GC 2008: FIFA 09 Hands-On

EA Sports announced a host of new features for FIFA 09 at the Games Convention, and invited us down for a play of the brand-new build.

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While FIFA 09 was never short on new features, modes, and gameplay tweaks, EA Sports used Leipzig to firm up even more additions to the game. The biggest is probably the Adidas Live Season--a weekly update that will keep all player data in the game bang up to date. There's also the new Be a Pro Seasons mode, which puts you in the boots of a single player through four consecutive seasons. We headed over to the company's booth to find out more, as well as play a match in the nearly finished game.

The Adidas Live Season is set to be a huge deal for people who have their machine connected to the Internet. Every Wednesday, you'll be able to download new, up-to-date stats for every player in your chosen league. These stats will reflect the latest performance changes over the past week, and if players get injured their stats will simply drop rather than their being forced out of the game. The FIFA 09 box will come with a code that you can use to register online and pick one country for updated stats. The choice for launch will include England, Italy, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and France, but unfortunately, if you want extra country data then you'll have to pay an undisclosed sum.

In addition to the Adidas Live Season, the Spanish La Liga divisions one and two will feature for the first time. And there's even more good news, as EA was announced a demo for the game on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live on September 11 and on PC on September 12. Gameplaywise, the new Be a Pro Season mode will give you control of a real or fictional footballer for four consecutive seasons. You'll start out as a lowly substitute if you choose to create your own character, or you can take the easier route of playing as someone like John Terry as part of the starting lineup. You'll be given tasks to accomplish in each game, such as scoring a hat trick, as well as overall season objectives like scoring 20 goals. Completing these will affect your overall stats, and thus your ability to move to other clubs.

EA Sports claims to have talked to journalists, FIFA fans and Pro Evolution Soccer fans to find out what they want from a football game. Out of the feedback, they created the new "custom team tactics" feature, which allows you to alter the minutiae of how each team plays. There are three phases to tinker with--defense, buildup, and chance creation. Everything is changed on a 100-point sliding scale, so if you choose a value of 1 in buildup, you prefer an Arsenal style of play where you like to walk it into the goal. At 100, your AI teammates will expect you to be constantly crossing the ball into the box. You can save a full league's worth of different settings for each of your favourite teams, then upload them to your EA locker to share with others.

We're happy to report that FIFA 09 is playing magnificently at this stage. The development team has balanced the speed of the game with even better physicality in the players than before. The players have also lost their plastic look. We're pleased to report that the new Adidas Live Season feature will be in the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions of the game. According to EA, they're now just ironing out the last bugs before the game hits the shelves on nearly all formats on October 3.

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