World Cup 98 was the first official FIFA World Cup series video game developed by EA Sports after obtaining the rights from FIFA in 1997. Unlike previous such games, which were in 2D and showed a bird's-eye view, World Cup 98 was the first to use a 3D engine, utilising DirectX for the PC version. Accurate national team kits (except for the goalkeepers, who were issued with a generic kit) were introduced complete with kit manufacturer logos and official merchandise. The game engine is based on that of FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, though it features some minor gameplay improvements to areas such as in-game strategy changing and player positioning. The playable teams in the friendly mode also included several nations that did not qualify for the finals. World Cup 98 was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, Game Boy Color.
The main feature of the game is the World Cup tournament itself, where the player may use either the actual groups used in the finals, or groups composed of a random selection of the included teams. Each match takes place in a recreation of the venue it was played in the actual tournament. As in the real tournament, group games do not go to extra time or a penalty shootout but knockout matches do.
The game was released prior to the actual World Cup, therefore results between CPU teams are not based on results from the actual tournament. At the end of each match, a caption shows the man of the match award, and if applicable a clean sheet caption. At the end of the "World Cup" game mode, captions show the winner of the Golden Boot for most goals scored during the tournament and winner of the FIFA Fair Play Award, two awards which are given in the real World Cup.
It is also possible to play friendly matches between any of the teams that are included in the game. At the end of a drawn game the player can choose to finish the match as a draw, play extra time with the golden goal rule, or take part in a penalty shootout.
As in FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, national rosters can be customised to reflect the actual tournament's players by including players from a reserves pool in the "customise" option.
The "World Cup Classics" mode allows the player to play eight classic World Cup Final matches from Italy versus West Germany in 1982, West Germany versus Netherlands in 1974, Brazil v Italy in 1970, England versus West Germany in 1966, West Germany versus Hungary in 1954, Uruguay versus Brazil in 1950, Italy versus Hungary in 1938, and Uruguay versus Argentina in 1930. The 1982 match is unlocked by winning the "World Cup" mode, and by completing each unlocked game, the next one is unlocked in the order shown above. "World Cup Classics" mode features accurate period team kits, hairstyles, and names, and commentary for this mode only was provided by Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC's commentator during the 1966 and 1970 World Cups. For the 1966, 1954 and 1950 World Cup Final matches in this mode, the graphics are in black and white, as they were shown on television at the time. The 1938 and 1930 matches are shown using sepia tone graphics. In matches that took place prior to the introduction of substitutions, it is not possible to change a player during the match.
World Cup 98 features every team that qualified for the 1998 World Cup:
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea (as Korea Rep)
- South Africa
- United States
As well as eight others who did not:
Commentary and music
The United Kingdom release of the game features commentary from John Motson and Chris Waddle, with matches introduced by the voice of Des Lynam and voice-overs in the team schedules from Gary Lineker.
As with Electronic Arts' main FIFA series, World Cup 98 features several licenced songs; "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba is the title song of the game, with "Terminal Intensity" by The Wizard of Oh, "[[Wikipedia:Soul Beat Runna|Soul Beat Runna" by Boymerang, "Absurd" by Fluke and others, are also used in the menus.
The game received mostly positive reviews. PC Guide's July 1998 issue named World Cup 98 as the winner of a group test involving other PC football games around at the same time, ahead of competitors such as Actua Soccer 2, Three Lions and Sensible Soccer 98. The magazine describes the game as "Simply the best football game in the world". MobyGames scores the game 3.9/5 whilst GameSpot awards the game 8.8/10.
The World Cup Classics mode has numerous inaccuracies in it. These include:
- The football design, adidas' Tricolor, used in reality only during the 1998 World Cup, is used in all classic matches from 1970 onwards (that is, all classic mode matches shown in colour).
- The Golden Goal rule, used in real life for the first and only time in the 1998 World Cup is used for all World Cup Classics matches in the game.
- The penalty shootout rule, introduced in 1970, can be used to decide any of the World Cup Classics matches in the game.
- Yellow Cards and Red Cards, introduced in the 1970 World Cup, are used for all games in this mode; the cards are also shown in colour during black and white/sepia matches.
- Captions are shown in faded colour during black and white/sepia matches.
- James, Chris (July 1998). "Football's Coming Home". PC Guide Volume Four Issue Four (Future Publishing): pp. 53–57.