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FIFA: Road To World Cup 98

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Genre: Sports

Format reviewed: PlayStation

The kick-off in Brazil last night has had me thinking back to my favourite football games over the years, and one stands out above the rest – FIFA 98.¬†FIFA 98 follows the qualifying season for the 1998 World Cup, which took place in – and was eventually won by – France. The full campaign wasn’t available, instead being restricted to the World Cup 98 spin-off which appeared six months later, kicking off a trend of tournament-related releases with minor updates.

It’s fair to say that EA had struggled to bring FIFA into 3D. FIFA 96 was an ungainly creature, taking the then-common approach of using a polygonal pitch and pre-rendered sprites for players. FIFA 97 wasn’t a whole lot better, introducing polygonal characters but lumbering them with slow animations that couldn’t be interrupted once they got going. FIFA 98 finally broke through with faster, smoother gameplay and a better default camera angle. Sure, the ball still stuck to your feet and diagonal shots on goal would almost always go in, but it was of a high standard for the time.

One of the best things about the game was its recognition of the unfair play in real football, something that modern FIFA games no longer incorporate. It was possible to perform intentional fouls and dives in an attempt to gain an advantage, and little is funnier than running up to the keeper and knocking him for six. That’s what ultimately makes the game worth playing today. It’s been far outclassed by recent releases, but it encompasses the whole game of football – the good, the bad and the ugly.

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