FIFA Soccer 2005
Published by EA Sports. Developed by EA Canada. For PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. Rated E for Everyone.
I think I've got EA Sports figured out. They've devised a diabolical master plan to enslave the human race, and they're doing it by packing more complete features into their games than any other publisher can even dream, thus ensuring that no sports fan can escape their snare. What end this will ultimately serve remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: as long as EA keeps releasing titles like FIFA 2005, a good chunk of the world's male population isn't getting away from the television any time soon.
What's big in FIFA 2005 is not necessarily that more teams than ever are represented (in addition to such stalwarts as Major League Soccer, the English Premier League, and the Dutch Eredivisie, there's a full range of Central and South American teams), nor the impressive number of real-life players portrayed. As has been the trend in the 2005 series of EA Sports games, the centerpiece here is a comprehensive career mode. In this mode, you create a manager (I named mine after erstwhile Wild N' Crazy Kids host Donnie Jeffcoat) and then attempt to guide a team from the doldrums of whichever national league you choose all the way to the championship.
This has its ups and downs. For instance, the one thing I really wanted to do was a play a season – all 7000 games they play in a Premier League campaign – as my favorite team, Arsenal. Unfortunately, you just can't do that. You can play a single exhibition game as any team in the world against any other team, but if you want to play in England in career mode you have to start in Football League 2. Eventually you can get to Football League 1 and then the Premiership, but, sorry, you can only be Arsenal if they've got a manager's position open. Whoops.
Still, it's a small price to pay. Rising through the ranks of a league is an appealing gameplay feature that does offer a reason to come back beyond the fun of the gameplay. But the gameplay is always what counts most, and it's here FIFA 2005 really shines.
A new feature in this year's edition is the "First Touch" control, which is activated by the right-hand control stick. The idea is that when a new player receives the ball, you can use the First Touch to give him a jump on his run, or have him snap a smart pass to another player. This is similar to the "Hit Stick" in Madden, in that it takes a bit of finesse to properly utilize, and 90 percent of the time is completely useless. But used correctly, it can be a real game-breaker. Plus, it's just great to have something to do when receiving a pass.
The course of games in FIFA 2005 proceeds astonishingly close to the real thing. It's fairly easy to pass around the center of the field, but defenses have a habit of tightening up as you start your attack. You're lucky to get 10 shots on goal in a game, which is much like the real thing. (For purists, that's probably the most exciting thing I've said so far.) And it's nearly impossible to score cheap goals. A good cross or corner kick is required, and only rarely will you simply be able to bust through the defenders and get the keeper in a one-on-one. This, combined with the fluid animation of the characters, makes each game look almost like you're watching it on Fox Sports World.