The FIFA series has always been at the center of controversy of all sorts, from licensing to the fact that it is often blamed for not bringing anything new to the table, having an outdated graphics engine and manipulating the public through keen Electronic Arts style marketing. Unfortunately, due to the history of the series, no FIFA game can be scrutinized as a new product; it must always be compared to the previous FIFA X, where X is current year -1. The developers know that their target audience has most likely bought at least one title of the series before, so the official statements always focus on the new things it brings compared to its predecessor.
In the first press releases there was talk of an updated graphics system, players acting as realistic as possible and looking better than ever. After a while though, it became become known that these press releases were only valid for the next-gen console versions (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, there is a different version for the Nintendo Wii). So the PC was considered current-gen, next to the PS2 and the Xbox, which means only a slight graphic improvement, fact which is deeply disappointing, knowing that PCs are very flexible regarding graphic requirements. Adding insult to injury, the disappointment is even greater considering that the game’s main competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer 6, has better graphics on the PC, with subtle elements such as shirt pulling, more complex moves and quality facial animations for a sports game.
Also, besides the graphics, there are also other elements which are only available on the next-gen versions – the physics engine controlling the movement of the ball, called Clinical Finishing, plus a few AI options the producers say might give players the opportunity to analyze thousands of possible actions per second.
However, barring what isn’t new, it’s essential to focus on the things that the PC version of FIFA 08 does offer. The official licenses are always important for this type of game, so we have 30 leagues and over 14.000 players modeled after the real stars. As we’ve been accustomed to lately, Romanian club teams are not present in the game, despite their good results in the past year. Although there are different supposed reasons why this happens every year, from the fact that they are licensed to another organization than the one EA buys the rights from all the way to the fact that Gigi Becali charges a lot of money for Steaua Bucharest’s rights, the reality is that EA is a profit-driven company, which will invest when it will cash out directly. This is why The Check Republic, with a smaller population that Romania’s and with modest club results, has the entire national league present in FIFA 08, which is most likely the result of the number of units of FIFA 07 sold in that country.
Another aspect has to do with the most important thing in any football simulator – the gameplay. In FIFA 08, the changes that influence the gameplay are those concerning the AI, especially for the defense and the way passing the pall works. One of the most important weapons in FIFA 07 was passing towards a future location (using the W key) which you could use, in a more offensive line-up or in a team with a fast player, to create plenty of one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper.