Soccer games on the GameCube are a rarity. In fact, since the days of International Superstar Soccer 64 for the N64 there hasn’t been a realistic and fun soccer game. FIFA games have had their shot, but none of them were very good. FIFA 2005 is easily the best soccer game for the GameCube, being almost exactly the same as on other consoles. The only downside is that the GC doesn’t support online gaming, but you still have friends to come over and play, right?
The FIFA series always has the best graphics of any footie game. What has been improving more are the stadiums and the crowd animations, every time more lively than the last. The inventory of player faces is always an extensive one, and every year the player models keep getting better. This year is no exception; the look and moves of every player are more life-like. So, the players and stadiums and even the crowd are as you see them in real life (from a distance of course), but what about the most important part soccer: the ball. Ball physics in any game ? be it football, basketball, or baseball ? have been a headache for developers. A big part of the realism in a sports game is the way the ball behaves; FIFA has been doing it better each time. Overall, I have no complaints in the graphics department. The GameCube has always been named second to the Xbox in graphics, but in this game they are virtually tied.
Nintendo was criticized because the N64 didn’t have the same sound quality of the other systems, but the GameCube changed that, and many GC games have supported incredible sound that rival any other platform. A big part of the experience of soccer is going to a stadium packed with 50,000+ people and not only hear the cheers and chants, but feel the intensity. FIFA 2005 couldn’t fail here and it doesn’t. EA did a great job on the GC version. In soccer games you find some of the best environment on any sport. The attention to detail has been getting better year after year; you can even hear the coach’s indications to the players. It goes as far as speaking the indications in different languages. If you play with A.C. Milan, you will hear the coach and players speaking Italian. It adds big-time to the overall feel of the game. In any sports game it’s very important to pay attention to the aspects surrounding what’s happening in a match: the crowd, the coaches, and the bench. Again, EA Sports on the technical side doesn’t disappoint.
The FIFA series has always been plagued by cheap, arcadey game play. Goals where very easy to pull off or in other difficulty levels impossibly hard to score. For all those soccer purists (those who actually call it football, including myself), low-scoring matches aren’t altogether a bad thing. It’s hard to score in soccer unless you are playing against a very inferior team. I played many games using one of the top teams against another top team and neither team scored more than three goals, and then sometimes penalty shots had to be made. If you check the stats in real life, it’s almost the same ? rarely does one team overpower the other. That’s one of the reasons soccer is exciting, and you are always anticipating a goal. FIFA 2005‘s scores are more realistic, as is the challenge of scoring; there are hardly any easy goals.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, right? Wrong. The fun in soccer not always lies in the goals. Some plays don’t end in goals but are still incredible to watch. It’s also very entertaining to watch a team move the ball down the field in a seamless fashion. A team that plays the ball well is a sight to see. FIFA captured that this year with the new First Touch Control system. In soccer, the first touch is one of the weapons players have to create space, that itself creates danger for the opposing defense. You wouldn’t want a player like Ronaldo to have no defenders in a two-meter radius (or even within one meter) because he can sprint and create plays. It’s not actually an addition because first touch was always there, but it hadn’t been done right until now. This new approach changes game play dramatically and it makes the game more fun. You do want to have fun in any videogame, and the series has never lacked this, but now you have realistic fun as opposed to cheap fun.
FIFA 2005 emphasizes strategy, too, with greater challenge on defense and more weapons on offense, and higher-intensity matches. The In-Game Management allows you to call plays on the fly like in basketball. Probably the second-best feature aside from the First Touch System is the ability to control players that don’t have control of the ball while you have the ball. You can send your players on a sprint to receive a pass from you like a point guard in basketball. In FIFA, you feel like you control everything on the field but the opposing team; you can manage every aspect of playing soccer. The GameCube controller works great with the game; the analog sticks help a great deal in making game play look more fluid.
You have the same extras as in the other versions of FIFA 2005 except for online play. You have a Career mode that is the best seen in a footie game, although nowhere near as complete and accurate as the Dynasty modes in other sports games (NCAA Football, MVP Baseball, or NBA 2k3 come to mind). What’s great this year is the Create-a-Player mode, working as well as in other sports games. It’s always fun to put yourself on the field against the best of the best in the world. Sometimes extras seem to be more important to developers than actual game play, but with FIFA 2005, this is not the case.
All the versions of this game are great, and now the GameCube version is not the ugly duckling like in other years. Now GC owners have a great soccer game to add to their library, and overall one of the most fun and popular sports games around.