Description of FIFA Soccer 96
The new king of the football sims ?
FIFA Soccer '96 (hereafter known as FIFA96) is the eagerly awaited next generation version of Electronic Art's footy game. It is the second game to feature the new Virtual Stadium technology (the first being NHL Hockey '96). When the 3DO version of FIFA appeared a while back, us PC owners were left drooling over the quality of the multiple camera views and stunning graphics. The PC version was virtually a straight conversion of the original Megadrive game and whilst it was graphically the best football game around, it just didn't have the playability of Sensible Soccer and perhaps even the Amiga Kick Off 2, even if the latter did sometimes play a little like a pinball game.
The original FIFA often degenerated into a series of long range shots, interspersed with charging down the keeper's drop kicks when you were a goal down with seconds remaining. Worse than that, the players often seemed as though they were doing their own thing and you sometimes spent more time battling the control system than playing football. And, for some obscure reason, EA made up the names of all the players and you only had international teams to play as. The CD version added a commentary which was nice but it still had the same old isometric view and the same gameplay faults.
Now, Bruce Macmillan and his team at EA Canada have brought into the world a new baby, son of FIFA - has evolution improved on his ultimately flawed parent?
You want FMV, you got it...
Unless you have a quad-speed or better CD and a fast graphics card, the intro will be somewhat jerky in places - I have seen it running on a P90 with a 4X CD and it's very smooth, but my DX2-50 with 2X CD struggles. Nonetheless, the intro sequence is very long, very pointless and oozes quality as the images flow from live-action video to the SGI-rendered sprites and back again. Little FMV clips are displayed on the stadium's video screen at half and full time reflecting your performance in the match. The video screen is also used to show animations when goals are scored, ranging from flying cheerleader hippos to celebrating players. Sometimes, the screen zooms in and shows replays of offsides, fouls and goals from a random viewpoint chosen from the replay facility.
The menu system is very slickly presented in SVGA, but not quite as easy to use as it could be. Getting around the menu tree always requires a return to the main menu on the way. Spinning in the bottom left corner is a 3D gold VS logo, just to keep your processor busy in those spare clock cycles when you wander off to make a coffee.
During the game itself, you have a choice of seven cameras from which to view the action, although I usually stick to the default tele cam view. The Virtual Stadium engine uses moving multiple camera angles and scaled sprites which have been motion-captured, SGI-rendered and then extensively touched up so that they look right. This can be VGA or SVGA depending on how fast your system is. VGA looks quite reasonable on my 486 and runs very smoothly, SVGA drops a lot of frames, but is almost playable. On the aforementioned P90 it runs fine in the higher resolution and looks great. No longer do we have to look longingly at the 3DO version's visuals.
This might be a good time to mention that my system doesn't quite meet EA's minimum processor by a few Mhz but that doesn't seem to cause any problems, but I don't think I'd want to play it on anything less, try the demo first if you can and are worried about performance.
Beep, bzzz, click...
I remember when I was a lad (grin), back in the dark ages of the Spectrum when football games played a silly tune on it's beeper and made a nasty white noise when you scored. These days, the big thing is digitised commentary from a big name and they don't come much bigger than John Motson. For those of you who just said "Who?", Motty is to football (soccer) what John Madden is to American football. EA (probably) paid him a large stack of cash to sit down with a microphone and say in his unique voice, all the player names in several different ways, the team names and lots of phrases to make up the running commentary for the game. And, to be honest, it's quite good. It's by no means perfect, he quite often says things at the wrong time or completely out of context or you can hear the difference between one sample and the next, but it's Motty and when you are concentrating on the game, you don't really notice most of his glitches. When you think about it from a programming point of view it would be extremely difficult to write code that would match the phrases perfectly to the action, but overall, it's not bad and it adds to the atmosphere.
The menu sections have music playing, but I turned it off as it spools off the CD and slows down the switch from one menu to the next. The actual music is fairly innocuous but nothing to write home about. The in-game effects are again, competently done, with varying crowd noise, although occasionally the boos seem inappropriately timed (after I score for example). Added to that are the thud of boot on ball, the thump of player on ground and the crunch of the tackle, all of which help to draw you in.
But does it play like Holland or San Marino?
The visuals and sounds are important parts of a football game, but the fate of FIFA96 rests with how it plays. The control system takes a while to get used to. I only have a two-button gamepad, but you really need four so I chose to use the keyboard. I personally found the keyboard quite easy to use, with the cluster of A, S, D and W for the various actions and the cursor keys for movement. You can use Control, Alt and Space instead of A, S and D but that doesn't give you a duplicate of W which is the best way to sprint. Sprinting can be done by holding down any of the action keys but it is all too easy to accidentally fire off a shot or pass when you don't mean to by doing that.
Depending on whether you select the Semi-Pro or Pro mode determines how passes are made. In the easier Semi-Pro mode, you choose a general direction for the pass and the game tweaks the angle to play it to the player it deems most appropriate in that direction. In Pro mode, the computer doesn't help you and the pass goes exactly where you tell it to, even if that is off the pitch. The distance of the pass is limited and for those Wimbledon-style long balls you have to use the lob which if timed right can give one of your forwards a clear run on goal. Shots are directed towards the goal automatically, but you can influence lobs and shots by applying aftertouch to bend the path of the ball after it is hit.
Tackles, elbows, headers, bicycle kicks and diving headers can all be initiated at an appropriate moment by pressing the appropriate button. Providing you are using a 4-button pad or the keyboard then you can also do shallow lobs and overhead chips, the latter being a rather flashy flick of the ball over your head from behind with the heel and is limited in it's use.
Dead-ball situations can be handled in a number of ways. Set-pieces may be executed from a selection or the ball may be simply played in to a given area for a player to meet. Another useful feature is the pass-back mode where you can pass the ball to another player, then hit the pass-back button and keep control of the player who has just passed, move into a different position and press it again to get a return pass.
The ways in which the ball can be effectively played around are much more varied than the original. Long balls can be played upfield, the midfield maestros can weave their way through or a passing game can be played. That is, until you get to just outside the penalty area, but now a long range shot will only occasionally go in against a good keeper. To regularly score goals you have to get past the last defenders and get in a close-range shot or take it to the byline and cross it for a header. Each time you play it seems that you can dream up new ways of getting the ball into the net and that's one of the reasons that FIFA96 seems so promising. Ask me again in six months if I'm still playing it and then we'll know how good it really is. But, of course, in about a year, FIFA97 will no doubt be with us and the goalposts will have moved again (pun intended).
Modem play and more...
FIFA96 has added the ability to play over modem or serial link against other people, I have yet to try this but it could well add to the lasting appeal of the game (and the size of my phone bill). As before, two people can team up on the same side against the computer or another human or two (limitations of the PC game port start to cause problems here) and you get the usual barrage of options to turn offsides, fouls and such like on and off.
The players now have real names although they are from the end of the 94-95 season or thereabouts and some players seem to have the wrong hair colour or even skin colour. Other little glitches include strange team abbreviations, for example, QPR being called "Queen's Park R." on screen and "Queen's Park" by Motty when "QPR" would be more appropriate. Considering the game is endorsed by FIFA I think calling extra time "overtime" is a result of the North American origins of EA and the development team and they pre-empt FIFA by making it sudden-death. There are a large number of national and club teams featured from several countries, but the tournaments leagues and playoffs (cups) are very generic and don't attempt to emulate the World Cup, Premiership or Serie A and the like.
The final score
The main opposition for FIFA96 is Actua Soccer and Sensible World Of Soccer (SWOS). Actua looks stunning in SVGA with it's 3D ellipsoid engine and beats FIFA96 graphically, but in VGA the screen looks too messy and IMHO, isn't anywhere near as playable as FIFA96. SWOS is quite playable but it's miniature sprites and fixed camera angle looks very dated when compared to Actua or FIFA96. FIFA96 isn't perfect by any means but I think it's the best football game around at the moment. EA could learn from the team who wrote Championship Manager 2 as regards the accuracy of their in-game info and the control system still needs some improvements but when the final whistle goes, I think FIFA96 has it's hands on the Cup this year.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
Screenshots from MobyGames.com
Screenshots from MobyGames.com
Comments and reviews
jp 2017-06-23 7 points
shows intro logo and i get all excited,then everything turns black and nothing happens, just like when i approach beautiful women. Tried to change configs but didnt worked (just like with the women)
lifti 2016-07-31 2 points
when i start the game with dosbox, the trademark intro appears but then the dosbox windows becomes black and nothing happens. anybody an idea?
falcon 2015-09-25 0 point
i am going to download hey boldi i know you because you were a freaky reply for this
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