Football’s coming home. This year FIFA rises to the challenge of knocking Pro Evolution Soccer of its throne. Being a big fan of the EA Sports series it was great to see it return to the top of football simulators.
FIFA offers you the chance to take control of your favourite football team and, in order to try to make them the best team in the world, sign the world’s best players to create your perfect team.
When you first start to play FIFA 09, there’s a chance you will feel you are just playing the same game as last year’s, but with newer graphics. Do not give up on the game at this point, however, as it will start to feel like a new experience once you get used to the new features and dynamics in the gameplay.
The first thing you will most likely notice is that the gameplay now has a lot more pace and urgency about it, making it a lot more realistic than the previous outings. Because of this, you will find yourself having to pass the ball more to create that goal-scoring opportunity, increasing the realism of the game yet again. This is made more important by the improved AI of the defenders, who are quick to close down an open ball rather than standing off and waiting for you to move the ball forward.
Also, the increased AI of the defenders makes it harder to dribble the ball down the pitch and score, which had became a regular fault with the FIFA franchise in the past and was something that EA appeared to have no urgency in resolving. The new system does not take away from the realism of the game because it is not impossible to make a great run, it just takes a bit more skill and practice. Due to this, EA has also made the skill levels of the individual game characters more significant in this year’s iteration. You are more likely to make a successful run with the likes of Ronaldo and Messi than you are with players of a lower calibre. However, this year, in Manager Mode, the players of lower calibre can be increased at the end of each season if you can put in good performances with the player, making the players development fall into your hands, which gives it a realistic manager feel.
EA has done little to improve to trick stick system from the previous outing, but this feature did not need much improvement because it worked well. A feature EA have seemed to put a lot of emphasis on this year is the shooting system, they have made it so that you have a lot more control over the way your player makes the shot. They have created a system that gives you a lot more control of the direction, using the left stick and the option of a Finesse shot, this is done by holding RB as you take the shot, making it so that you can add a curl to your shot, which helps you greatly on one-on-one situations as you can curl the ball around the keeper and into the bottom corner. The control improvement has made it a lot harder to score the screamers that you are used to seeing and scoring on FIFA, the reason being that, because you have the extra control of the shots, it is harder to get them on target since there is a high percentage of the shot going either wide or high. This again adds to the realistic feel that has helped FIFA climb over its competitors.
EA has kept the previous game modes, which includes the hit from last year, ‘Be A Pro Mode’, which puts you in control of one player on the pitch. This mode takes more skill to play and makes it a lot more a challenge, which is perfect for those who find Manager Mode not that much of a challenge.
As with every other previous outing of the franchise EA has made slight improvements on the graphics. This seems to be something EA strives to improve every year with this franchise, even if it is only a little bit better. One thing you will notice is the removal of the black lines around the edge of the players, which were a part of last year’s outing.
The biggest visual change that you will notice this year is in the improvement made to the player models. They all seem to be in correct proportion to their real life counterparts and their faces look even more realistic than before.
EA has also improved the crowd detail and reactions, which is a relief as it is has been abysmal in the past. Although you think may think that this is merely cosmetic, it adds greatly to the realism as they react differently depending on the outcomes of the situations. This is especially noticeable on the replays than during actual gameplay.
The stadiums have not really changed since the last outing, but there was not much room for improvement in that area because they looked great in FIFA 08.
Once again, with FIFA having all the official licences, the game offers the best commentary available. This is a big factor in the sound department of the game and adds to the realism of the game greatly. This is something that has improved on slightly this year, but with the solid commentary from last year, it again has little to improve on. As with the crowd noise, EA did not make many changes in this aspect of the game. The in game sound in FIFA is a strong part in making the game have that realistic feel.
EA has also managed to get an impressive EA tracks list going, consisting of artists/groups from all around the world, to make browsing the menus as enjoyable as possible.
EA pushed the boundaries for FIFA’s online mode again. An impressive feature of FIFA 08 was the online ‘Be A Pro Mode’ which allowed 5v5 matches, a great feat at the time. This was added to FIFA’s solid 1v1 online mode that has been a success for many years. This year, EA has pushed that further by introducing ‘Online Clubs’.
Online Clubs allow you and 9 friends to play a match on the same team. This means it is now possible to play 10 v 10, doubling last years impressive tally. As a part of an Online Club, it is your job to create a club and recruit players to represent your club. This mode includes leagues that you climb, depending on the success of your clubs’ results.
As expected, there are a few issues with FIFA, as nothing can be perfect. One of them involves the Online Club mode. This is a bug can be annoying: sometimes when you or the opposition makes a sub, the game freezes (this is not a console freeze, you just can not move your player) and you can not complete the match as the time has also frozen.
Another problem you will find with the game is that the pacing of the players can be off, meaning you will often see someone like Luke Young keeping up or out pacing Ronaldo, a fact which everyone knows will not happen.