FIFA Soccer 09 Review
My brother and I have been talking about this all new FIFA game for the past
couple of days now, and he believes that this iteration features the least
amount of changes over past ones, or rather that it doesn't feel any different.
There is some truth to that, but it doesn't make FIFA 09 a bad game. It actually
makes it a solid game. I knew that for '09 EA had revamped the collision
detection physics and added a horde of new animations to create a smoother
playing experience. But after that conversation, I set out to look for
additional changes...more specifically my gripes with FIFA 08.
First, we'll start with my biggest gripe from FIFA 08, the passing. Passing in last year's game felt very sloppy at times, and you had to either turn on the passing assists or be more than extremely accurate with your targeted direction. People found this extremely aggravating, as did I, because even playing with the assist enabled still didn't cure this. Fortunately, for FIFA '09 the passing how been fixed. It's funny too, because during my first few games, I didn't even realize how intuitive the passing was, largely because I wasn't complaining about it.
So no more frustrating robbed passes, your ball will now go precisely to the player you're targeting. Furthermore, what's great about the passing is that not only can you pass without worrying about the ball rolling elsewhere, the A.I. now calls for passes during intense moments. If you're in possession and have a group of players surrounding you, pay attention to your nearest teammate as he may be signaling for a through pass. If you're driving down the field and approaching the goal, but you've got a swarm of defenders nearby, again pay attention, because a teammate is most likely flagging you for a pass. It's little things like that that make FIFA 09 the more refined and enjoyable experience over its predecessor.
Additionally, thanks to the all new collision detection system, tackling and getting a hold of possession has also become less frustrating. Where as in the past stealing while running alongside a player was impossible, that's been changed for FIFA 09, again, thanks to its new collision physics. Running into a player can also net a loose ball, so you won't always have to attempt a tackle; if a bump is hard enough, it can knock the ball loose allowing for a turnover attempt. As a result of these collision physics, FIFA 09 plays smoother too, and certainly less frustrating than past games.
Returning for 2009 is one of EA Sports' staples, a mode featured in nearly all of their games, Be A Pro. By now, any EA Sports fan should be well aware of what this mode is all about, basically you're put into the shoes of a created athlete whose actions you have full control over. You take him through a career and during the entire mode you control him and only him. Now, understand that you have to be a proper footie fan in order to appreciate this mode in FIFA, because unlike, say...a basketball game, you won't always have the chance to be in control of the ball. Regardless, giving us the choice of enjoying the mode is still a positive no matter how you look at it. For FIFA 09, you can now enjoy Be A Pro through a season mode, or in a Be A Pro online match with 20 players.
Which leads me to the other big trait for FIFA 09, its online gameplay. Last year's game was limited to for people online, each controlling a majority of one team. This year, that total has skyrocketed to 20 players simultaneously! And as you've guessed by now, that means each player can control an athlete online, allowing for proper 10-on-10 matches. These 20 player matches create an all new strategic aspect of FIFA that the series has never seen before, as you'll now have to communicate with nine other teammates and play like an actual team.
Even though not everyone will consider this an important aspect, I still feel the need to mention it. For FIFA 09, EA has given us the ability to remap the controls to our own liking, changing everything we see fit. It may not be a big deal to some, but I typically have a preferred scheme I like to use. Aside from the mentioned changes, much of what made FIFA 08 a solid title has been carried over to make FIFA 09 an even better game. You still have a plethora of game modes to go through, so on top of Be-A-Pro and the 20 player online matches, there's quite a lot to keep you busy.
Visually, the game looks more or less about the same with a few changes here and there. The camera no longer stutters when it pans around the stadium, which I found annoying in last year's game. Furthermore, the framerate runs at an even more consistent 60 frames per second while rendering a 720p image. Last year's game also ran at 60, but it had bits of slowdown in many spots. The player models look about the same, as do the stadiums, the grass, and all of the textures. The lighting continues to be bright and vivid, doing a fantastic job of bringing the stadium lighting to your virtual experience. So while the visuals are not radically different, think of FIFA 09 as a cleaner, more polished version of last years game, and that's not a bad thing, at all.
Perhaps my biggest complaint with FIFA 08 was its audio, more specifically the boring commentary. Both Martin Tyler and Andy Gray delivered an incredibly bland presentation that was no more than just random, generic play-by-play calling. For FIFA 09, the commentary has been overhauled to include a plethora of dialogue that goes beyond just the regular play-by-play commentary. This makes for a much more realistic experience with every match you play, on top of being a more pleasurable one. There were times when I played matches that I found myself loving and paying attention to the commentary, remarking how well done it was this time around.
While you may not notice any dramatic changes immediately, the more you play FIFA 09 the more you notice that it is definitely a step up from last year's game. The mechanics of the game have been fine tuned and better balanced, allowing for a more intuitive experience. The physics have been touched up, again, to increase the game's realism, which greatly diminished the frustration found in FIFA 08. Thanks to the fixed passing mechanics, collision physics, 20 player online, enhanced Be A Pro features, and the fantastic commentary, FIFA continues to be the football game you'll want in your library. Brilliant effort, EA Canada.
10/25/2008 Arnold Katayev