Another year, another FIFA game. The focus on the 2002 edition is the new passing model. The central criticism of the series is that games degenerate into pinball passing fests that ruin the experience for those looking for a semi-realistic brand of soccer. The new model does not completely rectify this problem – long passes are still comically accurate – but it helps lessen the pinball effect and short passes take more patience than ever before.
The new system allows you to instruct a teammate to make a run down the pitch, hopefully opening up the defense and creating more space or possibly a breakaway. Also new is a “give and go” button that encourages more team play. Passes are now intercepted with a bit more frequency, and “through-passing” works a bit better as well. A passing strength indicator makes it much easier to determine how hard a pass or shot will be before launch. The biggest problem is the alien physics model. The ball does a lot of weird stuff, such as changing speeds several times in mid-air or swerving to ensure that a pass hits its target. It all feels scripted.
Speaking of scripts, John Motson’s play-by-play commentary remains the best in the business. He and Andy Gray keep things interesting and while the speech is repetitive after a few games the call of the games themselves is extremely accurate and entertaining. Referee awareness is retooled to the point of sanity. No longer can you tackle a guy with impunity; a slide tackle from behind is an almost guaranteed free kick. Tackling is also a more risky proposition, and it forces you make better decisions on when to attempt a hard tackle.
As per norm with the FIFA series, you get a smorgasbord of teams and leagues. From Korea to the MLS, just about every major league is here, along with over 75 National teams. What’s less impressive is the fact that EA Sports fails to include the World Cup. Right on the box it says, “Road to the 2002 World Cup. Qualify for the biggest sports event in the universe.” The word qualify cannot be stressed enough. If you take England, for example, and earn a spot during the qualification process, the game saves your progress and unlocks a secret tournament, such as the Asian Cup, but you don’t get to continue on to play in the World Cup itself. Sorry folks, you’ll have to buy the sequel to enjoy that part.
It technically might not be false advertising, but it’s awfully misleading, and it’s a crime that the biggest National event in the entire sport (and arguably the entire sporting world) is not represented in the game. There’s nothing stopping you from creating custom knockout or league tourneys, but it’s just not the same.
Fans hoping for more off the pitch strategy are left out in the proverbial cold, too. There’s still no trade AI of any kind nor is there a multi-season mode. No need to worry about players leaving for other squads or anything of that nature, and swapping players from team to team is as easy as a mouse click. Stat tracking remains untouched from previous versions. All you get are bookings and goals. That’s it. Important stats such as tackles, headers, and passing are absent.
The graphics are solid, as you’d expect. The pitch detail is superb and the player models refined. The player faces when viewed up close look weird, but the in-game graphics are top notch. Another quibble is that it takes a lot of horsepower to maximize the details, and if you try to play using the basic system requirements, the game slugs along like a wet snail.
While it’s undeniable that FIFA 2002 is an improvement over 2001, it’s debatable whether the new additions are enough to warrant this sequel. New passing and tackling models are nice, but soccer fans deserve the same featuresâ€”career mode, AI sliders, computer trade AI, detailed stat tracking, and so onâ€”that nearly every other EA Sports game possesses.
System Requirements: Pentium II 300Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 3D Video Card, Win98/2000/XP