Soccer, or football as its called in every area except the US, is probably the most popular spectator sport worldwide and the fans are passionate about their game. So you can best believe that fans will be fanatical about any video game representation of their beloved sport and EA Sports seems to have captured the hearts of many folks with FIFA 09. Thats a pretty big task having a game like Pro Evolution soccer which carries some very supportive fans of its own.
As with all of their mainstream sport titles FIFA offers a wide range of options at your finger tips and Be a Pro Modes which put you right into the game as your own created player whom gains experience points for playing well. You'll also have the traditional game modes at your disposal too, but in the end its the Be A Pro modes that seem to harness the best aspects of the title.
I'll go on record saying that I am far from being a soccer fan, even to the point that I know very little of the sport or its rules. So this review may reflect my ignorance of the sport at times and my apologies for any misinterpretations. This review will encompass all the options, graphics and sounds as well as some basic gameplay discussions to help you get a feel for the game and what it has to offer. You can be the final judge on the title by viewing other reviews and opinions and also using your own opinion from previous iterations of the title.
Lets start off by going over the controls. To me the game of soccer is mainly about kicking a ball around the field, passing to teammates and setting up goal scoring opportunities. In a sort, I would have wanted to compare it to ice hockey which I am very familiar with, but to my surprise the game is so much more technical and the control scheme definitely reflects that. There is the typical ball control which includes guarding the ball, special pass techniques and shooting styles. This is listed as the Attacking controls in the manual. You'll have a wide range of passing techniques as well at your disposal from lob passes to headers. Again, I was extremely surprised at the complexity of the controls when it came to just moving down the field and setting up your scoring opportunity. You'll also have skilled maneuvers which allow you be quite tricky and almost showing off with the ball as you progress down the field. Anything from step overs to juggling will have your opponents wondering whats next. The control scheme while fairly complex seems to work well with the gameplay and it really does give you a good sense of control moving around the field. If you decide to be a goalie in Be a Pro mode, you'll have your own set of controls for that position as well.
While my understanding of the rules in soccer is rather low to non existent, the game really does seem to help us less knowledgeable folks. For instance, I understand what an offsides call is and its very precise as to when an offside call is made in hockey, but I found myself a little baffled in FIFA. The nice thing is that at any point I was in danger of being called offside a small checkered flag would appear warning me of the impending violation. This would allow me to make an adjustment without having my offensive attack interrupted. From what I can tell and the research I have done it seems the rules are very well portrayed in the game and should keep those die-hard soccer fans happy and content.
One thing I found very impressive was the color commentary included. The calls seem to give a sense of realism and actually helped me understand the game from time to time. They also used terms and phrases as to which I had no clue what the heck they were talking about so this would definitely lend to my thinking that this game should make a soccer fan feel right at home. The crowd cheers and groans also add to the experience and realism of the game. Soccer fans are passionate about their teams and their sport and I believe that is definitely captured in this game.
Graphically I thought the game looked great and contained very smooth animations and control of your player's movements. The stadiums are recreated very well and the textures especially on the field seem to fit right in with the game. The uniforms are colorful and very distinguishable from team to team. You'll find that the character models are fairly representative of real ife human movements and there is quite a bit of graphical customization when creating your pro.
There are plenty of game modes both online and offline that allow for multiple ways to enjoy this game. You'll have the typical exhibition matches which allows you to choose your favorite team from any professional league on the planet and pit them up against your most hated team. There is the Be A Pro mode as stated which allows you to create a superstar and bring him up through the ranks as a rookie all the way to becoming a legendary player among the soccer greats. The Be A Pro mode is available to play both online and offline. You'll gain attributes that help increase your players abilities and move you one step close to that legendary status.
Online play allows you to form your own team with 9 other buddies and take on other teams across the world in ranked matches using the FIFA Soccer Clubs mode. The really cool feature about this mode is that regardless of your created player's online attributes both teams are identical when it comes to attributes and it all boils down to the real life skills of you and your buddies versus that of your opponent.
In the Be a Pro: Online Team Play mode you'll be teamed up randomly with 19 other players. You'll select your position that you will play throughout the entire game and at the end of the game your gameplay will be evaluated and you'll receive experience points to be added to your player's skill attributes which will increase his abilities on the field over time. Each game you play gives you the opportunity to earn more points to better your created player.
There is something called the Adidas Live Season which allows you to customize your game to that of the performance of your favorite real life teams and leagues. A code to download an update for free is included on the back of your manual, but you'll have to pay to get other updates if you so choose. Updates are supposedly put out on a weekly basis from October 2008 to May of 2009. Not sure if this is an option that will be widely popular or not, but a few folks may be interested in it none the less. Frankly I would think you could just go in an edit a teams attributes to reflect their real world, but then again that could be a lot of work. Pay to play? No thanks.
Interactive League is an option that allows you to play as your favorite team online against rivals online that reflect real world situations. Your result, along with that of others who support the same team will determine where your team in ranked in the overall world rankings. In this mode its not just about your own win/loss record, but a collective effort of all those that play using the same team. Of course you'll have your standard EA Online Leagues which allows you and 31 friends to participate You'll be able to set your own rules and play against folks across the world.
And finally when it comes to online options, you'll be able to upload videos of replays you saved using the Instant Replay features. You can upload those to EA Sportsworld for the world to see your best or most embarrassing moments. This is always a cool feature no matter what sport you are playing.
Offline play includes Be A Pro Mode, which can allow 3 friends to join in and help you progress your pro's career. The better performances you have the better your pro will progress and become a star. As well as, sub par performances on a regular basis could lead to your demotion and quickly find yourself playing for the club's reserve team.
There is probably so much more to this game which I cannot even begin to understand due to my lack of knowledge of the sport. But I have to say that even with the fact of not being a fan of the sport, I had a good time and pleasant experience playing this game. The controls, while complex at times, are simple enough for anyone to pick up and play and soon be scoring goals as well as slide tackling without getting a yellow card. The graphics are very good and the sounds fit quite perfectly in into the scheme of the game and add the sense of realism and fanaticism that goes with this game especially outside of the United States.
I would highly recommend this game to any soccer fan and would also go as far to recommend it to someone looking for a bit of a change in the sport genre of games. Will this be played for hours on end by a person like myself? I highly doubt that, but again its the product of not being a fan. I could see a fan spending many days and hours just building up the experience of their created player online let alone playing their offline career. EA definitely delivered a solid soccer title that can appeal to the most passionate fans as well as the casual fans. Check out FIFA 09 today and be the judge yourself.
Suggestions: Add in some basic tutorials or even easy game mode on the game of soccer explaining it in depth to those of us that are not knowledgeable of the game. Most regarding the rules and penalties of the game as I had a hard time understanding exactly what was going on at times and why I was being carded or tossed from the game.