Last night I rented and played FIFA 2005 for the PS2. If anyone is planning on doing the same, don't. This title is broken.
It has probably the most dizzying animation I have ever seen in a sports title. The players are incapable of changing direction without making a little swirling motion that induces vertigo and reminds me irresistibly of a wooden spoon twirling slowly in a nearly congealed bowl of dough.
I will put some more time into this game before returning it but already I am struck by a clunky and dated menu system, choppy and disjointed play by play and frame rate drops (EA Sports Achilles heel). Licensed players and teams and a bopping soundtrack can only do so much.
To confirm my findings, I played Winning Eleven 7 immediately afterwards to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating and the difference was stunning. The players can stop and change direction on a dime. When doing so they look exactly like someone performing touch and go sprints with all of the appropriate body lean and inertia.
It must be noted that EA Sports Flagship title Madden is a sight to behold with untouchable production value and solid game play. The Tony Bruno Radio Show in Madden 05 is particularly impressive. Beyond Madden however is a mixed bag of compromises and disappointments.
EA is a strange company. Their flagship titles are phenomenal but they still churn out crippled and buggy games with little to no improvement year after year. Their success proves, sadly, that this ugly business model works and works well.
I urge all fellow video game enthusiasts to buy, not rent, Winning Eleven 7. It lacks the complete licensing of FIFA from EA, but it contains within it's silver backed disc perhaps the greatest achievement in sports game programming. Be warned, gentle reader, that the price of entry to this gem of a title is high. WE7 utilizes a menu system that is complex and daunting. The control system is unlike any other conventional North American sports title with a counter intuitive scheme that utilizes every button, trigger, stick and combination on the Dual Shock controller.
The Master League (franchise) mode is particularly daunting. The accompanying on-screen instructions read like a high end home theatre system manual that has been translated three times over.
All of this complexity, however, merely adds to the depth of a title that could, quite literally, be the only video game that you would ever need.
note: Winning Eleven 8 should arrive in North America Q1 2005.