Review by Ryan Harrison
Presentation is on the ball, but substance misses the target.
EA Sports are generally regarded as the prime developers of simulated sport video games, and on the association football front, are best known for their annual FIFA video game series that originated over twenty years ago. Every so often between these games, they also produce spin-off games that utilise the FIFA gameplay engine, with the licence to base them on real-life major football tournaments that include the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euros and the Champions League. Sounds like something of a quick cash-in on the football craze, but the games are still done to a good standard, and worth spending a weekend on if youre all burnt out on the big-name sport titles and are looking for something simpler.
2002 FIFA World Cup for the PlayStation 2 is based on the real-life tournament that took place in Japan and South Korea during the summer of 2002, and does a splendid job of capturing the look and feel in video game format, though has a couple of issues, namely in lifespan and substance. Your standard exhibition mode to test your skills out against a second player or CPU team in a one-off match is there, in addition to a Tournament mode to guide the team of your choice through the finals in search of World Cup glory, but besides a few bonus teams to gain for playing through, you wont find much else to keep your coming back too often!
The control of the game is easy to use, and while the actions assigned to the various buttons are ideal, you do also have the option to configure them, should you so wish. Standard moves for passing, crossing, shooting and dribbling with the ball are assigned to the controllers action buttons when in possession, and when defending, theyll allow you to change control to the player nearest the ball, and to make tackles. A new feature introduced to the gameplay engine is a meter that fills up while holding the button down to pull off passes, crosses or shots. The longer you hold the button, the more weight youll put on the pass, distance on the cross, or power on the shot. It takes a few tries to become comfortable with knowing the ideal amount of power to put into the move, but before long you do get a feel for it.
You do also get a few more advanced moves to perform by combining the action buttons with the shoulder buttons that include side-steps, one-two passes, through-balls, adding curve to your shots or having the goalkeeper come forward in one-on-one situations, for example. One very noticeable issue with the control scheme is that it feels quite slack, with delays of between a half a second to a full second between the press of the button to the move being performed. When lining up a pass or a shot, if youre looking to fill that meter up, you leave yourself open to being intercepted by an opposing player, especially more so when playing on the higher difficulty levels. When making crosses into the box, dont expect to be scoring any headers or first-time volleys, either; players always seem to chest the ball down to take an extra touch, which again always leaves opposing defenders ample time to make the tackle and rob you of possession.
When it comes to playing with certain teams and players, their strengths and weaknesses are loosely based on those of their real-life counterparts. Prolific goalscorers have better shooting accuracy and speed, while renowned defenders have better tackling ability. Players with very high passing/running/shooting ability have star-shaped markers appearing over their head when controlled, and when you make the pass/run/shot, it makes a trailing effect. Theres nothing quite as satisfying as playing that perfect pass that beats an entire backline and lands right at the feet of an attacker making a run, or a long range punt that soars past the despairing dive of the keeper! Once you know which of the players in your team of choice have these enhanced abilities, building attacks and scoring goals can become relatively easy to do thereafter.
Graphically, the game is very colourful, smooth and realistic. If you remember watching the real thing, youll see that this game recreates the look and feel of the 2002 World Cup very nicely. Every one of the stadia in the various locations around the host cities of Japan and South Korea are included and look spot on. The effects also look very impressive; in the introduction to a game, youll see some very detailed and animated crowds. Effects like banners moving around, mascots dancing around the pitch-side area, fireworks popping in the night sky and spectators standing up and enthusiastically roaring, look just great!
Player models are okay and bear some resemblance to real players, though I have seen better on other football games for the same system. The kits they wear look spot on, as well. The game flows smoothly, but also quite slowly. Player movements are motion-captured and look pretty lifelike, though they do also occasionally jitter; when you change direction of a run, for example, youll notice that the player turns so sharply it looks unrealistic. Accompanying the at-times frustrating slow pace is the fact that the ball seems to float in the air for so long when you make high passes/clearances/shots, it would make you think half the time that the laws of gravity are more like what they would be on the moon!
Commentary of the game comes courtesy of John Motson and Andy Gray. There is quite a lot of commentary; inevitably youre going to hear them calling the same lines every so often, but its mixed up enough to not get boring too quickly, either. Andy even throws in the odd piece of trivia regarding certain teams, players or stadiums, too, otherwise the rest of the time your standard calls of thats a nice pass, good save by the keeper, he did well to keep that out, its a yellow card and there it is its a goal!! are what you can expect to hear. Background music for menus, match intros and instant replays is alright, if nothing memorable, while other sound effects like players grunting as they take a heavy tackle, and the crowd roaring sounds very good and real.
2002 FIFA World Cup is a pretty well-put-together game, but is disappointingly lacking when you look at certain others. Other games come with achievements or bonus items that can be acquired as you play more. Another thing that would have helped the lifespan would have been having the option to play through a qualifying mode, since you only have the actual World Cup finals to play in here. Perhaps more rewards for playing with/beating each team (as was brought in for the next World Cup game in 2006). Beating the game and achieving everything here can be done within just a few hours, so it would have perhaps been worth a rental at best when new. Thankfully, the game is quite easy to find nowadays in any place that sells used PS2 games and goes for a very low asking price a couple of quid was all it cost to make it part of my own collection.
Its playable, easy to come to grips with, fun while it lasts and will feel natural to anyone with experience of the FIFA games from the same era. Making good use of the licence, the presentation is very well done. If you like your footy games and have a few hours over a weekend for something to try something different to a major instalment of FIFA, by all means, its worth going for. If you want to play a World Cup game and want something thatll give you more playing time, substance and value for money, Id otherwise recommend any game based on future World Cups.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: 2002 FIFA World Cup (EU, 04/26/02)
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