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|Author: boon kiat|
Date of review: 11-March-1999
Type Of Review: Games
I know Ee Siang from the ALive website asked me what I thought about the EAX patch for FIFA99 ages ago when it was first released, but somehow or other, something always cropped up so I never really got around to it again until today. Here are my thoughts on the new patch.
"... the best thing about this new patch was the ability to run the game in glorious 1024x768 with no slowdown whatsoever on my Voodoo2 SLIs"
To me, the biggest improvement isn't in the sound, although I have to admit it has been improved.
Actually, the best thing about this new patch was the ability to run the game in glorious 1024x768 with no slowdown whatsoever on my Voodoo2 SLIs. The detail on each player and on the pitch is just so incredible, and looks way, way, way more impressive than Virtua Striker 2 in the arcades (which has been my yardstick for visual quality in soccer games)
"... in closeups, such as in Action Replays, the quality of the crowd textures really, really bug me, and I find myself pressing the Start button to skip the animation (instead of basking in the glory of a great shot at the goal)"
Admittedly, my Voodoo2 SLIs are becoming a little long in the tooth. The lores texture sizes which has plagued it for so long is getting annoying now. As I mentioned before in my preview of Quake III IHV, the lores textures (256x256?) used for V2s just make the images look grainy/blurred.
Most of the time, 256x256 will suffice, especially when they are used judiciously. For instance, in Quake III, there are separate textures used for the head/torso etc so each can remain pretty detailed. I suspect a similar technique was applied for the individual players in FIFA99. However for the rest of the audience in the stadium, a blanket texture was used to represent the crowds, and this translated to an extremely blurred and ugly mess.
The crowd texture looks fine most of the time during the game because the action cam I use places the camera sufficiently far away (better overall view so you know where to pass the ball). However, in closeups, such as in Action Replays, the quality of the crowd textures really, really bug me, and I find myself pressing the Start button to skip the animation (instead of basking in the glory of a great shot at the goal)
I don't recall them being such a big problem when I used to run the game at 640x480. Perhaps the switch to a higher resolution forced the game to "stretch" the textures further.
Please note the gameplay in FIFA99 remains as good as before (which was whooping ass already), and this graphical flaw is merely an annoyance that has more to do with the Voodoo architecture than the game itself, but this is my column and I can rant if I want to! =)
So.. what about the sound?
Well, Ee Siang was right. There is a nut trapped in the audience of the Virtual Stadiums in FIFA99, whose screams can be heard for miles over! =) But the truth is, when I watch a soccer game on telly, you can always hear this one guy screaming his head off, so maybe EA's "If it's in the game, it's in the Game" tagline is true after all.
"There is a nut trapped in the audience of the virtual stadiums in FIFA99, whose screams can be heard for miles over!"
The reverb added using EAX does bring out the "live" feeling of being in a stadium, although this is nowhere near as impressive (nor atmospheric) as the implementation of EAX in Half Life. If anything, you could have achieved the same effect with the older FIFA98/World Cup98 by selecting one of the EAX presets in Live's AudioHQ applets. I guess the reverb characteristics in the stadium doesn't really change all that much, so there is no need for the dynamic EAX changes found in Half Life.
I can't detect the use of quad speaker support, but then this isn't really that important in a game like FIFA99 where all the action takes place in front of you.
I guess EA's soccer engine has been fine-tuned after so many revisions that it is now merely on an evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) path, with game designers merely tweaking the game's graphics and sound engine.
"... the ability to run in resolutions above 640x480 only works with 3Dfx cards. D3D cards need not apply."
This isn't such a bad thing considering FIFA98 was not only gorgeous to look at and was great fun to play, to boot. But with this new patch, EA is finally letting us run in much higher resolutions, and with a V2 setup, with no loss of framerate.
By the way, the ability to run in resolutions above 640x480 only works with 3Dfx cards. D3D cards need not apply.
In a way, this is scary because I believe my Spectra 2500 could match the Voodoo2 SLIs for speed, even up to 1024x768 for this game, but EA seems to have a vested interest in promoting Voodoo cards. And with EA proclaiming its support for the Playstation 2, over the Dreamcast, I can imagine that the DC will be similarly disadvantaged as well. So much for now...
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