FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (commonly abbreviated to FIFA 98) is a football video game developed by EA Canada and published by Electronic Arts. It was the fifth game in the FIFA series and the second to be in 3D on the 32-bit machines. A number of different players were featured on the cover, including David Beckham in the UK, Roy Lassiter in the USA and Mexico, David Ginola on the French cover, Raúl on the Spanish cover and Andreas Möller on the German cover. FIFA 98 was the last FIFA game released for the Mega Drive in Europe.
The game marked the start of an upward trend in the series that marked it out as potentially the best gaming simulator for the sport in the world. The game was revolutionised, boasted an official soundtrack, had a refined graphics engine, team and player customisation options, 16 stadiums, better AI and the popular “Road To World Cup” mode, with all 173 FIFA-registered national teams. The most ambitious of the entire series, it even features many accurate team rosters with even national reserves for national callup when playing in the round robin qualification modes. In addition 11 leagues were featured along with 189 clubs. It was also the first FIFA game to contain an in-game player/team editor.
For the first time in a FIFA game, the offside rule was properly implemented. In previous games when a player on the team was in an offside position doing anything except running saw the player of the game penalised for offside even when the ball was passed backwards. The 32-bit version of the game corrected this so only if the ball was passed roughly to where the player in the offside position was, the game would award a free-kick for offside. The game also featured a five-a-side indoor mode, which was very popular with many fans.
With the new graphical improvements, players were able to have recognisable faces. The faces looked more like expressions, though, as the starting elevens of Bulgaria and Ukraine could consist of “sad”-looking players, while the starting eleven of Macedonia could have “tough”-looking players.
The game included most teams from the world confederations and is often thought of as being the most complete and well balanced game in the series when it comes to international play, which neither the 2002 or 2006 series have matched.
Football, aka soccer, is the most popular sport on the face of the planet. Next year, the finest national teams in the world will gather in France to participate in the World Cup, the biggest sporting event on the face of the planet (which England will win – yeah!).
EA’s FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 is all about this legendary event. It’s unbelievably comprehensive — and it plays a great game of football, too. About bloody time too, if you ask me. I’ve really resented EA’s previous 32-bit FIFA games for their suspiciously-similar-to-the-Genesis-version AI and generally poor graphics. This time, though, the franchise has been pretty much overhauled from the ground up, and the end result is something that football fans can really cheer about, rather than having to resort to rioting in the streets as we usually do.
The presentation is second-to-none. From its blistering opening, complete with Blur music, though its immense amount of options to its up-to-date stats (as opposed to really outdated stats on previous FIFA games), FIFA 98 is as good as football games get on PSX. Every national team is in there, from Tahiti to Brazil, and so are a wealth of European and South American club teams, including England’s Premiership and Italy’s Serie A. The focus of the game, though, is the World Cup itself. Players can participate in the tournament-to-be, or take a trip back in time to ’96 and start at the qualifying stage.
Graphically, the game is very good. The frame rate is ever so slightly choppy, but that’s all forgiven once the game begins proper. I was really impressed by the player animation, which is very subtle, lifelike and varied. This, combined with the refined and responsive controls, results in a game that looks, feels and plays like real football.
The AI is very well executed so that the teams actually play as a proper team, rather than the simplistic kick-and-run of previous FIFA incarnations. Off-the-ball movement is convincing, and the team’s tactics, positioning and play style can be defined to suit the player’s requirements. This adds extra depth to the game, and on higher difficulty settings, getting the tactics right can play a vital part in ensuring victory.
The sound is blistering. Great crowd noise and marvelous commentary really spice up the game’s atmosphere, and with the music from top bands combining with the excellent presentation screens, the whole thing looks and sounds like a sportscast.
FIFA 98 is top of the league, and definitely puts the life back in a franchise which was starting to look very tired and worn. It’s definitely the best football game on the PlayStation by miles, and with its absolutely astounding number of options, teams and gameplay styles, I know that it’s going to keep me very happy until the real World Cup starts next summer.
|FIFA: Road to World Cup 98|
NA December 1, 1997
EU November 1997
JP May 14, 1998
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer, Multiplayer online|
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