FIFA 2001 was EA’s first attempt at moving its popular footy series over to the sixth gen home consoles, and not unlike other cases of games making the move to a fledgling system, it doesn’t really make the most of the new platform. In a lot of ways, FIFA 2001 feels a lot like FIFA 99 and 2000, just with some improvements on the graphical front and a power bar for shooting (this may possibly have been added in FIFA 2000 first, but it’s been a while since I played that one).
I do remember playing the FIFA 2001 demo because it came with my PS2 console, and even though I thought the graphics were decent, I wasn’t moved to actually buy it. Indeed, I would spend the remainder of the decade going to Pro Evolution Soccer for my footy game fix. Looking back at it now, FIFA 2001 is hardly that impressive graphically either, although players’ faces can actually move now, making some of the more extravagant goal celebrations a bit more entertaining. Most of the players retain the most basic of resemblances to their real life counterparts, and it’s usually almost impossible to tell which player is which without the aid of a shirt number.
The game includes a host of officially licensed players and teams, although Brazil’s Ronaldo does not appear due to him having his own licensing deal with Nike, and I found I had the most enjoyment from going back to revisit some of the better teams from the 2000/2001 footballing season. Alas, Everton don’t offer much outside of a fun attacking line, but teams like Leeds United and Parma sported an almost embarrassment of riches when it comes to their squads, and Celtic’s treble winning side from that season is a great one to pick if you fancy having a crack with an outsider at winning the UEFA Cup (called just “EFA” here because UEFA had its own Champions League series of games out at the same time, courtesy of Silicon Dreams)
As this was before the time of patches and updates, some of the teams do not have their absolute most up to date squads (I had to move Roberto Baggio over to Brescia because he was still at Inter, for instance), but overall, there’s a healthy selection of sides to choose from and plenty of tournaments and leagues to compete for. At the end of the day though FIFA 2001 is hardly a massive step up from the last two FIFA games of the fifth gen. You really could just play FIFA 99 and, outside of the improvement in graphics and the fact you might prefer that particular version of your team from that season, there’s really not that much of a difference.
Passing is miles better than it was in FIFA 97, with a reticule underneath your player highlighting where the ball will go when you pass and how difficult the pass will be to complete. The pace of the game is still a tad too manic for you to play a patient passing game, but passing in general feels good, and it’s possible to put some passes together if the opportunity presents itself. Like FIFA 99, you can still go on wild slaloming runs across the whole length of the pitch before burying the ball for a wonder goal; however, the AI of the opposition players has been tweaked, and this is not as easy to do.
Putting crosses into the box provided me with a decent amount of joy, with rocket headers being on the cards provided you can time your attack just right. When out of possession you have a slide tackle and standing tackle, and in a nice touch, the opposition will dodge and jump over your slide tackles sometimes, meaning that you always have to keep your wits about you because it’s always possible for the computer to skip over your last ditch tackle before walloping the ball into the net.
Sound-wise, the title track this time out is “Bodyrock” by Moby, which is a fine piece of music that I have a certain nostalgic feel for because “Play” was one of the first albums I ever bought. Outside of that, it’s the usual high tempo-style music you’d expect for a FIFA game, and it does the job well enough. John Motson returns for commentary, with Mark Lawrenson doing colour, and it’s still pretty stilted and wooden, in all honesty. I’ve never really been a “Motty” fan, to be honest, and have always been on Team Barry Davies, so hearing Motson robotically delivering his lines whilst “Lawro” sounds like he’s half asleep doesn’t really make that aspect of the experience much of a selling point.
If I had to give FIFA 2001 a score out of 10, it’d probably be a workman like 7 as it’s not even remotely bordering on being a bad game, and it works fine enough as a computerised kickabout, but it also lacks any real panache and feels far too much like FIFA 2000 with a lick of paint on it. Obviously, that’s less of an issue these days as it’s 20 years later, and it’s unlikely that you’d have to spend £40 on getting a copy of this like you would have had to do back in 2000. FIFA 2001 is “fine”, but that’s all it is. I’m happy enough to recommend it if you see it cheap.