The sport of soccer is, perhaps, the most popular sport in the world, yet it has never taken off in the country. Perhaps it is the slow pace of play or the low scoring games, but it has never quite captured the imagination of the American public. Certainly there have been numerous attempts at making the sport more popular, but nothing quite seems to have taken off. However, that doesn't stop soccer videogames, like EA Sports's FIFA Soccer 08, appearing on a yearly basis.
FIFA Soccer 08 is the first version of EA's soccer title to appear on the Nintendo Wii, and as such feels like something of an incomplete work. There are some wonderful strengths to the game, but also some incredibly frustrating weaknesses.
As with all Wii games, the first thing that has to be considered is the control scheme. FIFA Soccer 08 includes EA Sports's "Family Play" simplified control scheme as well as a more in-depth one. Family Play allows users to play the game with just the Wii remote instead of the Wii remote and nunchuk. While this does not allow for some of the more spectacular soccer moves to be performed, it does make controlling the player far more simple. The Family Play notion fits well with the Wii's overall "gaming for everyone" ideal.
The more in-depth control scheme features innumerable button pushing, Wii remote turning possibilities to truly get the most out of the players on the field. Surprisingly, despite the pages and pages of control combinations listed in the manual, it is very easy to get the hang of the game and play successfully.
The graphics in the game are decent, but nothing too sharp or spectacular. The field is seen from a distance in order for more of it to be pictured at a single time (zooming in is possible but hampers one's ability to see what is taking place). As the goal gets closer to one of the goals, the game does zoom in slightly to allow for a better look at the way plays are being setup. Penalty shots, corner kicks, goal kicks, etc., are all played from a much closer perspective and are adequate looking.
For the most part, gameplay is fun and enjoyable. Between tournament modes, online play, numerous "challenges" that require certain tasks to be completed (usually beating an opponent by a specified number of points), and minigames (see below), there is plenty of fun to be had. Regular gameplay is brisk without feeling overly short. Additionally, the game features numerous soccer leagues, and has 570 actual teams with over 12,500 real players. The amount of data packed into the game is incredible.
The biggest downfall of the game is not the graphics, or the inability to play keeper effectively during a penalty shootout (trust me, that gets very frustrating in a tournament setting), but the incredibly unintelligent AI. No matter what defensive control scheme is used, computer controlled AI players never effectively attack the ball. Rather, they might go in for a quick attack but then back off. As a rule, they continually give ground to the opposing players, even close in to the goal. The issue is present both on human controlled and computer controlled teams, and makes goals scoring too simple – the computer can almost always be beat (or beat itself) using the same play time and again within a single match. It is always necessary for a user to take control of defensive players in order to try and stop goals, allowing the computer to run the defense is, inevitably, disastrous.
FIFA Soccer 08 features a special section called "Footii Party" which consists of three minigames, Juggling, Boot It, and Table Soccer (which I've always known as foosball). The games are very basic, requiring only very simple controls to play. Juggling uses the Nintendo Wii system based, user created, Miis as the visual representation of the player's character. Thus, one can play Juggling as a cartoonish version of themselves (or anyone they choose to make). Boot It has the user take shots on and try to defend penalty kicks. The Wii remote's motion sensing controls are great fun here, as one takes a shot by thrusting the Wii remote forward and to the sides to determine where the shot will go. Table Soccer features a static view of a foosball table, and by twisting and turning the Wii remote one moves the players.
The first iteration of EA Sports's FIFA Soccer line for the Nintendo Wii is a decent title that shows huge promise for the future. The use of Mii's in the game (including a likeness of Ronaldinho) is a fantastic way to capitalize on some of the Wii's built-in software. Additionally, while the control scheme is complicated, proficiency is easy to achieve. With some tweaks to graphics, gameplay, and AI, the series should have a wonderful run on the Wii.
FIFA Soccer 08 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.