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Fifa 2003 Review - Xbox

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The Red Army stand two to a man as they chant "You'll Never Walk Alone" as Liverpool head out onto the hallowed turf of Anfield. Your skin develops goose-bumps as you realise that this is it - it is now or never. It is make or break. A victory here will see your side go through to the inaugural Club Championship final, a loss will have you drowning your sorrows and thinking about next year. No time to think about the future now, the crowd roars, the whistle blows and the game begins!

Over the past few years (basically since 98) we have had a couple of disappointing revisions for EA Sport's incarnation of football (ok, soccer for those who are not familiar with the sports real name). Last year we were treated to not just one horrible official FIFA game, but two. World Cup 2002 may have looked the part, but with a game that had "super headers" and only one game mode, one could hardly call the game an enjoyable and realistic football sim. However things are now turning around for the Vancouver based development team. 2003 is looking like the year to change all before it.

Gameplay

For many years FIFA has been the butt of many a joke about how the title only loosely represents real football, despite owning the official FIFA naming rights. With the last few years it seems that FIFA the game has resembled aerial ping-pong rather than actual ball kicking. Last year EA tried to introduce a new power meter function, but that wasn't received as successfully as they had original hoped. What was also disappointing was the fact that the game looked the same as the year before and some of the features that were actually half-decent were taken out! FIFA was taking a slide off the field and the likes of Konami's PES series were looking like they were the ones running towards the goal.

This year though things have done a complete proverbial 180 and they have delivered what is quite a true representation of the game. Unlike previous years the entire AI and gameplay engine was reworked and remodelled rather than simply updated, which has resulted in a much better game.

One major thing that was introduced, or should I say removed, was that the ball no longer appears to simply "stick" to the players foot. It does to some extent but nowhere near as bad as in previous years. This now allows opposing players to take the ball from the attacker far easier when the ball is knocked right in front of them. This has the advantage that it allows the attacker to use pace, rather than skill, to outwit the defence. All these moves are executed using the new EA Freestyle control (right thumbstick) that is seen in other EA Sports 2003 titles. A tap forward will make the player knock it in front of them and other movements will ... (continued next page)