The Beautiful Games: World Cup 98 (1998)

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Game: World Cup 98
Publisher: EA Sports
Released: 1998
Format: PC (also available on: PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy)

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Common wisdom has it that FIFA: Road To World Cup 98 is the first time EA really got it right – either with their 3D football games (if you liked the original isometric FIFA) or with their football games full stop (if you didn’t) – and for that reason it’s probably the more fondly-remembered game. If you’re not me.

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If you’re me, however, then there are few things that can compete with the joy and beauty of World Cup 98. Indeed, I think the fact that the actual tournament is still one of my favourite World Cups can be put down to just how many times I played through it on this game (on the most enjoyable occasion, picking one team from each group to play as, being agonisingly knocked out in the final group game as Jamaica and eventually winning it as the Netherlands).

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RTWC, it’s true, probably offered the richer and longer-involving gameplay experience – and all this game really did, in gameplay terms at least, was take the same basic engine and apply it to a smaller perspective (a single tournament rather than the whole qualifying campaign). But this was also the first time EA showed what they could do with a proper licence – wrapping the game up in exemplary presentation, with fantastic and exciting menus and FMVs (and, er, “Tubthumping”), not to mention the fact that they had Des Lynam and Gary Lineker just as presenters, before you even got to the Motson/Waddle commentary team. You could even play “classic” World Cup games with a sepia tint and Kenneth Wolstenhome commentary (but still, amusingly, in a very modern-looking stadium).

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The graphics – on the PC version at least – were a step up from RTWC, too – with fully-detailed team kits for the first time, and an incredibly slick gloss to the pitch and surroundings. Okay, it looks blocky by current standards, but at the time it was ridiculously far ahead of contemporaries (and there were a lot of contemporaries in ’98) like Actua Soccer and Three Lions. Even the box was classy as hell. I honestly can’t remember a more thrilling computer-game-buying moment than picking it up in Woolworths and discovering that, even though the tournament hadn’t begun yet, it was inexplicably reduced to twenty quid – and was thus a PC game I could afford. I’ve dug it out again at periodic intervals ever since.*

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* And yes, that is my own scan of my own box at the top of the page.

4 Comments on The Beautiful Games: World Cup 98 (1998)

  1. Unfortunately WC98 became the first forgotten middle child of a FIFA release schedule, heavily overshadowed by the titles that bookmarked it. RTWC98 was undoubtedly a watershed moment for the series whereas 99 both played and looked like a considerable step-above the two games prior. The period from RTWC98 to 99 was little more than 7 months. For N64 owners there were 4 titles out within 15 months (between FIFA 64 and 99).

    Add in the relatively small used game sales market of the time that didn’t accelerate the level of depreciation on the last game like now, where CEX will give you barely 80p for trading in FIFA 13, and it’s easy to see why WC98 didn’t quite stick in the hearts and minds – as well as gaming collections – as much.

    And people think EA churn them out today!

  2. This was definitely the better pick-up-and-play, in an arcade-y way, than RTWC98 and I preferred it. However, I’m still reeling from the fact that they never continued the extremely good indoor 5-a-side mode from RTWC98 into any other of the subsequent FIFA games.

    I know that FIFA Street is essentially what it became, but the less said about FIFA Street the better.

  3. I played this game long time ago. I lost my disc when I relocated. Is there any place I can play it again on the Internet? Anyway, it’s one of the best game about Worldcup because you can choose any team to play from tournament stage to champion game.

  4. if you want to play the real world cup 98 on PES6 gmae , we have released a patch for the game on PC =) with real stadiums

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