EA Sports' celebrated soccer series returns to home computers in this "2005" edition. Among the new and improved features in this year's game are the "first touch" system, designed to give expert players more control by allowing split-second, one-off passes and more improvisational teamwork. Introduced in the previous year's edition of the game, FIFA's "off the ball control" returns, and has been enhanced to allow new moves in more situations. The game's career mode has expanded to involve more management activities, in the office as well as on the field. Like past versions, FIFA Soccer 2005 offers one of the most complete roster selections of any sports game available, and includes more than 12,000 real-life players in over 350 licensed teams and leagues from around the world. Once again, online play is supported for Internet-connected gamers.
The FIFA series from EA Sports has been treading water, quality wise, for a few years due to its arcade slant and less-than-realistic gameplay. The 2005 edition takes some important steps in the right direction: it's not soccer nirvana -- and it's still not nearly as good as Konami's classic Winning Eleven series on the PS2 or PC, but it's certainly the best FIFA in four of five years. However, this still remains a game for the casual soccer fan rather than the serious footie fanatic.
As with most games from EA Sports, FIFA 2005 looks drop dead gorgeous. The players, kits, stadiums...even the ball looks good. This is nothing new to the series; it's always looked the part, but this year it looks even more lifelike. Player faces are so detailed you can count the stubble on a player's chin. Everything just looks marvelous. The sound remains the best in any EA Sports game; while the play by play is starting to get a bit on the repetitive side, it's still fun to listen to and never gets tiresome.
The sparse career mode from last year has been replaced by a 15-year career model that really is long overdue. You start out at a lower level league; you can choose to coach just about any small team in the world because (like other games in the series) FIFA 2005 has more licensed clubs and leagues than any other soccer game. The amount of clubs in the game is staggering. You work your way up the ranks by winning games, buying additional staff and keeping players happy. It's refreshing to see this series finally embrace career play, and it's a huge step in the right direction. It still needs work mainly because you're dealing with literally thousands of players all across the globe and if you want to find a player to trade...unless you know which club he plays for you're going to have one heck of a time finding him -- in short, it really needs a player search function. Still, the new career mode is a welcome addition.
The meat of the game, the on-the-pitch gameplay, remains both hit and miss. It really all depends on what you want out of a soccer game. If you want realism, look elsewhere. FIFA 2005 looks and smells like soccer but it isn't soccer. That's not to say that the game can't be a lot of fun, but if realism is your thing, then FIFA 2005 will surely disappoint. Perhaps the biggest problem is that of positioning, and this problem makes every game play pretty much the same.
The CPU plays a weird type of prevent defense where the defenders stand pretty much right on the 18-yard restraining line. Defenders never approach midfield under any circumstance. This allows you to take the ball on these 50 to 60 yard runs and no one will stop you until you get near the goal when the CPU defense goes into attack mode. This a lot like an NFL defense playing the dime prevent every down. Getting the ball into the attacking zone is way too easy in this game regardless of difficulty level. There's no challenge getting the ball into scoring position. It's not too easy to win, but there's virtually no midfield game at all, and it leads to a lot of predictable play against the computer.
Even though the gameplay is stale at times, the new "First Touch" feature is a nice addition. This allows you to use the right thumb stick on a dual analog gamepad to position your player when he receives a pass or a volley. It looks extremely smooth in action and makes it a lot easier to position headers and take through-balls.
Online play is really where FIFA 2005 shines brightest. By playing against another human, you take out the crazy AI defense issues and the lack of midfield strategy. While a multiplayer career mode would be really nice, you can still have fun setting up online tourneys against friends.
FIFA has always been an arcade game, and you can feel that EA is slowly trying to turn it into a simulation. It certainly looks the part, and new features like First Touch and the revamped career mode are positive additions -- but it's not there yet. Soccer sim fans are still much better off sticking with Winning Eleven despite its lack of license power. However, for online players, FIFA 2005 is worth taking a look at because it removes a lot of the offline AI issues. Hopefully one day EA Sports will put it all together to make both modes of play equally entertaining.
People who downloaded FIFA Soccer 2005 have also downloaded:
FIFA Soccer 2004 (a.k.a. FIFA Football 2004), FIFA Soccer 07, FIFA Soccer 2002, FIFA Football 2003 (a.k.a. FIFA Soccer 2003), FIFA Soccer 06, FIFA World Cup: Germany 2006, FIFA 2001, FIFA 99
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