Ever since the days of the PS2 the critics and football fans choice for “best footie game” has always been Pro Evolution Soccer. But the FIFA games have been slowly gathering momentum, and bar a few hiccups have getting better and better every year.
FIFA is back bringing all the official leagues, teams and players you’d expect from that lot at EA and its packing a ton of new features. First up is ‘Adidas Live Season’. Adidas Live Season updates players form each week from their real life counterparts. So if Fabregas has a blinding game at the weekend once the Live Season info is uploaded the virtual Fabregas will have his rating improved. Of course, the opposite also applies, the improved or decreased player ratings are indicated by a green or red arrow respectively. A negative about this feature is that you have to purchase this feature for each individual league, you get a free code for one league with the game but be warned if you delete your save (which I had to do because it got corrupted) you will have to repurchase them. For all the leagues it’s going to cost you 1600 MS points, which is quite a bit compared to other content in the marketplace.
‘Be a Pro’ mode returns but more fleshed out and expanded, you can either create yourself or chose a current player and take them on a journey through 4 seasons of their career rising from reserve to first team captain then break into the national side. For those new to Be a Pro, you control just one person on the team. You then have to make runs, call for passes and tell your team mates to shoot. Which brings me to an anticipated feature for a footie game...
10 vs. 10 online play! Yes - you and 9 of your friends can go online against another team of players. Once you select your team each player then selects a position, which you have to be quick in doing if you’re not in a pre-organized team because the forward positions can get snapped up pretty quickly. I thought it would be just 20 players running after the ball like at school but people actually hold positions and team shape quite well, this is helped by on screen indicators that tell you where you should be, obviously you can ignore these but your team mates might not be too pleased. It runs brilliantly and the games I’ve played haven’t suffered from any significant lag. I have to say I enjoyed the 360 version more online purely because of the mostly-mute PS3 players with no headsets, but it still plays a great game. 09 also features all of your usual game modes; Exhibition, Leagues, Tournaments and online variants of both.
Now on to how it plays. In short, it plays a great game of football, the game just seems to flow fantastically. Players make realistic runs, control the ball and make realistic turns and touches. Little features like being able to hit the ref with the ball and how the ball can deflect or spin off of another player’s body and loop realistically show how much work has gone into the game. Shooting is brilliant and satisfying when the ball hits the back of the net, you can control exactly where you want the ball to go and how you put it there. You can chip, side foot or smash the ball with ease. Once you score you can control your celebration, with loads of button combinations to pull off a great celebration. It’s funny making the older players do summersaults.
Visually FIFA is a treat, highly detailed kits that move and have nice bump mapped folds and creases. The player likenesses are on the whole very good, although the odd familiar face looks a bit off; Fernando Torres, for example looks like his face has melted. Players animations are spot on, collisions look great and all add to the realistic look of the game. All the licensed stadiums massive and atmospheric, with detailed animated crowds, and the grass on the pitch looks just like real grass. With all the graphical detail the replays look excellent and if you like a replay you can upload it to the FIFA 09 web site, pretty cool feature. Commentary is good too, with Sky Sports’ own Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, as usual they make some good, pertinent comments and some daft ones, like when the keeper gathers the ball Andy would say “that is a super save” when it clearly wasn’t.
Overall I have to say that FIFA 09 is finally a contender for best football game. The combination of the slick and fluid game of footie it plays plus all the presentation, licensed teams, players, visuals and 10 vs 10 online makes this a must have. Konami should be worried.