Every year, FIFA comes along, adds minimal features, updates rosters, and sells a lot of copies. Last year marked the first HD entry in the series (well… for some consoles), but this year marks the first FIFA to use motion controls. This brings us two new control schemes, bonus minigames, and all the usual stuff you would expect from a FIFA title. Well, almost. But we’ll get to that later.
FIFA is the controls. There are two control options: Family Play and Advanced. The first uses just the Wii Remote while the second adds the Nunchuck into the mix as well. In the advanced mode, the Nunchuck’s analogue stick controls the player, Z causes the player to sprint, while the C button and shakes of the controller make the player perform tricks. The Remote controls ball-related actions. When attacking you can use the A and B buttons (or both) to perform different types of passes. You can also waggle the Wii Remote to pass in your desired direction. When defending, A changes player, and B tackles.
While these sound fine, they take a lot of getting used to and they don’t always work. There’s also half a second worth of noticeable lag for both the buttons and motion moves. Having the same motion for a goal-bound header and sliding tackle causes problems – it’s often hard to see where exactly the ball is (in 3D terms) during corners, so every now and then you’ll go for a header when the ball is on the ground – resulting in your player performing a sliding tackle and (if you’re unlucky) getting a red card.
Couple this with the directional passing often not passing to the person you want it to go to, the player select not selecting a player in a good position, the game not registering some flicks of the Remote and your computer-controlled team-mates often going into bad positions and you have what can be a mess of a game. Luckily you will get used to it if you stick to it – you’ll develop tactics based on how the game works and figure out the best way of using the controls. When this happens you can fully enjoy the game.
On the other hand, Family Play is a complete disaster. The concept sounds fine – you control passing, shooting and tackling, while the computer handles movement. And it should have worked well if EA had kept it to the computer controlling just the movement. The massive mistake they made was making the computer also perform passes and tackles for you. If a player is on a good run, the computer will often decide to ruin it by passing backwards. The matches turn into you battling your own team’s AI instead of playing against another team. Very poorly done.
The proper football sections consist of a quick match, tournaments, challenges and online. Quick matches simply let you pit any two teams against each other, while tournaments let you pick a team and play as them through a whole league/cup. You can chose from any included national tournaments or create your own. Once this is done, you unlock a viewable trophy and earn some points to buy new kits, balls and night-time stadiums. There is also a special online tournament. You pick a team to support and play some fixtures. The results (from you and all their other “supporters”) will affect the position of the team in the league.
Challenges come in Easy, Difficult and Custom (which needs to be unlocked by completing all of the previous types). Given a starting score and remaining time, you have to score as many goals above the opposing team as the game tells you to.
Online is a fairly simple affair. You must register on EA’s site for a username, then play matches against random opponents (anyone or people about your skill level) or friends. Matches are relatively lag free and don’t have the “hidden tactics” that makes Mario’s football game so frustrating when playing online.
The game looks fairly decent – the players have a sufficient amount of detail and the grass looks rather nice. It’s fairly clear, too (except for when the game forgets to give teams their away kits and you end up with two teams in the same colour shirts). It’s nothing spectacular, but it does the job and runs smoothly. The commentary is mostly good, but (as always) sometimes says stupid things (the most common is the commentators congratulating a player’s header when they head the ball to an opposing player). The menus also have licensed music from various countries, from artists such as Travis, The Automatic, Cansei de Ser Sexy and The Cat Empire.
There are also three minigames. The best one is Table Football, which works very well with the Wii Remote. The other two are fairly boring: One of them sees you slowly juggling a ball with your feet by shaking and pressing buttons and the other lets you wave the remote to hit targets. These games use Miis and Ronaldinho as a host.
Overall, FIFA 08 on the Wii is a decent package but let down by lack of modes (such as the management features that the other versions have), poor controls and some annoying gameplay problems. If you give it time, you should adapt, but the controls need a lot of refining. But then, there’s always next year…