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FIFA 2000

FIFA has always been known as the beautiful game, and for very good reason. The latest version is certainly no exception, containing one of the most gorgeous game engines to date with attractive, pacy in-game graphics matched by some sumptuous stadiums and splendid ambient effects. Combine this with some amusing and rather pertinent in-game commentary from resident experts John 'Motty' Motson, Mark Lawrenson and Gary Lineker and it gives the game a real instant televisual appeal, eerily reminiscent of the coverage and banter of Match of the Day. Players also now have different heights and body shapes, as well as textured kits and hairstyles and it gives them a really individual feel. When you play as England and manage to get the ball through to your front pair, you don't even have to wait for Motty's commentary to know that it's Michael Owen rather than Alan Shearer who's on the ball.

Investigate FIFA 2000's in-game options and you'll find authentic players and line-ups from a host of the top European and world club sides from the Premiership to the Primera Liga, as well as a reasonably full complement of International squads. There are full options for both custom cup and league competitions as well as the ability to enjoy a full season from some of the world's premier divisions. There's even a limited transfer system, so that if you need to make any big-name signings to bolster your favourite squad, you can. (Graham Taylor improving Watford's chances of staying up this season by making a spectacular, if unrealistic, double signing of Rivaldo and Suker - no problem.) However, perhaps one of the most intriguing new options is the introduction of forty classic teams from footballing history, including renowned club squads like Liverpool '78-'84 or Milan 88-90, as well as international legends like England '66 or Brazil '70. The addition of these footballing titans adds considerable interest for the connoisseur and gives you a chance to get into the boots and footballing brains of some of the finest players the world has ever seen.

Successive generations of the FIFA series have always added refinements rather than radical innovation to gameplay and FIFA 2000 continues in this tradition. The control system is decent and based around four main buttons: pass, shoot, through-ball and sprint, with double-tap and hold variations providing a fairly straightforward and easy-to-grasp method of control. Players can now be targeted with a single button during set-pieces, and if you watch closely you'll discover new in-game effects, including the ability to jockey and barge for the ball as well as an additional button which allows you to shield it from opponents and hold off their challenges. A small addition perhaps, but it adds considerable subtlety to the gameplay, allowing you to shimmy and dummy just like a real-life midfield general.

Watching the game engine in action, I compared it to some of the Premiership and European games I've seen recently. The flow of the game, player AI and tactical system are spookily realistic and allow you to adopt and emulate everything from Brazil's silky free-flowing football to Wimbledon's rather more, ahem, forthright playing style. However, if there is a slight disappointment it's in FIFA's aerial action, which is perhaps not quite everything it should be. Man marking and defending aerial corners and set-pieces can be tricky, with opposing forwards often soaring to nod the ball home without even coming under challenge from your own defenders. Personally I always favour using attacking wingers to provide a ready supply line to my strikers (essential for Shearer in the England setup). In FIFA 2000, tight marking from defenders and a fraction of delay in assuming control of your striker as the ball comes across mean that perhaps the defenders have the best of these aerial duels just a tad too often.

Still, at the end of the day, these are about the only two real criticisms I could find to level at the game. It's easy to forgive these minor imperfections when you find yourself screaming and shouting at a virtual referee over a dubious yellow, positively urging your midfield to get stuck in or hitting a last-minute winner to beat Arsenal at home and avoid relegation by the skin of your teeth. FIFA 2000 positively drips with authentic footballing atmosphere and if you add in a few mates and some assorted gamepads, you'll realise that this is one of the most addictive footballing experiences ever. FIFA 2000 is involving, compulsive and highly frustrating - just like the real thing! It offers a highly realistic, visually stunning and immensely satisfying game of football. You may own every game in the FIFA series prior to this one but believe me, you will positively kick yourself if you miss it.

 

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