FIFA 09 Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
The FIFA series didn't enjoy the best of starts on the current generation of consoles. The first game to appear on the Xbox 360, FIFA 06 Road to FIFA World Cup, got the series off to an appalling start with performance issues and a general lack of features and we gave the game a deserved 4.8/10. Since then the series has been improving quite dramatically and last year the unthinkable happened; for the first year in a long time the annual FIFA game surpassed the annual Pro Evolution Soccer game. The game's developers haven't rested on their laurels over the last twelve months and once again they have taken the series a few step forwards to give us the best FIFA game in years.
In terms of features FIFA 09 is hugely impressive. Most of the modes return from previous versions but there are some new inclusions here which help to enhance the experience. There are leagues from over twenty different countries with some countries, such as England, France, Germany and Italy, having multiple divisions. The modes on offer include Quick and Exhibition Match, Tournament Mode, Manager Mode, Lounge Mode (an offline multiplayer mode for you and up to 19 others), Be a Pro Seasons (which allows you to play through a four year career either as a single player or with up to three friends), Be a Pro: Online Team Play (which supports an impressive 10 players-a-side), FIFA 09 Clubs, Online Leagues and Interactive Leagues. Not forgetting of course the new Adidas Live Season feature which allows you to receive weekly player form updates for the main divisions in the game (such as the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A and Germany's Bundesliga) which are based on real-world data. You receive a serial code in the box to enable you to have free updates for a division of your choice until the end of the 2008-09 season. You'll have to purchase additional updates if you want to update more than one league however. The cost for these is currently 560 Microsoft points per division or you can pay 1,600 Microsoft points for all leagues' updates.
A ton of modes is pleasing but what counts is how the game plays. In this respect FIFA 09 shines. The game has become more of a simulation. The pace of the game feels natural (and not too quick like last year's PES 2008) and you're rewarded for patient build-ups rather than simply bombing from one end of the pitch to the next. The goalkeepers are generally solid. You won't find them constantly making super saves and they don't spill the ball at every opportunity which is very pleasing to see. The ball moves quite realistically and deflects quite naturally making for a game that flows naturally. The AI behaves quite believably too, which adds to the simulation feel of the game. The days of a FIFA game having set ways to score and predictable AI to play against are a thing of the past and you'll really have to put the effort in to score a goal, particularly on the harder difficulty settings, which makes it all the more satisfying an experience.
Generally then, FIFA 09 is an impressive experience but there are a few ways it could have been better. Scoring from crosses and corners feels more awkward than it should. It is possible to score from crosses and corners but it's certainly no easy task. The game feels like it stores your button presses at times which can lead to you sloppily losing possession when the ball comes to one of your players. This isn't something that occurs frequently but it can be irritating on occasions. When a substitution is made you'll get to look at one of the stadiums for a few seconds. This is quite annoying in games where several substitutions are made as it really breaks up the flow of the game.
Graphically FIFA 09 is the undisputed champion with player likenesses (of the more well known players at least) being quite good. The various stadiums all look impressive. The sheer amount of official kits in the game is staggering and they are, at least as far as I can vouch for, up to date. The frame rate is mostly fine too. The replays and short cutscenes you have before, during and after a match still appear to run at a lower frame rate but for the most part performance issues are few and far between.
The match commentary isn't subtitled but this is hardly a problem. In fact it become repetitive to the point where most hearing gamers will probably disable it. All of the information in the various game modes is in text that you can read at your own pace. In the Be a Pro mode various icons are used such as an offside icon, position indicator and threat indicator to visually display important information. On the whole then, FIFA 09 won't cause deaf gamer any problems.
EA Sports have been on fire this year with excellent titles such as Madden NFL 09, NHL 09 and now FIFA 09. FIFA 09 manages to surpass FIFA 08 and the result is a game that most football fans will enjoy playing until the next FIFA is released in around a year's time. There are some disappointments with the game but they are few and far between. FIFA 08 was the best football game released last year and FIFA 09 has also managed to be the better game this year thanks to its refined game-play, extra modes and impressive online play. The next FIFA game is going to have to be something really special to surpass what FIFA 09 has to offer.