

Replay Value: 0
Will I ever play this game again? In a word, no. I can safely say I have had enough torture to last a lifetime. As I had said before, even though Fifa 2001 is totally unrealistic I still wouldn't mind if it were fun. One of my favorite soccer games of all time, Kick Off 2, is hardly realistic but almost 10 years on it's still a blast to play. Unfortunately, Fifa 2001 isn't fun, it isn't challenging, and it isn't rewarding in the slightest; rather, it's a shallow, frustrating pinball game that will serve as a nice coaster.

Overall : 35
I don't know what upsets me more, the fact that I wasted many hours of my life playing this pathetic excuse for a soccer game, or the fact that many regard Fifa 2001 as a solid sports title. It's as if most consumers and many other North American videogame sites have separate standards for soccer titles and all other sports games. I highly doubt EA Sports would have had the gall to release Madden 2001 without differential player models, with only five stadiums, no snow effects, with incorrect rosters, virtually non-existent stats tracking, no pass interference being called, mediocre graphics, poor camera angles, and no real franchise mode. However, when Fifa 2001 is shipped with such shortcomings it still manages to garner a positive response from the general public. What's worse is that the aforementioned problems pertain only to the presentation aspect of Fifa 2001, and the fact remains that when you strip away the presentation Fifa 2001 is a pathetic excuse for a videogame. At the end of the day the question is thus; are you a Fifa fan or a soccer fan? If you're a Fifa fan then you'll think I'm mad and get Fifa 2001 anyway (enjoy it while it lasts), but if you're a soccer fan steer well clear of this drivel and keep playing ISS Pro Evolution and Striker Pro 2000.

By: Lavan Chandran 1/25/01

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