Anyone who is a fan of Soccer (or football as it is known to our overseas brethren) knows that the battle between EA’s proverbial franchise and Konami’s fan-favorite has been a brutal one. Since the release of the Xbox 360 and the beginning of the current generation cycle of consoles both companies have had a hard time bringing their best to the table. EA Canada’s first effort was spotty at best with troublesome controls and spotty AI while Konami chose to skip an entire year and then returned with a game based on the 2007 season and for the most part, it was a solid if not disappointing first entry for the Xbox 360.
With FIFA Soccer 09 EA Canada has finally overcome any issues they had with the hardware and have delivered the most visually impressive and best playing football title currently available and perhaps of all time. Everything you have come to expect from the recent trend of EA Sports titles is present here and fans of the sport will no doubt be impressed with the amount of care and effort poured into this game. The visuals are stunning on a high-def set, the controls are spot on and the amount of features will keep players coming back for more long into next season. There is no doubt that this is the most complete soccer package of all time.
Much like every other EA Sports title this season the most touted feature here is the Be A Pro mode. This basically throws you into the role of one specific player instead of controlling the entire team. So far this mode has been impressive for every outing minus NBA Live simply because of its limited implementation. FIFA does a great job of bringing all of the elements that make the mode so great such as character creation and presentation, but the execution falls flat, once again, because of the nature of the sport. Soccer is the definition of a team sport, with ten players on each side and low-scoring affairs commonplace taking on the role of just one man can become quite boring at times.
To make things more interesting you can join online leagues utilizing the Be A Pro mode and join teams in need of your talent. EA’s online efforts have been vastly improved in all of their games this year but none as impressive as FIFA. You can play ten-on-ten online in this mode with each player assuming a specific role. Purists will no doubt eat this mode alive and keep you playing for months to come granted the online community continues to stay populated.
Also in comparison to NBA Live, FIFA 09 offers the same type of player updates as the Dynamic DNA system. Dubbed Adidas Live Season this feature will continue to update player stats throughout the season keeping your game fresh and concurrent with the actual football season. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, in order to continue this service you will eventually be forced to pay a nominal fee to keep the stats flowing. This could turn out to be a great alternative to buying a new game next year as you can continue to enjoy the one you already own with current rosters and stats. On the flip side EA has the option to cancel this service at any time so you could be stuck purchasing a new game regardless.
While the online mode is substantial enough to warrant FIFA’s price tag, there is also the matter of just how many improvements the developers have made to the way the game plays. For starters there are a new set of moves and animations that are entirely contextual depending on the placement of the ball. Performing these moves is as easy as tapping a button at the appropriate time. The best part is that everything flows so smoothly thanks to the improved animation system. Players all move realistically and control feels incredibly lifelike. Your AI team mates are also much improved over last year’s game. Instead of moving away from the ball or failing to help you they will now call for passes, move to position to get open for passes and perform better tackling to give you a clearer line to the goal.
Much like the improvements made to the Madden series players now carry weight and react realistically to their proportions. It is also worth mentioning that all of this is complimented by an incredible physics system and a smooth-as-butter 60 frames per second that makes the entire game flow as if you were watching it on TV. Everything about the game just feels more polished and complete all around, nothing has been compromised making this the best playing football title ever conceived.
To compliment all of the other features FIFA also sports the same elegant visuals the series has become known for. Player models sport some amazing detail and the animations have been vastly improved continuing to make it harder to distinguish between the game and watching it on TV. The camera in Be A Pro mode can feel a bit detached at times but it holds up well enough to not become a major problem. The audio continues its excellence as Martin Tyler and Andy Gray return with great commentary and the crowd noise is incredibly atmospheric rounding out an impressive package of presentation that is unrivaled in most sports games.
With all of its improvements FIFA Soccer 09 is by far the most impressive upgrade to any sports title this year. If you are even remotely a fan of the sport FIFA 09 is a must-buy. The improved presentation, AI and addition of Be A Pro mode and Live Season guarantee you will be playing for months to come. Combine it with the incredible online features and you possibly have the most complete sports package available on the market.