Well, this isn't exactly a negative review, but I thought I'd touch on some of the aspects of gameplay that I don't like. Let me preface this with the warning that I've only played the game for an evening, so it is possible that I'm not experienced enough to do some of the things I wanted to do. Also note that this is a review of how the game stacks up as a simulation. I will not talk very much about how it works as a game in its own right.
FIFA soccer is definitely the best soccer video game that I have played. It is fast paced, exciting, visually and auditorily impressive and quite enjoyable. However, in terms of a soccer simulation (at least in one player mode) it falls frustratingly short of the mark. The most obvious problem with it as a simulation is in the speed at which the game moves. It is much faster paced than a real game. While this enhances the excitement of the game, I would have prefered a slower mode that would enable me to concentrate on strategy. My guess is that the game runs about 1.5 times as fast as a real game. I should probably time the speed of the players to get a better estimate. It also seems that goals come at a much faster rate than they probably should. Playing 5 or 10 minute halves seems to give the same scoreline as a 45 minute half in a real game.
The next most obvious problem with the game as a simulation is passing. When you pass, the receiving player usually stops and waits for the ball. In fact, you often have to sit and wait (completely locked out of the game) until the player receives the ball. While this is OK in terms of low level gameplay, it really removes alot of the advanced strategy that could be happening. For instance, one cannot play a "dummy", intentionally missing the pass in favour of another recipient, in an attempt to draw off a defender. Another consequence of the passing mechanics is that (as far as I can tell) you can't play the ball to space. Often it is beneficial to push the ball to an open area and run to it (or allow one of your teamates to run to it). As far as I can tell you have three options when passing (or lobbing) the ball -- Play it to another player, kick it at the net or push it forward 2 or 3 feet. In the first option, you end up playing the ball almost directly to your teamate, who will wait for it to arrive (thereby getting very closely marked by a defender). In the second option there is some possibility of playing it to space in front of the net, but usually the goalie gathers the ball. In the third option, you always have to go after the ball yourself. I once had an opportunity where I had the ball and was being closely marked by a defender. I pushed the ball to an open area right in front of one of my teamates. I then ran away from the ball in order to either make space, or draw the defender away from my teamate. The whole play broke down when my teamate decided to run away from the ball. I suppose I could have used a give-and-go, but I only wanted the return pass in the event that the defender abandoned me. Also, the defender was in between my teamate and me, so my only passing option was to play it into space.
My last gripe is in the intelligence of the computer controlled players on the field. They lack any initiative or creative play. For instance, I have never seen a midfielder overlap on the wing when a forward has been holding the ball in midfield (the computer is a *little* more inventive in attack mode when you expand your midfield range, but it is still pretty bad). This gripe is almost surely resolved by playing in multi-player mode, but I only have one controller. I'm probably asking too much here, but in a simulation of the best teams in the world, I would like some inventive play happening.
One final unrelated gripe: Why can't it remember the way I set up my starting lineup between games? I've been playing with Holland (which seems to be set up quite close to the world cup side), but I don't like the way it is set up. I like to play a 4-3-3 with FAST players on the wing providing crosses into the center (OK, call me old fashioned...). Imagine my surprise when playing in league mode that I have to set this up every single game. It's quite tedious...
So what's the bottom line? It is a great game. The game even has the feel of soccer (something which I have never experienced in any other soccer game -- haven't played too many, though). However, it is highly frustrating to try and use "real soccer strategy" like the manual suggests. It feels like a game of 13 year olds on steriods with unbelievable ball controll. I often feel like screeming "Move around, you idiot -- come to the ball!!!". Right now, I'm playing it like a video game (do anything that works) rather than a soccer simulation. Perhaps when I get a little bit more experienced I'll try to play a more disciplined game again. In the meantime its alot of fun :-)
P.S. Please do not reply to this message since I do not have internet mail.