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FIFA: Road to the World Cup ‘98
Score: 92%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Soccer)

Graphics & Sound:
Is EA on a role or what? My skepticism is all but gone at this point. With the completely revamped NHL ‘98, and the significantly improved NBA Live ‘98, EA has shown their resiliency and tenacity in the wake of adversity. FIFA: Road to the World Cup ‘98 is absolutely splendid in so many ways, I could hardly believe that a series marred by such trouble in the areas of control, animation, and overall gameplay, could bounce back this hard. Three is the charm, and with FIFA ‘98, EA Sports is poised to regain much lost ground in the Next-Gen sports wars.

Graphically speaking the game is beautiful to look at, adorned with a variety of player animations, styles, looks... everything. The fields (all 16 of them so far) are wondrously modeled, and are rendered in the introduction a la’ Triple Play. I am so excited about this... (Yes, cause I was a major skeptic at this point) that I can hardly finish this review.

It would take days to go over every nuance that is FIFA ‘98, so I will dispense with the obligatory full rundown. But here are some salient points of interest. There are 172 International Teams, World Cup Qualifying, One Touch Passing, and Night Games. There is even a practice mode and a plethora of controller configurations.

In addition, the A.I. is nothing to be concerned about here either. EA got it right, just like everything else.

Needless to say, like myself (a devout EA Sports fan), many people found themselves growing more impatient and angry with EA. It was taking too long for them to get past this “learning curve” thing. Well my friends, seems we have to wait no more. I put FIFA ‘98 into my PlayStation and went right into the gameplay with a skeptic’s sneer on my face. Yes, I was expecting more of the same. What I got simply blew my mind!

Game Mechanics:
I have been a fan of the EA FIFA series since I played the excellent 3DO version some years ago. The control and fun factor in that game made the sport of soccer appeal to many people that would otherwise have played something else. But on subsequent Next-Gen systems, FIFA floundered terribly. Control schemes were poorly re-routed, causing gameplay to suffer and frustration to be the only memorable experience. The frame rate of the game took a backward step, and the animation became less fluid -- even choppy. It seemed that everything that made the series great was foolishly tampered with, as if sabotage was the order of the day. Add to those woes the fact that Konami was coming on strong with the Goal Storm series, and FIFA found itself in dire straits.

However, all I can say is FIFA is back with a vengeance. Right off the bat, I could feel the control was absolutely right. No delay, drag, or sluggishness. This game is tweaked to perfection. The control scheme is different, but very intuitive. One button pressed different ways yields various results. Press Shoot (regular shot), Tap Shoot (quick low shot), Double Tap Shoot (chip shot)! A novice player... and we all will start in this category due to the changes, can easily pick this up and get fine results. Advanced players can begin to explore the Skill mode that uses multiple button combinations to perform deeper moves. And, what is FIFA’s best kept secret....THE DAMN THING IS ANALOG COMPATIBLE!!!

I haven’t found it on the box or in the manual yet, but if you have a Sony Dual Analog Pad, and activate the “Red” mode, the sucker works, and works all too well. It ain’t even listed, and it’s the single best feature of the game! EA has pulled out all the stops and produced the finest Soccer experience to date... period!

You gotta’ play FIFA: Road to the World Cup ‘98. You gotta’ buy FIFA: Road to the World Cup ‘98. You gotta’ live FIFA: Road to the World Cup ‘98. FIFA is back boys and girls... get your copy, ‘cuz Soccer ain’t been sooooo Good!

-Fabz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Fabian Blache

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