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To even watch the intro to FIFA ’08 and hear the words “It’s in the game!” makes me cringe. I love soccer and was a huge fan of the FIFA soccer series that Electronic Arts (EA) has produced but the latest version is by far the worst thing I have ever played (I am referring to the PC version for this article).

Do not get me wrong, when I first installed it and saw some of the new things EA had added I was excited. Even the first few practice games showed promise. Then I played my first game. The sound was great, the commentators seemed to be more responsive than the last version I played, there was a huge selection for leagues, and the player control was excellent. Then I started noticing a few things.

Why do the fans look like the same fans from FIFA ’01? Is it too much to ask for a little movement? You would think that EA would put some effort into the feel of the game. Where is the excitement of being there, seeing the crowd literally erupt when I score a goal in my home stadium? I can hear it, and it sounds great but no movement from the crowd? That is like having THX certified surround sound system for your 19 inch TV.

The new feature I was most excited about was the “Be A Pro: Co-op Season”. Now the title should have tipped me off a bit more, but I put too much stock into EA’s ability to create a truly incredible feature. They always find some way to dumb it down. I started up a new “Be A Pro” season, created my character, played around with my stats, and jumped into my first game.

Right from the start whatever improved Artificial Intelligence (AI) they said they had added either was not there or I did not see it. I have never seen Christiano Rhinaldo get beat so many times in a single game even when he did his signature move. I am a huge fan of English Premier League (EPL) Soccer and watch as many games as I can, but as much as I watch I know I could never be out there on the field playing with these guys. This game plays nothing like that. I have seen high-schoolers play better than this game’s AI. As I played a few more games I was continually frustrated at my team’s horrible lack of skills. This included playing with several great teams in the EPL and some of the not so great teams in the US Major League.

Then you pile on to that the fact that I could not exit a “Be A Pro” game that was in progress. Every time I tried it said that I needed to have a controller and control of the team. At first I thought this meant that I needed to have control of the ball, but no luck. I finally got so frustrated in the middle of one game I alt-tabbed out and shut the game down manually.

EA please rebuild this series or never make one of these games again. I used to love playing these but this one is just so bad I do not think I can take another one. I do not care if “It’s in the game.” I want to “Live the game.” Here are a few ideas to help your next release:

  • I said it once and I will say it again, give me a crowd that moves and put them in the colors of the teams that are playing. Please send some of your programmers to an English Premier game a few times, just to see the crowds. Make them vary based on the popularity of the teams that are playing. I know your announcers say that there is a capacity crowd at Old Trafford, but I see a lot of empty seats.
  • Where are the teams, coaches, assistant coaches, sideline judges, etc? I thought this was a soccer game not a practice match. I want to see my coaches talking things over, I do not care how realistic they look, but I think with all the effort you put into the players realistic coaches shouldn’t be a problem. Also, do not make it like look like a Madden sideline. At a real soccer game there are a lot of people on the sidelines.
  • Please do something more for your AI! I know I might call for the ball at a bad time but that does not mean I want my teammates to try and kick the ball through a defender. Give them a brain so I do not have to call all of the shots for them.
  • Make the “Be A Pro” last for as many seasons as a player’s age allows. I was so disappointed when I could not continue to make my player better. I was not even able to get my skills close to the level of the players around me. Let my friends and I play as many seasons as we want, or even better, create a single player version where you could be traded to other teams like a pro potentially could.

If you happen to be from EA, or know people who are, and reading this please take some of what I have written into consideration for FIFA ’09 (or skip it next year and release a much better version in 2010). If you are reading this because you are thinking about purchasing the game for your PC, pass on it. Look for a version on one of the consoles, the bugs should be fixed and some of the features for the Wii look interesting.