This leads us quite nicely onto how FIFA 08 plays, with one of the early abiding impressions being how hard it actually is to get around people. Be it because players are more rotund or not, the act of running past players in FIFA 08 is surprisingly difficult. Indeed, because of this the endless trickery available to you is ultimately pointless. Power, rather than skill, is the name of the game in FIFA 08. This means the likes of Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard and other powerful attacking players are far more effective than say a Scholes or a Deco, who get pushed off the ball far too easily.
Another aspect of this problem is lack of pace in the game. With the exception of the likes of Robben and Ronaldo, even quick players don’t seem all that fast. In some respects this helps balance the gameplay, ensuring that fast players don’t completely dominate. However, a cursory glance at modern football will show you exactly how important pace is to success. Compare, for example, the Duff and Robben powered Chelsea of two years ago to that of last season, and the difference is obvious.
If anything, though, it isn’t a lack of pace that’s the problem: it’s a lack of acceleration. What’s actually missing is that initial burst that allows players to find space and play, replaced by an endless number of shoulder-to-shoulder tussles that are invariably weighted in the defenders’ favour.
Since getting past players individually is so difficult, there’s more emphasis on passing and building from the back or, as a coach might put it, letting the ball do the work. In many respects this requires a great deal more skill and understanding than charging up and down the pitch, rewarding genuine skill and intelligence rather than blind luck. FIFA 08 is deliberate, strategic and intelligent, phrases one wouldn’t have applied to the series a few years ago.
This focus on intricate passing makes it very difficult to score and though it is rewarding, it can also prove frustrating when a brilliant move is nipped in the bud at its final moment. It’s not helped by the fact that FIFA 08 still doesn’t feel as responsive and fluid as Pro Evolution, with button response being average at best while there’s still the inescapable feeling you must wait for an animation to finish before your actions are heeded.