FIFA 2005

While there’s nothing unforgivably wrong with FIFA 2005, this edition edition has so few new features that the publisher might as well have just shipped the same package as FIFA 2004. So it goes without saying that if you’re happy with FIFA 2004, there is no reason to upgrade. A bigger problem is that some of the old issues weren’t fixed from the previous version, meaning that those pesky annoyances are back as well.

12Gameplay is fast. Take even a few seconds to plan a run, or even briefly consider your chances on getting a searching pass between two defenders, and you’ll usually be stripped of the ball. If you want to find the back of the net when playing on the challenging difficulty settings (Pro and above), pinball passing is the only way to go. Hold the ball longer than three seconds and defenders will have you run down or hemmed in, so you’ve got to constantly push forward and send teammates on runs. This strategy is even recognized by the computer, as it rotates the ball between its players constantly.

First Touch Control livens things up a bit. At first, it seems similar to the right-analog-stick control schemes that have been popping up of late in FIFA’s sister EA Sports series. It isn’t as gimmicky as its siblings, however, as it makes a real improvement to a core part of the game. While the stick does control the usual arcade-style deke moves, it also lets you direct a passed ball before taking possession of it. Just push the stick in the direction that you want to dribble. If the move is successful, you’re off to the races.

This eliminates past passing awkwardness, in that you no longer have to stop and start if you take a pass facing the wrong direction. As a result, games flow better and way-cool acrobatics are opened up. Finesse players now have the ability to flip balls over their heads and spin defenders like tops.

14Therein lies the issue here. EA Sports has taken the great idea behind First Touch too far, making play more arcade-like. Pulling off acrobatic stunts isn’t a sure thing, but they succeed pretty often with skilled players. A guy like Michael Owen can work wonders. So the temptation to try highlight runs is always there, especially when you’re playing with a national team with highly skilled players. You can spend more time going one-on-one than developing plays and passing strategies.

Features and frills have always been among the most impressive in sports gaming, so this minor additions doesn’t matter much. Seeing as there are half-a-dozen modes of play, including a career option and multiplayer, along with 18 leagues, 38 national teams, and some 11,000 players, casual gamers might not even realize that the 18-team Mexican Premier League is new.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 2 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD, WinXP

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