It’s summer, and I feel like playing sports games. Perhaps it’s just enough to make my brain think that I’ve actually been outside. It happens to me every time the weather is nice, which is odd, because I hate sports. I’ve got nothing against any of them in particular, it’s that I just don’t care. But that doesn’t mean I hate the concept of the game, and in computer based form, I actually quite enjoy them.

Since the World Cup is on, I thought I’d take a look at one of the official World Cup games. I chose the 2002 offering from EA for no reason, other than it was there in my local CeX.

The World Cup has had an official computer game ever since 1986, and looking over the Wikipedia article for official World Cup video games, you can see that there’s a bit of a chequered past to them. A couple of facts just out at you, such as the fourth game being the first one to actually featured the correct kits for the teams. Italia ‘90 didn’t even feature a World Cup competition! An official World Cup computer game, without a World Cup game!

The 2002 version of the game is when EA first get their hands on the franchise. I’d like to say that this is where it goes off the rails, but it was clearly never on them in the first place. Whatever you might think of EA (I hate them) you can at least give them credit for delivering a game that features a World Cup competition, with the teams wearing the correct kit.

The biggest change EA brought was everything they had from their other official FIFA football games. World Cup games used to be unique, made specifically for the event. EA made them supplemental editions of that year’s FIFA game. Consequently, 2002 FIFA World Cup, sits between FIFA 2002 and FIFA 2003.

The gameplay is very much like every other FIFA game since the beginning of time. They always felt sluggish to me, like your players are running through something sticky. For a couple of games I thought there was a bug that made the game play itself, badly. I’d pass to a player who would then automatically pass it back. Those two players would then enter a cycle of passing the ball to each other, before eventually one of them just kicked the ball off the pitch. However, I can tell you that there is no such bug, and that game controllers that are old enough to drink and get a mortgage, might not be entirely reliable.

It was around this time that FIFA games started to feature commentary, and this one is no exception. There are lots Siri like repeatable sentences from John Motson, and the Scottish guy that also did football commentary in 2002. The Scottish guy is just confined to spouting random facts about players and World Cups. I’ve forgotten all those facts now, because I don’t care.

Graphically we’re looking at something very clearly made to be played on a CRT television. You can identify players when the game does a close-up action replay, even if they do look like what you’d get if you asked David Cronenberg to design a life size football player Pez dispenser. In the main view of the game, you’ve got no chance. Is that David Beckham? Does it matter?

The whole game is very limited. It’s basically just a World Cup competition. Not that it ever pretended to be anything more, it’s just that it feels like it shouldn’t be a game in its own right. It’s just a game mode. I’m backing this up with the fact that EA, who still make the World Cup games, are simply offering some DLC for FIFA 18. That’s all it really should be. In 2002 we didn’t have DLC, so they had to put it on another disc. It’s really as simple as it can be, although I can’t help but wonder who’s bright idea it was to put the load game option in the settings menu.

In my play through I played as England. I don’t want to brag, but I totally won the World Cup on my first try. I don’t know why our national team has such a problem. I smashed in Argentina 6 – 0! The real England team should try doing that. Do the real England team get to choose a difficulty setting? I chose Beginner.

Should you play this game? I can’t think of a reason why not. Don’t go out of your way to find a copy, there’s nothing special about it. But if you’ve got it lying around and have a couple of friends on standby, I’d say there’s at least as much fun to be had playing this game, as any other FIFA game, up to and including the 2018 DLC. The only difference is the graphics and the names of the players. The rest doesn’t really matter.

I thought I’d hate my World Cup FIFA experience, but it really wasn’t bad. I might even play it again on a harder setting.

That’s all from me for now, but I’ll leave you with the footage of my England winning my World Cup in 2002. Maybe it’ll help cheer you up.