FIFA '09 takes the series back to the top of the league. Amazing visuals with vastly improved game play

User Rating: 8.5 | FIFA 09: World Class Soccer X360
In Brief

The Good:
-Great visuals and player models & likeness
-Massive choice of leagues and clubs
-Excellent game play
-The grace between linking player animations is superb
-Great match day atmosphere and TV style broadcasting
-Solid online
-Being able to control goal celebrations is a nice touch
-Great online

The Bad:
-Terrible music selection that bears no resemblance to football or males come to think of it
-All the games faults and flaws feel grounded to the menu's and Career and Be a Pro Seasons
-The Career and Be a Pro seasons are ridiculously over-long

I have always been a fan of the FIFA series I never thought the gap between the game play and Pro Evolution was that big that it concerned me and I always favoured it's authenticity. Being a slave to the completely unnecessary yearly updates, actually scratch that. It's just occurred to me that there is always a new FIFA title in the new year now also. After the six monthly updates and them not improving many of the games flaws and just to re-brand it, give us new menus and updated teams and football kits finally forced me to quit the series in '06 from disgust until they made an effort. I l did go back to the series down the years by loaning a copy my friends but it was the same old story so my money stayed in my pocket.
When the next gen game you couldn't help but marvel at the incredible graphics the series now boasts but upon playing it, the game play was worse than ever . Constantly bogged down in defence against the AI, executing trick moves was next to impossible, forced to go back to playing the game you had to from FIFA's of the start of the 21st century by passing around defenders as it was impossible to run around them and then you had Superman himself in a goal keepers jersey to try and beat and embarrassingly I couldn't get to grips with the game on the easiest difficulty.

If my research serves me correctly the Canadian EA Sports development team (please correct me if I am wrong!) behind the next-gen versions of FIFA '07 and '08 aren't at the helm of the 2009 edition and it is now in the hands of a in house developer based in Guilford England. Sounds a promising start, the game in the hands of a country who's biggest national sport is football in the hands of people with a real passion for the sport and a country that let the French leave a big impression on it…
FIFA '09 features the widest choice of leagues, clubs and players ever seen in a video game isn't a bad start.

2009 has been the big resurgence of EA, despite some stinkers managing to sneak into their line up I can report with great delight and pride FIFA is back! Pro Evolution being in the free fall decline it's in and the vast improvements and visual pornography in FIFA has surpassed its Japanese rival.

The game still isn't without fault however. Playing single player against the AI still feels as though it needs some work. You do spend way too much time chasing the ball when you aren't in possession, the trick stick needs some work (which I will go into detail about further down) and the computer makes too many 90 degree runs absolutely no-where. The tackling needs work too, all to often you feel as though the referee penalises you all to frequently for boarder line challenges and it is insult to injury that the AI gets away with the exact same tackles and worse almost all the time. That is where all the game play problems stop and are relatively minor to begin with.
It addresses so many problems that were brutally wrong for years with the most notable being you can not only run past defenders now but with practice you can dance around them fancy skills leaving them humiliated them.
The biggest overhaul has gone into the trick stick. I'm not entirely sure if I like the form of control but it does feel very good when using it on the screen. It's not a simple case of flicking it left to do a trick, you have to move the stick in a sense how you would move your feet to do the trick in real life. That does sound terribly complicated and off putting I agree but it is a relatively simple system. For example flicking the right analogue stick forward to back (depending on which way your player is facing) the player will back heel the ball onto his trailing leg then kick it forward with the opposite foot and another demonstration is if you flick the stick forward and rotate it 180 degrees backwards your player will spin on the ball around the player. There is a lot more tricks that can be performed with varying difficulty. My one gripe with the system is that sometimes you are spinning the analogue stick and your player doesn't do a thing which leads you to spinning it around more furiously to even less effect. The way all the movements link together is flawless, completely resounding.

There is a lot of technical wizardry in this title. The graphics are the biggest selling point. The player models and likeness are incredible and is a real compliment to the studio on just how many models they've had to made and the sweat they start to secrete during the game. Equally astounding is the graphical detail that is expelled to the stadiums, pitch and crowd. A lot of effort has gone into the kits too. They all have varying textures to replicate the real world equivalents and stretch and ripple with the players movements, EA is really ahead in graphics here. You can't help but feel it is squandered with all the game cameras being too far out to appreciate all the smaller details. Being able not to save your replays with the way your players move and how game looks is unacceptable. Especially since you could on the PS2 and now you have a lot more storage space these days. You can upload screen shots and video segments online but they take an eternity to load.

One of the biggest features of FIFA down the years has been the broadcast presentation. I must confess I don't really like Martin Tyler's and Andy Gray's neutral commentating (you can download more real world commentators at a price) but the visuals are great. The way the game has all the animations before and after set pieces and the way it integrates action replays. The crowd singing their clubs anthems booing fouls on their favourite players help you feel in the terraces when you crank the volume up.

The Career mode is pretty much a full management simulation now but this mode (apart from everything else on this game) feels as though it is going backwards. You don't have the visual sim any more where you can watch the progress of the game and dive in to play if your team is doing badly so are forced to play overly long matches (having to play around 70 ten minute matches each season is complete gaming over kill, then you have another 14 to play!) or use the Quick Sim. There's more problems however. You can't select the kit numbers for players 'fair enough' you may think but if you sign Cristiano Ronaldo you don't want him wearing the number '2' shirt do you? Metaphors aside.
As I've said it is overly long and the abysmal EA Trax on this game doesn't make the experience any less monotonous and hampers it even more. There is nothing in the track selection you would associate with football. Duffy? Christ's sakes EA.
You can take your local lower league team (Hartlepool in my case) and make them win absolutely every tournament going but you can't upgrade the stadium from a seven thousand to a more Premier League standard 50,000, you don't get the big deal sponsorships and as a consequence you can't buy the world's best players so what's the point? It is only the biggest and most successful clubs from today's game you can have continuing financial prominence in which to have all the worlds best players in the future with. The last gripe I have with it is that is constantly saving and it's not an instant thing or something that is done in the back ground either and the problem is a million times worse if you try to get around the problem if you turn the auto-save feature off. After every game you are asked to save your progress, then you are asked if you are sure you don't want to save, then you are asked to save again and that you are sure you don't want to save. It drives you up the wall to a point where the game disc almost goes out your living room window at mach 5 speed.
The magic about the career mode I have always loved is signing an unknown 15/ 16 year old player from your academy or by scouting from another club and watch them grow into a 93+ rated player and watching them take the sport by storm.

Be a Pro mode returns, no big improvements here; The four season Be a Pro mode lasts an eternity and has you bored about three weeks into the second season but the ability to play online in 10 v 10 player action is sublime! Patrolling your position as you would in real life and watching team mates make a howler that gives a goal away and setting up or scoring a goal makes you feel on the pitch on Sunday morning.

Concluding then FIFA '09 is possibly the greatest football sim ever made. The technical excellence and visuals with the FIFA's series authenticity and broadcast trademarks now being met with incredible game play. This title has completely won me back from my years in exile. I expect big things from next years update…