There’s no denying that FIFA 09 encapsulates modern football. It’s got the image rights, with the sport’s global superstars gurning at you from the box and menus. It’s got the cutting-edge soundtrack, no doubt chosen in conjunction with selected media partners. It’s got licences for all the big leagues, clubs and players, presumably acquired by a cadre of crack lawyers. Oh, and there’s a game of football in there somewhere but you can take that for granted – it seems that EA do.
That said, it’s claimed that there are over 250 changes for this latest FIFA, but while they may deliver a lot of smoke and mirrors, the game still lacks any real magic. And this is all down to the way it plays, and chiefly the AI and FIFA’s long-standing preference for tricks and button presses. The AI plays a tedious game, at once far too accurate in tight clusters of players and far too regimented in general positioning. There are some 32 skill moves and 17 customisable actions, seemingly designed to help you around these deficiencies, but they’re awkward in play, and too slow to execute and animate, sapping that intuitive, fluid feel that should be the goal of every such action-simulation of a sport.
This isn’t helped by the updated collision animations, which might look okay but only serve to spoil challenging and tackling, as players bump off each other and you don’t regain control again quickly enough. A few bugs and gaffes stick out. For instance, redefining keys to a joypad is hit and miss, with some buttons not registering at all, leaving you a few tricksy controls short. Then there’s the line of commentary praising how the Arsenal team is playing – no matter who’s on the pitch. As for the new mouse controls, they just weren’t working at all.
Unfortunately, FIFA 09 inherits all the faults of FIFA 08 – including the stupidly unreal Manager mode and the infuriating AI of Be A Pro mode – and throws in a few new ones of its own. Yes, it plays football, but surely it can play better than this.
Nov 7, 2008