FIFA 2001: Major League Soccer
Windows - 2000
Description of FIFA 2001: Major League Soccer Windows
Man Those Sticks
For longtime fans of the FIFA soccer series from EA Sports, each new year brings another reason to hit the pitch, man the sticks, and generally wreak havoc on poor unsuspecting countries with underdeveloped soccer franchises. If you're like me, you'll typically play through a few seasons, the World Cup, various less important tournaments, and countless exhibition games until you've seen every animated post-goal celebration, heard all the commentator quips, and mastered the artificial intelligence so well that you can score with both hands tied behind your back.
What may come as a surprise with FIFA 2001: Major League Soccer, the latest version of the venerable, award-winning series, is that the graphics are far more textured and detailed, the AI seems far more challenging even after a hundred games, game pacing has improved, the commentary is much more representative of the action (thanks to John Motson and former player Mark Lawrenson), and the scoring celebrations and other scripted events are more entertaining than anything seen before. While the actual gameplay in remains practically unchanged, just about everything else has been upgraded.
The biggest change this year is improved graphics. Player polygon counts and textures have been undergone a significant facelift in comparison with what could be seen in last year's edition. While players looked like cardboard cut-outs gliding across green tarmac just two years ago, they now have life and limb. When one player passes to another, you can see head and body movement just before they kick. The player receiving the ball even seems to be aware of the pass before it arrives. While this might seem trivial, it certainly helps make events on the pitch more realistic. Every player moves gracefully now---even the goalie, who flies across the net perfectly for the save but never seems to defy gravity. For those who follow international and MLS soccer, you'll instantly recognize most of your favorite players thanks to better texturing and facial expressions.
Driving up the pitch can lead to wild celebrations like these.\ Texture and lighting in FIFA 2001 is nothing short of stunning. A growing shadow across outdoor stadiums reflects light on players depending on where they are relative to the sun. On close-ups, you can actually see the light shining on players' faces as they turn. Amazingly, the crowd is richly detailed to the point where, if you have a throw-in close to the stands, you will see fully rendered onlookers. Benched players are also animated, along with the refs and sideline judges. During the course of a game, you might see and hear the crowd become more vocal and interested in the action, waving flags and gradually becoming more animated. The FIFA series has never had such photo-realistic graphics. At times, the game looks almost exactly like a match being show on television. All of this attention to detail helps make it seem like you are really playing soccer.
Of course, the guts of the game remain relatively unchanged. All the typical gameplay options from previous years are here. You can play a quick exhibition game, dive right in for a full season in one of 17 leagues, or join one of several tournaments. Even the practice mode seems about the same as last year. There doesn't seem to be much more you can do with gameplay, although I would have liked to see the return of the indoor stadiums from two years ago. One other area that could have been added for more gameplay is some sort of true practice mode, which would require new graphics and animations. Dribbling around a set of cones in a set period of time, along with other challenges, would have been a good way to learn player control and have some added fun at the same time.
One minor addition that seems to effect gameplay is the new dynamic weather effects. During one game, a thunderstorm moved in, the rain got heavier, and my tackles became more and more useless against my opponent. Changing lighting conditions also had some small effect on the game, the darkness making it slightly more difficult to control players in the shadows than in the well-lit areas of the field.
The presentation of every moment is TV-perfect.\ Opponent AI has been seriously improved. Evenly matched games are the most fun because it's a real challenge trying to break down the other team's defense. In some instances, I can fly down the sideline and lob the ball in for a goal, but with some teams this attack seems all but pointless. Also, it's amazing to see how a really good goalie can stop just about any shot from any angle, and how a highly offensive team can control the whole feel of the game. Teams strong on offense succumb to my strategies easier, but they also quickly figure out how to move the ball on me.
Stepping Down the Pace
While the graphics and AI seem vastly improved, the other truly noticeable change is the pacing. No other soccer game past or present has nailed the ebb and flow of soccer like FIFA 2001. In past years, when the pacing had more in common with an arcade simulation than real soccer, opponents could literally appear from anywhere in a second and take the ball away. This may have helped make the game more exciting and increase the final score, but the fact is that soccer is a low-scoring game that is all about strategy and ball control. Now, players are given the much more realistic ability to control the ball, move it downfield, and create a play. Longtime fans of the series will probably notice this change immediately. It was great to realize that I could develop a play and pass the ball without constantly battling against an opponent who seemed supercharged with adrenalin.
Everything you hear in FIFA 2001 will impress. Gone is the canned, listless commentary from last year that never seemed all that related to what was happening on the field. This year, you can make a great move for the ball and the announcers will praise you. Then, if you immediately lose the ball, they'll correct themselves and say you screwed up. I can't think of any sports game that has gone so far beyond simple recorded scripts. Some good humor has also been mixed in, along with some fairly obscure jargon. And best of all, after playing about a hundred games I'm still hearing new comments on the game action. Other sounds like crowd chants, players barking at each other (especially after fouls), and the "wisp" of a slide tackle all seem clearer and more realistic than previous years.
Rounding out the improvements are a number of scripted sequences that occur after goals, during pre-game warm-ups, and after a foul. These cutscenes are very well done and never seem staged (even though they are, of course). I enjoyed scoring a goal just to see what sequence would kick in, and it took a long time before I had seen them all.
More atmospheric moments---look at the shadows falling across the player taking that corner.\ I can hardly think of any negatives in FIFA 2001, though there could have been more gameplay options, and at times the game can be a little too challenging. With evenly matched games, I found myself getting pretty frustrated when I couldn't even manage a shot on goal. And, as with all sports games, playing with a powerhouse team against a lesser opponent can get old quickly---and the opposite scenario is an exercise in futility. I would have liked the ability to set my opponent's AI to adjust to my playing ability regardless of the other team's ability; something like how a real-life player can adjust for my abilities as they increase.
As usual, the multiplayer component is less than stellar. EA Sports seems committed to making their matching service a success, but the day of fully human-controlled teams competing against each other is probably a long way off. FIFA 2001 innovates in so many other ways that it's hard to criticize the game for not creating a more compelling multiplayer mode. Still, the excitement of forming a team where one human controls each individual player through an internet game would really increase the longevity and richness of the whole experience.
All in all, the FIFA series continues to squash the competition and is really one of the best sports game on the market right now. If you're into soccer at all, you'll surely find something to like here. And even if you think the actual game is about as much fun as watching grass grow, at least you will appreciate the gorgeous graphics, interesting commentary, and flashy cutscenes.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
CsabaZz 2019-07-04 1 point
It does not work on my laptop on Windows 10, it crashes because of the atiumdag.dll file. Does someone know any solution to this problem?
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