The greatest franchise ever made is evolving every year. We have moved from Fifa 94 to Fifa 95, the basic differences were a minor few tweaks to the gameplay and the introduction of club teams to complement the international teams from the previous edition. It did feel a novelty to pit your wits against your european rivals. Making your mini European Cup as it was known back then, Manchester United, still with fictitious names from its predecessor like Bruce McMillan (a nice touch using England’s star striker from the game’s younger sibling of Fifa 94 with a club) against the likes of once huge names of the likes of Strasbourg and Kaiserslautern.
Fifa 96 arrived and with it the birth of a new age. It is open to debate which is the greatest Fifa of all time, personally for me this is the worst. On the face of it the game had the potential to take console gaming to the next level but it never quite reached the heights. One of the main reasons i believe this game was flawed in so many ways was the birth of the Playstation. The game was available on Mega Drive and now later that year the Playstation with the promise of its new stunning 3D graphics and expert gameplay. Not only as a fan had you bought the game twice but this edition seemed laggy, the camera angles were strange and couldn’t keep up with play and the new 3D players and movement looked terrible. It was also an epic achievement just to score a goal. Notable plus points about this game was that real players were finally introduced, a nice touch to a flawed game. This was also the first ever game to include commentary… John Motson throwing sporadic, untimed and often irrelevant pieces of information was still a step in the right direction. Overall though, I think this game was a failure, caught in a timewarp between the 16 bit megadrive and the 32 bit playstation it never hit the heights it so promised.
Fifa 97 arrived and the true power of the playstation was realized. The first thing that struck you from the menu screen was the vast array of teams, over 250 I would imagine and all with real players. I always remember now having the option available to change the pitch conditions, yes this is standard in the games of today but back in 1997 you now did not have to play on the same pitch you had spent hours of every day playing on in all of the previous FIFA franchise’s. You now have the option to control how long the match is played for, you can turn fouling on and off and even if you so wish turn off the offside rule. Now..the greatest feature ever to grace a FIFA game..no, I tell a lie, the greatest feature of any football game ever was the introduction of indoor football! 6 a side footy on a wooden court, frantic and non stop, the ball would never go out of play.. how much fun was this?? Why do they not have this feature today? To summarise FIFA 97 I would say this game was much more fun playing your friends than playing the computer as the AI was far too annoying but yes a very good game.
Now FIFA 98… Wow! I think I spent more time on this game than i probably should have. I spent more time on this than i probably attended school in fact! This game set in motion a decline in my education that probably seen my potential in English and Maths from an A grade down to a C grade!! (slight exaggeration – or maybe not).. Changing stadiums, players hairstyles, beards, bicycle kicks and tactics you could do it all! Computer AI was vastly improved but as usual the real fun was playing with your friends. We can now change formation, select kick takers, captains and how aggressive our star midfielder will be. After a couple of high intensity games of this the lack lustre previous editions are quickly put to bed with little things you don’t even notice now, things like playing a through ball – into open space. So common now you would throw a hissy if we could not do this today! Dont forget the title music.. who can? The little 10 second intro and then the booming “wahoooo.. I got my head checked…by a jumbo jet…” If ever there was an anthem for a game this was it, when you hear this song today I bet you all think of FIFA 98! This game was a marked improvement, it had to be.. the birth of ISS had landed…