FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer
Windows - 1999
Description of FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer Windows
We want goals
Being a Major League Soccer (MLS) fan sometimes makes you question your perception of reality. How else can you explain watching an entire ESPN Sportscenter on some Saturday night in the middle of June and not hearing a single mention of the games played that evening? Does the league even exist? Maybe I wasn't at a game that night at all, but simply at a mass hallucination. So what kind of drugs can induce a person to see a shelf of computer games at a major retailer whose boxes all scream "Major League Soccer" in large letters? I can't answer that because as it turned out, those boxes were real. In even larger letters were the words " FIFA 2000." That explains it. Sepp Blatter must be in town.
Each year, gamers are treated to a new iteration of the FIFA engine in typical EA style: the game's graphics are improved to the current standard, the team rosters are updated, and various other minor improvements are made to make each year's "upgrade" more than just a full-priced add-on but less than a really new game. Somewhere in this in-between zone is a wonderful marketing strategy, because the FIFA series is EA's best-selling sports game line ever. Marketing aside, the last two releases have been pretty darn good. Is the third time a charm or curse?
You've got to hold and give but do it at the right time
One problem with the previous FIFA games for Stateside buyers has been the almost laughable treatment of U.S. professional soccer. Lacking a license, FIFA 99 simply chose some American cities (without regard for whether they had MLS franchises, A-League franchises, or none at all), put them in a league, and filled the rosters with made-up players that all had below-average attributes. This year, for the first time, EA has obtained the license of Major League Soccer (the United States' first division) and has produced a game specifically for the U.S. market which includes actual MLS clubs rather than the fictitious garbage foisted upon purchasers of previous games in the series. Entitled FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer, the game box depicts D.C. United's U.S. international Eddie Pope and bears the boot-and-ball logo of MLS. The game differs from the European release in its title and in-game commentary, but otherwise it's the same game.
As I said above, releases in the FIFA series are usually along the lines of incremental upgrades. FIFA 2000 follows in this grand tradition by presenting us with new graphics and new play options, some of which are truly new but the vast majority of which are really tweaked versions of something else. I'll deal with every change in due course, but before I get to that I should point out one nice thing about the game: EA seems to finally be dropping its fascination with 3dfx and Glide. FIFA 98 wouldn't run in Direct3D at all, while the D3D implementation in FIFA 99 left something to be desired, occasionally giving my TNT 2 Ultra card problems since it recognized it only as a generic Direct3D device. FIFA 2000 picks up my Nvidia-based card for what it is, and runs just fine. A promising start.
Every FIFA release improves the graphics, and this title is no exception. The big improvement this time around is in the players' faces. Players are becoming recognizable now, and not just to someone who is accustomed to seeing Dennis Bergkamp on television every week. Faces have much more detail than the polygon monsters that inhabited FIFA 99. Gianfranco Zola looks like, well, like Gianfranco Zola. And so on. Tony Adams has had a haircut, but in general the faces are much more detailed and, dare I say, realistic. Hats off to EA, wot?
Well, in a sense. Except that this exact feature has already been provided courtesy of EA's "other" soccer release, F.A. Premier League Stars. In fact, an awful lot of things that were done in Stars could have been done here but weren't, which leaves import-crazy saddos like myself to wonder why EAseems to be developing a parallel arcade footy game with different features, some of which are superior to those in FIFA 99. One such feature is the depiction of league kits. The Premiership kits in Stars are much more detailed than those in FIFA 2000. This is partially a function of the graphics engine in Stars, which seems to be more detailed at some levels than the one in FIFA 2000. Okay, the faces in FIFA might be better, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that the game's graphics are much better overall than those in Stars. The players tend to have different builds: the ones in FIFA look more like Kanu whereas those in Stars are shaped a lot like Gazza. In short, if you've played Stars, the look of FIFA 2000 won't knock you off your seat.
You can be slow or fast ...
The one big gripe everyone has had about this otherwise excellent series is the lack of career play. Actually, you can now say "was the lack of career play." Because FIFA 2000 has it. It's not terribly sophisticated, mind you. For instance, the transfer system is quite primitive, and certainly not anywhere near that of a proper footy management sim, but it's there. Another problem is that while the game must have a Carling Premier League license there must be some problem with AXA and the F.A., since the F.A. Cup is called the "English Cup." Or maybe the Nationwide League wouldn't surrender the precious rights to the name "Birmingham City." Likewise with UEFA: if you finish at the top of the Premiership, you won't be playing in the "Champions League" next season, let me tell you. However, the basic framework is all there. So if you want to take Brann Bergen through five seasons of Norwegian football, you're quite able to do so. You can even create custom leagues and set their calendar start dates. For the record, the leagues involved are Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. Oh, and the United States! Major League Soccer. How silly of me. But we'll get to that later.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the game is the sound effects. Particularly at fault is the match commentary, which recycles itself at an alarming rate. The pre-match comments are particularly irritating, as they invariably make such comments as "so-and-so has a full squad to choose from today." The only saving grace is that there are also occasional touches of spot-on remarks, such as when a team scores quickly after the opposition has gone up by one: "So often a team concedes a quick equalizer after having scored, which must infuriate the manager," or something like that. This is a nice imitation of "match awareness" on the part of the commentators, which would be better if the illusion weren't constantly punctured by naff one-liners.
Another commentary problem is the complete lack of stadium identification. F.A. Premier League Stars created a nice atmosphere with little comments like, "we're here at Anfield to see Liverpool take on Everton," and so on. This kind of flavor has been completely stripped, probably because there is now no way to set the venue for your matches. I guess after the stadium slip-ups in FIFA 99 (where there were supposed to be all these authentic stadiums but the game ended up having only a handful) the EA team decided to get rid of this altogether. I don't know if Highbury looks like Highbury, but I sure know Columbus Crew stadium doesn't have a roof! So I think the choice has been for the generic here. Shame.
Also puzzling is the crowd noise. The applause sounds a heck of a lot more like the audience at Covent Garden applauding the concertmaster when he precedes the conductor onto the stage than it does the crowd at Old Trafford screaming hysterically as Alan Shearer converts Sol Campbell's bizarre handball into a place for Newcastle in the F.A. Cup Final. What's worse, the crowd often loudly boos the referee for failing to award a free kick for a hard tackle, even if the offender is on the home side! And all of this after EA producer Kerry Whelan was quoted in the New York Times as saying that crowd noises were one of the specific game areas under development. "If you just scored your 19th goal against Lichtenstein [sic], the crowd isn't going to be very excited,"Whelan says. Gee, that's great. So what will they get excited about? Chelsea's injury-time winner at Stamford Bridge against Arsenal? Yes? Then why do they sound like they're applauding the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields? Neville Marriner doesn't play soccer.
The music, while really not an important part of the game (since you only hear it when you're not playing) is a little disappointing this year, as we're treated to Robbie Williams. Not much needs to be said about this, except that after last year's music, anything else was bound to fall short. Oh well. "The funk soul brother right about NOW!" Sigh.
If the audio serves to detract from the game's portrayal of soccer, the video does the opposite. The subtle improvements from FIFA 99 add up to a game which resembles actual soccer action much more than its predecessors. First, the players' body movements are far more convincing. Players shoulder charge, shield the ball with their bodies, and hold off defenders with their arms as they try to fend off challenges. You can even control a player's arm shielding, and as you try and touch the ball past an opposing player the game acts very much like an actual soccer game. In addition, while you shield the ball, your skill move options are different from when you are in free space. What the player faces do for the close-ups, the player movements do for the gameplay.
Furthermore, the tactical behavior of the players is much more realistic. Goalkeepers come out of the box to clear balls that have gotten behind the last defender. They also punch away free kicks believably. Passes are also more varied, and I have seen some nice backheels which left me applauding the EA animation crew. The soccer ball also acts more like it should: it deflects off of other players in a very realistic manner, and I have had shots deflected away for corners or passes knocked over to different players because the game accurately modeled the collisions. This part of the game is steadily improving, and is finally starting to really look authentic.
The lack of customizable controls has been a strike against the FIFA series for a while, and it hasn't been remedied here. There is one nice touch added where your passing "radar" now not only shows you in which direction your target player is headed, but is also colored to indicate whether the player is open: a green arrow means he is, a red arrow means he is not, and a yellow arrow means, well, it means just try and see what happens. Unfortunately, these arrows are often wrong, so when making a pass to an "open" teammate you often give away possession and can get caught on the break. But it helps a little.
One thing from Stars I'd like to see is the excellent control system in that game allowed you to determine the strength of your passes and shots. Touch the button quickly and you get off a light shot; hold it down for a second and you unleash a piledriver or a devastating through ball. By contrast, FIFA 2000 reverts to the slightly pedestrian "everything the same" motif found in the '98 and '99 editions. More than once I've found myself in some space and wanted to wind up and let go, but couldn't control my shot like this. The result is that you'll never score on a 35-yard Ante Razov screamer in the Cotton Bowl, which is definitely the MLS Goal of the Year no matter how many D.C. fans vote for Etcheverry.
Another element that has been changed is the way in which set-pieces are handled. The emphasis is no longer on the kick-taker but on the receiver. Each set-piece gives you the option of targeting one of four players, each of which has an appropriately colored diamond above him indicating which button will target which. All you do as the kick-taker is choose who will receive the ball. There is now also the ability on defense to double-team a selected player. Even more soccer flavor is added, as you can run players around before the kick is taken in order to confuse the defense. While the kicker now has the ability to bend the ball around walls (nice touch), I almost prefer the control I had in FIFA 99 where I could control how hard I took the kick, and whether it was aerial or along the turf. No matter how low I set my shot in FIFA 2000, I seem to get an aerial cross. More explanation of this by the manual would be appreciated, but of course this isn't the kind of thing you're going to see elaborated upon in a 16-page flyer.
...but you must get to the line
So what's the gameplay like? I went back to our own Barak Engel's review of FIFA 99 and found the following: "The problem is with world-class level play. It is here where ***FIFA 99*** becomes more a game of pinball than anything else." I can't describe the gameplay in FIFA 2000 any better than that. The Amateur level is woefully incapable of putting up a challenge for experienced players, and after a week even newbies will tire of playing Andorra and beating Italy 12-0. Professional level is better, and is what I normally play on. However, you will eventually master this and want a greater challenge, which is when you'll switch to the hardest level and have the experience that Barak describes. Your players will be unable to hold the ball for more than a fraction of a second, and you will be passing the ball around madly, unable to use many of the skill moves because those actually involve dribbling. I'm sure that with sufficient practice you can put on quite a show at World Class level, but the point is that no matter how good you get, the game will simply make you look like that guy in the Who song [Elton John? Now that's frightening... - Ed.].
In the end, while the gameplay at the highest level is very challenging, and while the Professional level does allow for some passing and space, the fact is that it simply isn't soccer. You'll never chip the keeper from thirty yards, all your goals will be scored inside the box, and your defenders will never step up to deliver a telling header off a corner. You won't have your centre-forward take the ball with his back to the goal, move away from the box, and turn to deliver a perfect pass releasing his overlapping right midfielder. As our Strategy Editor, footy expert, and Plymouth Argyle supporter Tim Chown once said, "If you think FIFA gameplay looks like real soccer, I feel sorry for you." That said, the game does a nice job of creating the illusion of soccer. This is where the new animations are so nice. Despite all the too-perfect passes and back-and-forth running, the body movements now remind you that this is still the "beautiful game."
They'll always hit you and hurt you, defend and attack
I've held off on this for as long as possible, but it's time to address the game's treatment of MLS, which seems to have been deemed important enough to have warranted a license and its name on the front of the box. This treatment is, in a word, shameful. Ok, two words: shameful and embarrassing.
First of all, there are 15 leagues represented in the game. Fourteen of them can be played in season mode. One cannot. Can you guess which one? Of course. You can play the Israeli and Turkish leagues in season mode, but not MLS. This comment is not intended as a slight to those leagues, but simply an illustration of the fact that while American gamers can play full seasons using leagues which they most likely know very little about and probably aren't that interested in, they can't use season mode to play their home nation's league. Although Turkish fans have something to gripe about as well: EA have incredibly omitted Galatasaray.
Actually, when I say that you can't play MLS in season mode, I should amend that to say that you can if you use the "custom league" option and manually select all the MLS clubs to participate. The problem with this is that MLS has a distinctively American flavor where everything comes down to the playoffs, rather than ending in a regular-season winner. This, in turn, depends on the very American system of conferences, where teams are separated geographically, with most play being between members of the same conference. Sadly, if you use the custom league option, you have no choice but to amalgamate all the teams into a single, European-style division. How generic. Don't even think about having the clock count down, the lack of injury time, or the infamous "shootout." When you play MLS in FIFA 2000, you play with different rules. Rumor actually has it that MLS will eliminate the shootout next year (thank God), but the whole thing really makes a mockery of EA's famous slogan: "If it's in the game, it's in the game." Um ... no, it isn't.
The second problem is with the club rosters. Many of them are just plain wrong. For example, when I went to set the lineup for my own Chicago Fire, I was puzzled by the defensive alignment: C.J. Brown, Francis Okaroh, and ... Luboš Kubik? He wasn't there. Not even as a sub. Simply missing. Yes, 1998 MLS Defender of the Year, Czech Republic defender Luboš Kubik. Luboš "56 caps/12 goals" Kubik. "The Cannon." Imagine searching the Spurs squad and finding that instead of Sol Campbell, your teamsheet only had Justin Edinburgh anchoring your defense. Another glaring error is the omission of the New England Revolution's starting goalkeeper and manager, 1990 Italian World Cup hero Walter Zenga. Sure, Zenga was released by the club in September as the team's playoff hopes faded, but this doesn't explain why so many other players who had left their clubs long before Zenga did are still there. Manny Lagos and Ritchie Kotschau, traded by the Fire to Tampa Bay for Sam George and Paul Dougherty during the summer, are still part of the Fire starting XI, as is Josh Keller, who doesn't even belong in the league anymore. In fact, if you want to play your favorite MLS club, the odds are you'll have to do some heavy editing before you're able to field any kind of realistic side. The game does have an editor which gives you the ability to edit player names, positions, and appearances, so those with more patience than I can eventually set things right. I'll be looking for custom files on download sites, thank you.
Another inexplicable decision has to do with match commentary. For some reason, EA has chosen to have all the commentary (and I mean all of it) done by ESPN's Phil Schoen and Julie Foudy. Now, I readily admit that when it comes to soccer announcers, there are really no good American ones, just like there doesn't seem to be any good MLS referees. However, the choice of Phil Schoen is almost an insult to those of us who have ears. While not quite as bad as Ty Keough, Schoen is typical of the American style of commentary where players' personalities or lives are discussed more than the game itself. I think this has to do with the nature of football and baseball, where five seconds of action are followed by five minutes of doing nothing and announcers have to fill the space with stuff no one cares about anyway. During a soccer match, of course, this isn't necessary. Nevertheless, I have heard American announcers feel the need to finish their sentences about a player's exploits as a windsurfer or something while he was scoring a goal. This doesn't happen in FIFA 2000, but associations are not easily broken, and I have a feeling many American soccer viewers will cringe at the sound of a voice they would prefer not to have to hear while playing a computer game. Foudy is better, but the whole thing sounds rather incongruous. (I wonder if the inclusion of Foudy was some sort of attempt to carry the overmarketing of the Women's World Cup as far as possible, since her commentary is advertised on the box with a picture and only a single mention of Phil Schoen, even though Schoen does the majority of the speaking.) Furthermore, a lot of the phrases seem to be identical to the ones in FIFA 99, except that now they're spoken by Schoen and Foudy instead of Lawrenson, Gray, and Waddle. This is almost acceptable for MLS matches. After all, I hear it on television, so I'm used to it. But to have a Newcastle-Sunderland derby narrated by these two? Simply surreal. It would be like having Des Lynam announce the Super Bowl. Not much creativity on the part of EA there, and more evidence that the MLS part of the game was hastily thrown together.
Lastly, there are the stadiums. There isn't even a pretense of modeling these, and games are played instead in stadiums which have no relation to the fields they are representing. What's funny about this is that since all the clubs play in American football stadiums except for the Columbus Crew, EA has modeled all these venues in the Madden series. In fact, EA could have taken a jab at MLS by "realistically" depicting the actual pitches and covering the grass with white football markings during September and October (since the fields are shared, often on consecutive days), with the soccer lines drawn in yellow. And stadiums could have been depicted with tens of thousands of empty seats, rather than the 60,000 per match shown in the game. But I'm glad that EA didn't make the game that realistic.
That's a lot of ranting. What it all boils down to is that in the United States, it seems that EA paid for a license simply to use the name, and then haphazardly put something in the box which only vaguely resembles the real thing. Contrast this with the care that was taken with the Premiership sides. I can just imagine what would have happened had the Arsenal squad still had Nicolas Anelka, or if Davor Suker weren't there, or if Highbury looked like Old Trafford or something. It may be difficult for some to understand (because we're talking about MLS), but when you plaster a name on a box and lead fans to believe they're getting something, it's hard to blame them when they are upset because they opened the box and the promised goods weren't there. Think it would be acceptable to buy the game as a Saints fan, only to discover that instead of the Dell you'll be playing all your home matches at something that looks like Amsterdam ArenA, and that Matt Le Tissier isn't even in the game? Of course not. Pity EA if Randy Moss had been left out of Madden 2000. Or if Triple Play 2000 put Greg Maddux in the Braves' bullpen. Would there be a scandal or what?
There's only one way to beat them: Get round the back!
This review really covers two separate issues. One is the FIFA 2000 product as a whole. On that score, EA has come up with a winner. The league play by itself is almost worth the purchase price to me. The whole game is a nice improvement on FIFA 99, just as FIFA 99 was a nice improvement on FIFA 98. The improved graphics, the added details that make the game seem more like soccer, and of course the league/career play capability all combine to make this a worthwhile purchase. The only problem is the match commentary, which simply doesn't fit well in the U.S. version.
The other issue is the MLS license, and its appeal to U.S. soccer fans. If you're buying the game just for the MLS content, think twice. If you don't mind the non-standard league play and the questionable rosters (or are ready to spend hours with the rosters and the editor), and simply want to play the Fire on Amateur level and beat Dallas 12-0 over and over and over, then the whole package is worthwhile. On the other hand, if you were finally looking forward to playing a real MLS season using the FIFA engine, with the playoffs, MLS Cup, and U.S. Open Cup all true to life, put the box back on the game store shelf. Send an email to EA instead, asking them why they treated the license so shabbily. In the end, I'll probably end up ordering an import copy of FIFA 2000 so that I can play a game without having to turn the commentary off to avoid Phil Schoen and Julie Foudy. (The European release has different announcers, obviously.) And so I don't have to be reminded every time I open the CD case that the main reason I bought the game was also the last thing EA thought about before it went into the box.
Review By GamesDomain
How to play FIFA 2000: Major League Soccer Windows
To start the game, you should use the attached patches:
- first install the patch for 3D Setup
- then the first speech patch, followed by the second speech patch
- If after that the game runs only in software mode, install the unofficial 3D patch, which should guarantee to fix at least the D3D mode
There may be additional problems with the Glide mode: if you want to play in it, then try to apply the attached nGlide fix from Zeus to launch the game using the nGlide emulator (run registry, backup the original fifa2000.exe, and copy the patched one) ; if it doesn’t work out, use the unofficial 3D patch, which also fixes this mode.
Please note that the 3D setup, through which video mode is selected, is located in the \3D Setup subfolder in the game directory.
In Windows 10, the 3D patch may not be necessary, but you must use NoCD to start the game.
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