FIFA Soccer 09 Preview
We’re the only country in the world that calls it “soccer,” but as we’re currently writing this in the U.S., please forgive us – and EA – for calling it FIFA Soccer 09. Hey, we can admit we stole the name for American football and had to make up another one for the world’s favorite pastime, and we just wanted to clear that up right off the bat. We’re all kinds of politically correct at PSXE! Anyway, this year’s FIFA installment is looking better than ever; if there’s one sports franchise that has gotten significantly better with each new installment over the past five years or so, it’s probably this one. The once-amazing Madden series has stumbled a bit in recent efforts, the NBA Live games have been very erratic, and at best, we can say that EA’s NHL franchise has been consistent. Therefore, we applaud EA Canada for what we see so far in FIFA Soccer 09, and if you’re a fan of the sport, you will, too.
First of all, we have to remember that EA has another soccer title now, which debuted last year - UEFA 2008 – and that turned out to be excellent. It introduced a lot of gameplay improvements in the world of virtual soccer, and EA has decided to implement many of them into this year’s FIFA entry. Smart move, we say. We’ll now get altering weather that should change how we play the game, “adaptive team AI,” the gigantic crowds have a powerful and downright authentic impact on the presentation, and we can even expect interactive celebrations. And overall, we’re very excited about the prospect of a more realistic experience from top to bottom; player animations have been refined and polished, and the more difficult aspects of the game will be just that: difficult. Back in the early days of video game sports, all the players on the field moved identically, but an athlete’s inherent abilities will have a definite impact on how they attack the field in FIFA 09. We’ve come to expect this in the new generation, of course, but EA is taking this concept to a whole new level.
How a player moves is paramount when attempting to create a viable simulator. Momentum physics are crucial, which means that speed and agility are immensely important with every movement made on the field, and soccer fans will appreciate such realism, here. For example, your speed will directly impact your ability to take out an opposing player with an offensive slide, and it will also dictate the forcefulness of a potential impact. But, what’s the other crucial necessity? Balance. Considering the same scenario, here’s the flip side: while the slide tackle is now more effective with gathered speed, the defensemen still needs to be precise. If he doesn’t sweep the plant foot of the ball-handler, the player on offense will merely stumble rather than keeling over immediately and giving way. Furthermore, with the advent of weather, you will most certainly have to change your tactics as long passes will be more difficult, less agile players will fall prey to the slippery terrain, and in general, the ball should be tougher to dribble.
And speaking of tactics, how can we possibly ignore the single aspect of any simulator that adds most to the depth? Again, we return you to the accomplishments of UEFA 2008, which offered something called Custom Team Tactics. It’ll be back, in full glory, in FIFA Soccer 09, and it will boast a healthy assortment of customization options. There will be 11 total tactical sliders to fiddle around with, and they encompass a grand total of 140 attacking and 40 defending options, which means you could spend quite some time preparing for a match. Best of all, your selections can be crazy specific- what you choose for team strategy doesn’t mean your team has to adopt the same orders at all times. No, you can actually assign specific actions at particular times, which means only if faced with a certain situation will your players execute certain maneuvers. This gives the player more control over the action than ever before, and having your team AI react automatically will be a definite plus.
In short, there are a ton of new enhancements and additions slated for FIFA Soccer 09, and of course, there will be a few returning features from last year’s installment. One of them is the popular Be A Pro mode, which lets you embrace the customization and advancement of one player, allowing you to fine-tune his skills and abilities as he progresses. Essentially, this is a mode for those who wish to step into the cleats of one player on a team, in one position, and become a true “Pro” by mastering that position over a certain period of time. Before, though, you could only do this over the course of one season; you’ll have the opportunity to go through four seasons with your player in FIFA 09, which gives you more time and in truth, is more realistic. This is one feature we expect to see in most sports games in the future, because it seems like a fantastic option for hardcore fans of the sport. And let’s face it, when it comes to simulators, a lot of hardcore fans will be purchasing the game, yes? We all know just how passionate soccer lovers can be!
With the addition of all those realistic player physics and what is known as “branching animations,” everything about FIFA Soccer 09 should be bigger, better, and flashier. Not only will there be a bunch of major upgrades, you’ll also see a lot of little tweaks and adjustments that make this year’s entry all the more appealing; avid followers of the franchise will certainly notice them. And if you’re new to FIFA, perhaps this is the year you should start paying attention.
7/8/2008 Ben Dutka