Reviewed: October 28, 2007
Released: October 9, 2007
I love this time of year. There are lots of great games coming out before Christmas and as always; it’s time for my annual dose of FIFA Soccer!
EA has really learned to milk the FIFA cow. Not long after FIFA 08 Soccer hit the shelves, EA announced FIFA Street 3 for early 2008. I would assume UEFA Champions League 08-09 won’t be far behind.
Last year when I reviewed FIFA 07, I was new to the PSP and was amazed that they could put this level of graphics and content on a small device. But now having played numerous titles on the PSP, my eye is much more critical. I’ve seen more of what can be done on the system.
Having seen great improvement between FIFA 07 and 08 on the Xbox 360, I was expecting a nice improvement on the PSP. While it certainly isn’t as dramatic an improvement, the PSP version of FIFA 08 is the best soccer game I’ve played on my little portable friend.
For the most part, the gameplay and menu system hasn’t much changed from last year. There are some subtle additions and graphical tweaks to improve the flow of the game and all are improvements.
Gameplay has slightly improved. EA has added manual controls to let you dictate the play a little better – especially in passing and crossing. You can also control the goalie on breakaway situations.
The player AI has also been enhanced with new defensive and positioning logic. So the same tactics you used last year are not going to be as effective on FIFA 08. This AI requires a bit more tactical thinking to get past the opponents defense. Opposing players seem to be a little better positioned and anticipate your moves much better than previous versions. Even on beginner skill level, your old run and gun tactics will not work anywhere near as often. Which is probably good for the longevity of the game, but I think they might be cutting some of their ‘play once in awhile’ audience out.
The main menu easily gets you where you want to go. You can move right into a quick game, play a trivia game, go online to play in interactive leagues, a couple mini-games, tournaments and other items.
FIFA 08 sports 30 leagues (3 more than last year) with 12,500 authentic players. Leagues include: Australian Hyundai A-League, Austrian Bundesliga, Barclays English Premier League, Belgian League, Brazilian League, Coca-Cola Championship, Coca-Cola League 1, Coca-Cola League 2, Czech League, Danish Superligaen, Dutch Eredivisie, French Ligue 1 Orange, French Ligue 2 Orange, German 2 Bundesliga, German Bundesliga, Ireland FAI Eircom League, Italian Serie A and B, K-League, Major League Soccer, Mexican 1st Division, Norwegian Tippeligaen, Polish Ekstraklasa, Portuguese League, SPL, Spanish Liga BBVA, Spanish Primera, Swedish Allsvenskan, Swiss Axpo Super League, and the Turkcell Super Lig.
Additional teams are lumped into a “Rest of the World” category with 20 teams including Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santa Cruz and others. 43 International teams are also included (up 2 from last year).
There are no women’s teams once again. So any of you women who make up the 40% of female gamers, please feel free to call and/or write EA about this pathetic oversight. This was the year of the Women’s World Cup and EA chose to diss the women again. It would have been interesting to see how Hope Solo may have done in goal vs. Brazil instead of Briana Scurry. Keep hoping ladies.
The Soccer IQ is a new soccer quiz feature. The questions are based off of your favorite team. So you may get questions like “which of these Fulham players is not a forward”. The questions are usually easy for anyone that knows their team well, but it’ll get frustrating quickly for the casual fan. You earn points for correct answers which you can use to purchase unlockable items such as third kits, game balls, stadiums (night versions) and all-star teams.
The manager mode was pretty extensive last year and they have improved on it in FIFA 08. You now have pre-season friendlies to test your team, more training options, and the team governing board has a little more varied responses to your success and failure.
The Tournament mode has also been tweaked so it now lets you compete in one of over 50 official trophy tournaments. All 30 leagues included have at least one trophy right down to the US Open Cup. The US Open Cup is supposed to be an ‘all comers’ tournament for USA based teams but unfortunately the game only includes MLS teams. You can also create your own tournament with various settings for group stages and brackets.
Unique to PSP are two mini-games including a really fun juggling game which you turn your PSP on its side. Your player of choice then appears onscreen and starts juggling. Arrow icons appear and you must quickly hit the corresponding arrow on your PSP. It’s a little frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be stuck there for hours.
The other mini-game is called Wall Attack. It’s basically a soccer version of Jawbreaker. At first I thought it was a complete waste of time but after a few rounds it tapped into my Tetris addiction and I couldn’t put it down. Basically you kick a ball at rows of colored blocks. They explode when you hit them and the blocks above slide down. Various combos come into play with colors, team logos, and other items. It makes for a really fun game.
FIFA 08 is Wi-Fi compatible so you can play against others in the same room via Ad Hoc networking, or over the Internet via Infrastructure network through EA Nation.
If you play over the Internet, you’ll be treated to an ESPN Soccernet ticker which streams scores from various soccer leagues around the world. Rosters are updated automatically (you can choose to save them or not). Just make sure your rosters are current on both your PS2 and PSP if you plan on transferring management data between the two.
The times I was online there were usually around 60 people playing so it wasn’t too hard to find a match. Playing against an unpredictable opponent is always fun, especially in the Interactive League mode.
You can also sync your Management team data with your PS2 to take your club with you on the road. When you get back home you can sync back up and complete your season on the PS2. It appears that EA isn’t doing much with syncing to FIFA 08 on the PS3. With all the new features being added with each firmware update to the PSP and PS3, one would think more interaction between the two would be on the books for FIFA 09.
Little improvements mean a lot. The graphics are indeed better than FIFA 07. Not a lot better, but there have been improvements. More players closely match their real life counterparts and respond in the style of the real player.
But there are still clipping problems. There are still problems with the grass texture and fans disappearing whenever the system is stretched a bit too far. It’s all fairly minor and quite frankly I’m ok with these minor graphical issues as long as I have an overall great portable soccer game for my PSP… and FIFA 08 delivers.
There are 6 camera views to choose from with adjustable camera height and zoom. There are more stadiums than last year – including LA’s Home Depot Center, but on a PSP the peripheral eye candy isn’t very noticeable.
Clive Tydsley and Andy Gray are back again do a great job adding excitement to the game. Player names seamlessly blend in for commentary in the major leagues while other not-so-major leagues (such as MLS) are instead announced with positions. Even the oft-injured David Beckham isn’t announced for the LA Galaxy (he also looks like he’s put on 30 lbs in his PSP version).
The music is 50 tracks of worldwide mishmash of different cultures and sounds. It’s interesting the first couple times through, but it quickly transitioned to annoying. Thankfully EA does support adding your own mp3’s from the memory stick.
FIFA 08 really packs a lot of features on that little UMD disc. In addition to all the features mentioned above, there are a whopping 61 challenge games featuring various scenarios for you to complete before moving to the next level. I’ve been playing this game for over a month and still haven’t completed everything. It is simply the best soccer game on the PSP. EA has trimmed the fat and improved on the important things.
The manual is the usual 30-page bi-lingual (English and Spanish). Nothing too extensive there, but it helps to have the control diagram close by.
Having just finished reviewing the impressive Xbox 360 version of FIFA 08, I couldn’t wait to try the PSP version. While it isn’t anywhere near the improvement of the 360, it still packs quite a punch. There is always room for improvement, but overall FIFA 08 is a real kick in the grass.