Time is a funny old thing. It has the ability to turn awful games from years gone by in to something we remember as the pinnacle of all that is gaming. Even when compared with titles from this generation the oldies are still considered the best and in some cases rightly so. There’s no truer representation of that feeling than what I had when playing Fifa International Soccer.
Released on July 15th 1993 this game was a ground breaker with it being the first ever football game to be presented in an isometric view. All other football titles of the era were providing a top down birds eye view of the beautiful game but now gamers were revelling in 30 degrees of pure pixel wizardry.
Take That were top of the charts with the now classic “Pray”, Bill Clinton was in office and Windows NT 3.1 had been released for manufacturing. Life was good, people were happy and most importantly FIFA International Soccer was at the forefront of football game design.
Firing the game up and hearing “EA Sports, its in the game” was a little strange if I’m honest. Its a phrase we’re all by now well versed with but some how it felt new again. When the game was loading I wasn’t expecting much, tournament mode, exhibition mode, simple team tactics perhaps but nothing more. As it turns out our newest friend FIFA 11 could certainly learn a few tricks from this old dog.
I’m not sure whether this feature was thought out, planned or if it even does anything but FIFA International Soccer has a “Simulation Mode”. It really is genius before its time. If only they knew what a can of worms the semantics of that word would open up 17 years down the line. It can be turned off though of course and its partner is the rather aptly named “Action Mode” starting to see any similarities FIFA fans?
Another rather hilarious addition is the ability to turn off fouls. Which is extremely fun to watch, as long as it isn’t your team on the end of the AI scythe. Fouled players roll around like they’ve been shot and considering diving wasn’t invented in 1993 that’s a level of foresight the team can only be commended for. The other options for tackling are “Intermediate” and “Full” but I’d be lying if I told you I knew what they do.
So rather excited by this point I quickly fired up a tournament and dived straight in and the surprises continued. Hitting the main menu before a match pretty much knocked me off my chair, the options were rather excellent as it turned out. You have Instant Replay, Team Coverage (with gameplay sliders), Team Strategy, Team Formation, Substitutions, Stats, Scoreline……EAC take note.
Another great little addition pre-match is the coin toss. Choosing heads or tails has never meant so much to me and it got even better when I found out I could choose which end I wanted to start at if I won the 50/50 battle of luck. As a friendly nostalgic nod to FIFA International Soccer this feature deserves to make FIFA12 without a doubt, EA its on you.
The genius continues when you get stuck in to the gameplay. You’ve all heard of Pro Passing right? Where you hold the button down and power up your pass? Sorry already done, FIFA International Soccer has it. It doesn’t work and you can barely string a single pass together but its in there all the same, take that next-gen technology.
The tackling is quite awful except for the slide tackle animation which creates such simple joy as you skip past the uniformed onslaught of sliding foes. There’s no 360 dribbling for comfort either, just left, right, up, down and a diagonal system which is essentially broken.
The goalies though are fantastic. Every single shot they save they hold on to, they’re like handling machines sent back through time. That is unless the striker approaches from the dreaded 45 degree angle, where the ball hitting the back of the net is essentially a foregone conclusion. Weirdly they only ever parry when they tip the ball over the bar but all this matters not when you see them fly across goal in the style of Superman ending up virtually out of the area every time. Brilliant!
The shooting is actually pretty good to be fair with plenty of pace and plenty of weight, exactly what you’d want. I rarely jump out of my seat when playing a football game but when Ken Law (the player names aren’t real, licensing eh) rifled in the winning goal against a resolute Canadian defence I was compelled to fist pump in celebration. Also Ken is quite the show-man himself, a double back-flip to celebrate no less. Hell there are even team celebrations of a sort and what other football game shows a women Hawaiian dancing on a red LED ad board in individual pixels?
Even England’s kit is correct.
I did how ever discover a bug, yes even FIFA International Soccer is prone to them, at least I thought it was a bug? After dispatching Israel in one of my group games I had a quick check on the Tournament Standings, 2 points WTF? As it turns out Jimmy Hill’s, little “3 points for a win” crusade hadn’t been adopted in International football yet, EA I apologise.
The best thing of all though is the in game clock. I selected 2 minute halves as I wanted to zip through a few tournaments. What I didn’t expect however was the game to actually count each half as individual minutes. For example I conceded on 1 minute 54 seconds against Cameroon, 6 seconds later the boys were called in for half time. That’s so bad its unreal but did I care? Not a chance.
There are also lots of little details which inspire and amuse like substitutes visible on the bench, a vibrant and variable crowd, ad-boards and a plethora of LED goal celebrations. One of which, the rocket taking off, landing and then Martians celebrating on the Moon is right up there in my opinion.
So its with a heavy heart that I leave this game behind in many respects with memories of gameplay sliders, simulation mode, subs on the bench, choosing ends, Ken Law and double back-flips all things I now inexplicably need for FIFA12.
In today’s market this game doesn’t compare but this was where the dream started, its where the 3D (ish) space was first explored in football gaming and it has all the features, modes and charm to back that technical isometric advancement up. It was the first of its kind and that alone makes it special and that’s why FIFA International Soccer deserves its place right up there with today’s elite. The wave of nostalgia that I can’t seem to shift only continues to enforce that.
Its bloody awful, but I bloody love it and you know what? I think I’ll have one last tournament….
If you like this one we’ll do more retro FIFA articles over the next few months so hit the comments field and let us know what you think. The podcast will be released over the weekend due to time constraints. Happy FSB Friday!