June 1, 2007 - Joe Booth has a dream. The FIFA 08 next-gen producer imagines an EA virtual world cup, online, 11 on 11, featuring the best videogame soccer players on the planet. Coinciding with the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, each gamer will grab a player and, with 10 friends, begin a soccer assault on the rest of the planet. Right now it's just a dream, a goal for the future of FIFA online, but it all starts with Be a Pro in FIFA 08.
We sat down with Booth and his team at EA Canada to get our first look at FIFA 08 and the new Be a Pro mode. Booth, a native of England, was decked out in his finest Leeds United jersey and made an exciting announcement: FIFA 08 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will feature 30 leagues, 620 teams and about 15,000 players.
Not only is that a record for FIFA -- Booth worked on the excellent FIFA 07 on current gen that featured only a whopping 27 leagues -- but that's more teams than every other EA Sports title combined. In short, Leeds United is back. But what about EA's soccer franchise?
Well, let's say you want to take control of Leeds striker David Healy. And by take control, we mean complete control. In the new Be a Pro mode, you select any player from a squad and control him the entire match in what is almost like a third-person soccer game. The new camera system will zoom in and out to continually frame your player, the ball and the goal. If Healy is zipping up the field on a breakaway, the camera will zoom in and shake, just like the Gears of War embedded journalist cam.
As you play, you'll receiver a number of visual prompts to indicate if you are out of position, where you should run to into space, if you're offside. And even if you're not playing with a game-changing superstar like Ronaldinho, you are still rewarded by how well you play your position. Of course, if you're simply bored, you can pause the game and switch to a more exciting player at any time. The most popular position at EA so far is central midfielder. It's great to score with a striker, but attacking midfielders are always in on the action and it's just as fun to create a goal with a slick pass.
Keep in mind that Be a Pro isn't like Madden's Superstar mode with a soccer ball. You aren't creating a player and following his career on the way to the FIFA hall of fame. Be a Pro is simply a new way to play on the virtual pitch -- and a nice thought since innovation in soccer games has become pretty much stagnant.
Still, Be a Pro isn't a replacement for the 11-on-11 action that we have come to know and love. It's great to play as your favorite player but nothing is better than creating an amazing goal with your favorite team. So when Booth and his team took the next-gen reins, they made a long list of improvements that needed to be made. First on the list was shooting.