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  CM 00/01

Ask any desktop football fan and they will tell you that EA Sports's FIFA series is the best there is when it comes to top soccer games. It has the most detailed animation to date and the smoothest gameplay as compared to some of the other soccer games on the market.

I got hooked onto the FIFA series bandwagon when I bought the first copy of the game, FIFA International Soccer, a few years back. Back then, the player sprites were quite small and there were no real player names in it. Everything was fictional and you had only national teams to choose from. Still, I was enthralled by the animation of the players performing overhead kicks, tackles and slides during the course of the match. The commentary was superb and the roars from the crowd can be compared to a real life stadium atmosphere.

After that everything changed. EA Sports started to release the game along the lines of incremental upgrades each year. Thus introducing something new to the game each time it's released. FIFA 2000 is the latest version (back then) that I've got my hands on and you can say that I'm truly impressed at what EA Sports has done for the footballing community in terms of desktop footballing. FIFA 2000 follows the grand tradition by presenting us with new levels of graphical animations and new play options.

The game intro starts with a team from the past taking to the pitch only to be dazzled by the illuminating floodlights. A modern day team appears and strikes fear into its opposition with some breathtaking trickery. This was followed by Robbie Williams's It's Only Us as the lead track. Prior to FIFA 2000, FIFA 99 gave us a stunning presentation of real matches to build up the tension. Waaaay to go EA Sports!

Other than the usual match options of Friendly, Tournament, Season and Training, you will get some less essential ones such as Team Management, Player Editor and Game Options. This allows for alterations as in customizable player attributes and facial features. Player transfers can be corrected to match real life occurrences, so you could actually stick to one game for the next few years.

The main improvement over the years have been the smoother gameplay and the nicer graphics. In thies edition, extra colours have been injected to the pitches and the stadia. Grass looks more greener in the summer heat and there's more shading around the pitch. If you haven't noticed, the goalkeepers' water bottle is placed right beside the goal. Try placing the ball towards it and you'll be rewarded with a flying bottle! The game resembles actual soccer action than its predecessors. The players' body movements are far more convincing. Players shoulder charge, shield the ball and hold off defenders with their arms to fend off challenges. You could even perform nifty flicks with the ball to fool your opponents. Another trick allows you (your player) to jump over sliding tackles. Realistically speaking, if I hadn't been holding onto the keyboard, I could have easily mistaken this for a real game on the idiot box.

The overall detail also adds to the excitement. Depending on the outcome of a match, teammates either do elaborate victory dances or clench their fists in anger, shaking their heads and cursing under their breath. During a red card incident, players' faces insinuates a fight on the verge of taking place. The arenas are huge and well-rendered, and the crowds responds to strong plays by jumping up and down in their seats. Set pieces can be dispatched more easily with quick buttons and a much more shorter power bar. The buttons corresponds to 3 of the attacking players. Press on them and the ball will be delivered to the respective direction. Penalties are now viewed with a slightly more angled camera view, which is more realistic as the player takes a longer run before taking a penalty. You even get automatic replays each time you score a goal, usually shown from dynamic angles for your viewing pleasure.

The tactical acumen of the players have improved a lot from the previous versions. Goalkeepers come out of the box to clear balls that have gotten behind the last defender. They also punch away free kicks. Passes aremore varied with the occasional backheel pass that left me gaping with shock. The soccer ball also acts more like it should be, deflecting off players or goal posts into the right trajectory position. Quite authentic if I might say so.

Regarding gameplay, you get a choice of 3 difficulty levels : Amateur, where you can guide the weakest team to the top easily; Professional, which is the normal setting for a pleasant game with a much respectable scoreline; World Class, pick this if you want a greater challenge. Your players will be unable to hold the ball for more than a fraction of a second, forcing you to pass the ball around madly, hoping for a hole in the defence to score. There's even a number of classic teams from the past which you can choose to control, putting the debate of which team is the best on to the pitch instead of mere talking.

FIFA 2000 is the most realistic and enjoyable game of football that I have played throughout these years. The controls are smooth and easy to learn, the pace is quick, and the computer doesn't allow for any cheap shots, nor does it take unfair advantage of your pathetic controlling. When you win, you'll feel victorious, and when you lose, you'll feel that you've lost fair and square.


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