...at least it's better than Pro Evo.
FIFA 2009 was developed by EA Canada, a country not particularly well known for its footballing heritage, so even before kick-off signs were not good. Having said this, I'd quite like to start the review on a positive note by talking about the things I actually liked in the game. As we've come to expect with FIFA the graphics, sound and general presentation is much better than anything you'd find with Pro Evo Soccer. The animations are excellent as well; players will move in a realistic way rather than looking like Subbuteo pieces getting pushed around a pitch. In this regard it's definitely worth getting a few players sent off just to watch the different ways in which your opponent's players will fall to the ground.
Once again EA have excelled themselves is the sheer scale of the game. There are over 500 teams from 30 leagues in the game as well as 41 national teams. As well as this you have 32 real stadiums from around the world including Wembley, the Nou Camp, San Siro and the Estadio Azteca in Mexico. You're certainly spoilt for choice with FIFA '09.
Well, now that I've got the boring stuff out of the way I can really expose this game was what it truly is. There are so many glitches, bugs and annoyances within FIFA that it's difficult to know where to start. EA have tried to move away from the arcade style of football which they are often associated with, and give us something resembling a simulation of the beautiful game… that was the theory anyway. FIFA '09 is more akin to playground football than the sort of stuff you would see in the Premier League.
The most obvious problem is that it is very difficult to actually score a goal. It isn't uncommon to see your player kick the ball over the bar from the edge of the six yard box. There's also no obvious way of aiming the ball when you take a shot, so more often than not the ball will go straight into the hands of the goalkeeper. To further add to the frustration shots will repeatedly hit the posts and cross bar, particularly when it comes to free kicks.
You almost wonder if the developers had ever watched a football match, yet alone played in one. FIFA '09 is far too defensively minded, which really takes away from the fun and drastically slows the pace of the game. Most of the time the ball seems stuck around the midfield as all 22 players battle it out for possession. Even if you do manage to break down the opposition defence and get one-on-one with the goalkeeper it's still a challenge to get the ball in the back of the net.
As you play the game more and more you'll begin to notice the wide variety of glitches within the game. At times it almost becomes a competition to see how many offsides you can get in a match or what percentage of your shots hit the woodwork.
To EA's credit they have tried to implement a few new ideas into the game. Referees will now play the advantage, which all sounds well and good, but unfortunately it's another case of a good idea poorly implemented.
The "Lounge Mode" works very well, and allows you to set up a mini-league amongst your friends. This really adds a sense of competition to the game and gives you a good idea who the best players really are, which can help to resolve any arguments.
As much as I've criticised and complained about the game so far I'm not going to completely condemn it. As frustrating as it can be at times, FIFA '09 is actually quite a fun game to play, the fact that I'm still playing it over a month after release must say something positive. OK sure, there are some interesting design choices and the commentary it about as annoying as the plague, but at least it's better than Pro Evo.
6 out of 10