Sitting down with EA today, we were treated to a hands-on play of FIFA 08 on the Xbox 360 and the PS3, while the giant publisher also indulged us with a first glance over the newly announced FIFA 08 for Nintendo Wii.
First and foremost the new 'next-gen' console edition of EA's yearly footballing outing is looking absolutely stunning. While the players are all richly detailed, instantly recognisable, and do their respective thing in stadia that have never looked so real - the star of the show has to be the animation.
Talking us through the efforts the developers have gone to on this latest game, Xbox 360 / PS3 producer Joe Booth revealed that the new title is part of an ongoing evolution of the way the game is constructed. For example, EA are clearly proud of the new skills system, which breaks down the individual components of a given move, allowing for near endless variety and subtle, realistic differences. What's more, the control system enabling all this is far more intuitive than in FIFA 07, and there's little doubt that FIFA has never been as competitive with the Pro Evo series.
AI has also benefited from an extensive overhaul, with players now moving into space far more realistically, using openings, while defenders will look to fill gaps and pick up players making clever runs. An individual player's personal stats will effect how well they do things such as this. All in all, matches look and feel much more like you think they should, resulting in a title that looks likely to win new fans for the series.
A YouTube style recording function lets you record, save, and send you best moments to the internet, for sharing with other FIFA players online. Vast lists of licensed teams and players will of course be present, and the Be A Pro mode, which we also glimpsed, looks like it could be onto a winner with the five versus five capability, if the developers can overcome key multiplayer gameplay issues and muster a camera system that affords both an overview and close-up action. This mode is set to be added six to eight weeks after the game hits stores.
On the Wii, FIFA 08 sports a Nunchuck / Wiimote combination, EA at pains to point out that their target audience will be able be as clever or as basic as they like in their approach to the title. What this means in reality is that the game can be played with basic buttons on the Wiimote, with fancier tricks and moves introduced via combinations with the Nunchuck. The Family Play mode will also fit in with this approach, providing 'stabilisers' so that even novices can compete with more experienced players.
Beyond the standard game modes we were introduced to the Footii Party function, which will offer Mii-based fun including Mii-Ronaldinho, across a series of multiplayer mini-games, such as table football, keepie-uppies, et al.
Highlighting the daring nature of gesture-based shooting (an upward swipe) and tackling (a downward swipe), our resident guide revealed that the development team even considered real foot-based control. A 'sock' prototype was constructed, which fitted the Wiimote onto the side. However, this mad-cap idea was eventually axed as tests proved that repeated play became strenuous, as well as looking and feeling more than a tad unusual.
All in all FIFA 08 is looking very good indeed, with Konami sure to be looking over their shoulder when FIFA 08 kicks-off, EA are seemingly determined to deliver the authentic grass-roots style freedom that made Konami's title a sure hit.