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FIFA series

From Kick Off World of Soccer - wikickoff

The FIFA Series is a popular series of football (soccer) video games, released yearly by EA under the EA Sports label. Since its debut release in late 1993, it has been one of the most profitable and well known video game franchises. While there was no major competition when EA released both the first titles in their Madden NFL and NHL series, football video games such as Sensible Soccer, Kick Off or Matchday Soccer were being developed since the late eighties and were already competitive games in the Football Market when EA announced a football game as their next addition to the EA Sports label.

Contents

History

The key points of EA's massive advertisement were the isometric view of the ground (when all other games used either top down, side scrolling or birds' eye views), detailed graphics and animations and of course, the FIFA endorsement (although it did not feature real player names). It was shipped for Christmas 1993, named FIFA International Soccer, and was released for most active platforms of the time.

While FIFA 95 did not add much other than the ability to play with club teams, FIFA 96 pushed the boundaries. For the first time with real player names, the PC, 32X and Sega Saturn versions used EA's Virtual Stadium engine, with 2D sprite players moving on a 3D stadium. FIFA 97 had crude polygonal models for players and added indoor football, but the pinnacle was reached with FIFA 98:Road to the World Cup. This version featured improved graphics, a complete World Cup with qualifying rounds (including all national teams registered in FIFA) and refined gameplay. Months later, World Cup 98, EAs first officially licensed tournament game, improved Direct3D support, gave each team a unique kit and broke the sequence of poor video games based on tournaments started by US Gold's World Cup Carnival in 1986 and continued until Gremlin's Euro 96.

The following years' releases were met with criticism: buyers complained about poor gameplay, bugs that were never fixed, bad support and little improvement over the previous title. That led to a decrease in the games' popularity, but fans were still willing to give EA a tabula rasa each year. As both emulation and the console market expanded, FIFA was being challenged directly from other titles such as Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer (known as Winning Eleven in Japan and the U.S.). By FIFA 2003 EA made a determined effort to improve the game, and a year later, included a new mode (Football Fusion) that allowed the ability to play games from TCM 2004 using FIFA's engine, and when Konami announced that PES3 would also have a Personal Computer release, EA doubled the efforts the revive the series.

As it is now, both FIFA Football and Pro Evolution Soccer have a large following but FIFA Football enjoys a substantially higher volume of sales in comparison to Pro Evolution Soccer.

Games in the series

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FIFA International Soccer (aka FIFA '94)

Released weeks before Christmas 1993, this greatly hyped football title broke with traditional 16-bit era games by presenting an isometric view rather than the usual top-down view (Kick Off), side view (European Club Soccer) or bird's-eye view (Sensible Soccer). It only included national teams. The Mega CD version included some features from the next title, and is a highly polished version of the original version. The game was famous for the fact that the player could rebound a goal kick from the opposition into the back of the net by simply standing in front of the opposition goalkeeper.

FIFA Soccer '95

Using the same engine only with minor retouches, the game featured the leagues of Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherland, Spain, and USA, plus the Winners Cup and the Nations Cup. A password feature after you win a tournament allows you to save your achievements if you erase your battery. Penalty shoot-out after an overtime tie. Faster gameplay and more animations. Custom celebrations after you score a goal.

FIFA Soccer '96

1996 was the year that saw the dawn of the first 32-bit systems, giving developers the power required to work with more complex 3D designs. Although there were several 3D football games released before (mainly on the SNES), those were usually sluggish and confusing. FIFA '96 for the 32-bit systems still relied on 2D sprites for players in a 3D stadium (the engine was called Virtua Stadium), but was much more fluid than any other preceding game (except the Actua games by Gremlin Software). The 2D versions had improved player sprites, and for many the game reached its 2D peak with this game. The CD versions had commentary from John Motson for the first time.

FIFA '97

The biggest change was the inclusion of 6-a-side indoor soccer mode and polygonal players, with motion capture assured by David Ginola. This game features a then unprecedented (except for Sensible World of Soccer) number of playable leagues from England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and even features the Malaysian league for the first time with complete team rosters. The gameplay in the PC and 32-bit consoles, however left a lot to be desired and was very sluggish for a soccer game.

FIFA '98: Road To World Cup

Considered by many the best game of the series, this was the instalment that began the official seamless balance for many fans from consoles to PC gaming. The game marked the start of an upward trend in the series that marked it out as potentially the best gaming simulator for the sport in the world. The game was revolutionised, boasted an official soundtrack, had a refined graphics engine, team and player customization options, 16 stadiums, better AI and the popular "Road To World Cup" mode, with all FIFA-registered national teams. The most ambitious of the entire series, it even features many accurate team rosters with even national reserves for national callup when playing in the round robin qualification modes. It was also the first FIFA game to contain an ingame player/team editor.

"Song 2" by Blur was used as the intro track for the game. Crystal Method also did 4 songs for the game, More, Now Is The Time, Keep Hope Alive and Busy Child.

FIFA '99

The indoor mode was not revived, the gameplay featured increased fluidity, some gamers thought it failed to compare to previous versions, but the increasing number of websites dedicated to the game and a larger number of leagues (which came to a problem when the Portuguese League rights' owners tried to pull the game out of the shelves locally) ensured good sale. Graphically, it was a major improvement over FIFA '98, with the inclusion of basic facial animations. Fatboy Slim's "The Rockafeller Skank" was the music used in the intro.

FIFA 2000

Graphically slightly superior than older versions. The gameplay was fast, simple and had a clear arcade feeling which failed to keep hardcore fans happy, especially with rival games such as ISS: Pro Evolution gaining in reputation. The leagues also featured many unlicensed teams, which substituted their real names for that of their home cities. Not surprisingly, this title was one of the most poorly received of the entire series. For the first time, U.S. Major League Soccer clubs were included.

Robbie Williams provided an original theme song with "It's Only Us". This song was also featured on the first and only FIFA Soundtrack CD release by EMI. He allegedly did this on the condition that the football team he supports, Port Vale, were included in the game, which they were, as a special feature team.

FIFA 2001

This title had a new graphics engine, which allowed each team to have its own kit, and for some players, their own face. Slighly tweakable physics made the game a modding favorite for its fan community, which grew immensely at the time of this game. Despite the improved engine and the inclusion of 17 leagues, it still did not please many fans. With the release of more powerful hardware and emulators capable of running PlayStation games, by 2001 FIFA started to lose market to Konami's ISS: Pro Evolution series, a series only native to the PlayStation format. Moby headlined the soundtrack, with his single "Bodyrock" serving as the title track.

FIFA 2002

EA decided to improve the game by introducing power bars for shots and passes. However, it was noticed by many players how the game seemed to predetermine results on higher levels. Doing away with ordinary colour pennants as club emblems, the license included official club emblems for the first time. The power bar could also be customised to suit the gamer's preference. A card reward system licensed from Panini was also introduced whereby after winning a particular competition, a star player card would be unlocked. Also there was a bonus game with the already qualified teams (France, Japan and South Korea), in which the player would try to improve the FIFA ranking of their chosen team by participating in international friendlies.

Fans were anticipating another FIFA:RTWC (FIFA: Road To The World Cup), containing all international teams and the option of squad selection. However, many of the international teams in the game were not licensed, some confederations such as Africa were not even complete. Gorillaz headlined the soundtrack of this game with the song "19/2000 (Soulchild Remix)".

FIFA 2003

EA completely revamped the outdated DirectX 7 graphics used in FIFA 2001 and FIFA 2002 and introduced new T&L graphics, featuring more detailed stadia, players and kits. An Elite league composed of the best European teams was also included (this feature was first present in FIFA 99). Timo Maas was the main artist on the soundtrack, with his song "To Get Down (Fatboy Slim Remix)" used during the opener (and later that year by Sky Sports' coverage of the FA Cup.)

FIFA Football 2004

While not adding much to the engine (except some fluidity), the biggest inclusion were secondary divisions, which allowed the player to take lower ranked teams into the top leagues and European matches. Gameplay had a new feature dubbed Off the ball, which required the player to control two players at the same time to execute some plays. The online mode was boasted as the main feature. Another key feature was the Football Fusion, which allowed owners of both FIFA 2004 and TCM 2004 to actually play games from the management sim'. The title sequence was filmed in St James' Park, the home of Newcastle United, with the opening song being Kings of Leon's European hit "Red Morning Light".

FIFA Football 2005

Improving the career mode, the game was extensively advertised and released much sooner than the usual late October date to avoid proximity with the release of Pro Evolution Soccer 4 and the EA Big release, FIFA Street. While some critics still considered it to have inferior gameplay to Konami's series, it was acknowledged to have improved significantly since the 2003 edition (favouring the on-line mode and casual/novice gamers). The game featured a return of create-a-player mode, as well as an improved Career mode. The game's biggest difference compared to previous titles was the inclusion of first-touch gameplay which provided gamers the ability to perform "real-life" tricks and passes. It was also the first version to feature the full Mexican League, which boosted sales in the USA. The game had no opening video per se, but its soundtrack was headlined by British DJ Paul Oakenfold, who composed the FIFA Theme especially for the game, using some sound bits from the game (like crowd noises and comments like "oh, what a finish" - which is why the song was retitled "Beautiful Goal" in the next version). This was the last PS1 title released in the US.

FIFA 06

  • Tagline: "The total soccer experience" / "You Play. They Obey."
Image:FIFA06screen.jpg
FIFA '06 Xbox 360 screenshot

Developers of the FIFA series made a complete overhaul of the game's engine for the 2006 installment of the game, asserting it has dramatically increased the control of play, having rewritten more than half the programming code for the game which was released in October 6, 2005. In addition to a renovation of the game play engine which discards the "Off the ball" system, developers boast a significantly more involved career mode and the introduction of “team chemistry” which will determine how well teams play together. This installment will break with a long tradition of commentating from John Motson and (more recently) Ally McCoist, replaced by ITV's Clive Tyldesley and Sky pundit Andy Gray (who has already worked in the series as guest commentator in FIFA 98).

Like NHL 06, the game also has a classic 16-bit game in the PS2 version - FIFA International Soccer

2006 FIFA World Cup

2006 FIFA World Cup is the official computer and video game for the World Cup by the same name. As with the previous World Cup game, 2002 FIFA World Cup, it is being published by EA Sports.

Many improvements have been made since FIFA 06. The menus have a major redesign and now have many new options that were not present in FIFA 06. Online support will be present for ranked and unranked matches on PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox and Xbox 360. The online service provides lobbies, leaderboards and a global challenge mode where the player can play through over forty historical World Cup scenarios. By playing online, points can spent in the virtual store. In the store there is uniforms, classic players, different soccer balls, boots and gameplay options. As with the previous World Cup game, matches in World Cup mode will be in the order that will be played at the World Cup in Germany.

Soundtracks in the series

2006 FIFA: Road to World Cup

In 2006, EA Sports introduced FIFA: Road to World Cup where players can "Immerse yourself in the action and heritage as you lead your nation from the qualification rounds all the way to the FIFA World Cup Finals in Germany." Players would be able to have their dreams shattered in a penalty shootout or win the world cup. The game is now available for most platforms including, Xbox, PS2, GameCube, and the PC.

Other titles

Outside the yearly series, but also from EA Sports:

Management games

External links

FIFA Football Fan Websites

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