GOONL!NE Review: Fifa 09

Developer: Electronic Arts Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Also on: Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2
Console Played on: PLAYSTATION 3
Release Date: Friday October 3rd 2008
Rating: PEGI 3

Here’s a little story for you.

I was on the PSN, before writing this review, playing the game when I get a message from one of my friends saying “PES > Fifa”. And you know what, he’s right too…that’s if in a very rare case the TARDIS shows up in front of you, grabs you in by the neck and chucks you out into 2002 when Pro Evolution Soccer 2 was getting released.

Everybody loved Pro Evo since the first edition back in 2001 for it’s arcade football like roots while it became noticeable to most people that Fifa was fast becoming stale.

As far as football games went last gen, Pro Evolution won it. But within the past few years, just before the Xbox and GameCube withered away into the shadows and the PS2 was being hooked on a life support machine since the unveilment of the PLAYSTATION 3 back at E3 2005, EA was planning Fifa’s comeback and it was coming into force with Fifa 06.

And it’s coming has been starting to show in recent years.

Pro Evo 6 wasn’t a very good start to the next gen battle of Football games while with Fifa 07, the first next gen verison of the Fifa series, it became obvious that the Pro Evo series was starting to decline in and Fifa was on the up.

Now, after a fantastic year for EA Canada with Fifa 08 being the more superior football game then Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, is this at long last, finally the year that EA truly reclaim the football gaming crown with Fifa 09?

There are so many features in Fifa 09, you’d think that it’d clutter the game a fair bit! But it doesn’t. Be a Pro mode returns and it has vastly improved. As well as being a pro for a match in a single player match as well as create your own pro footballer and mentor him over 4 seasons from club football all the way to the national team, in Fifa 09, you also get more out of your money this time’s worth with Be a Pro.

You get 10vs10 Be a Pro online so you can meet up with other players like you to take control of a player from a certain team on a certain position on the field. Example – It’s Utd vs Barcelona, I pick the position I wish as long as no-one else picked it before me before the game chooses who I’ll be that relates to the postiton I choose as in if I pick Striker, it could pair me with Dimitar Berbatov or Wayne Rooney or for Right Midfield, Cristiano Ronaldo.

But as well as Be a Pro mode, you get Clubs, a clan like mode where you can invite your friends to a club made by you. Lets say I make GOONL!NE United, I can invite 9 people with myself not included as I am the creator to play Be a Pro mode online, 10vs10.

Also included, there is the Adidas Live Season mode where you get weekly updates of stats on real life player’s on how they perform in the real world that weekend. You get 6 leagues which are the Barclays Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundasliga, Ligue 1 and BBVA but do be warned, it ain’t free…somewhat. While you do get a code when you buy Fifa 09 allowing you the chance to download a pack from the either one of the 6 leagues, you’ll get that pack for free for the remainder of this season (that’s the 2008/2009 season), after that, you’ll get charged each season.

If you want another pack after downloading your free one, I am afraid your gonna have to pay for that one. They are £6.99 on the PS Store for each pack or £12.99 for all 6 which is a bit pointless considering that this is Fifa and you get a new edition every year, unless the packs are changeable to Fifa 2010, there was no real point in adding in this feature.

Also, there is Online Leagues you can join or create a league made by you for you to play in with your friends.

And as well as that, there is Interactive Leagues. Interactive Leagues were brought in at Fifa 07 to try and re-create real life situations in the 6 big leagues that are part of the Adidas Live Season as well as your favourite club in the game (when you first boot up the game, you will be asked to select a team, that team will represent you in Interactive Leagues).

At the time of writing, my favourite side, Manchester United, recently beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0 but in Interactive Leagues, while it is recreated in real life with the two teams meeting up in the game as in real life on Home and Away status (in this case, United was away), you will be paired up with fans of Blackburn Rovers if your a United fan in the game basically put.

Finally, Manager Mode has been expanded on and while it has improved a fair bit, it’s the only bit where it cant catch it closest rival, Pro Evolution Soccer and the Master League.

Oh, and exclusive to the PLAYSTATION 3 verison of the game, there is a Fifa Interactive World Cup section there for anybody hoping to get into next year’s Interactive World Cup.

The gameplay is absolutely smooth and solid in Fifa 09, the game pretty much depends on (depending on your difficulty) rough battles within midfield as well as possession. Offside traps too play a key part, depending on where and when you set it. Play it right and well…your alright, not a chance for them to score. Play it wrong though and well, things could get hairy.

It’s a good thing then that you can set it up with a simple touch of the D-Pad. Up for your Attack options, Down for your Defence options, where you can set up an offside trap and other defensive options.

Your right stick also shouts out to you once you know what to do with it “I WANNA HELP YOU, LET ME HELP YOU!” as R3 is very important considering it not only counts as your go to guy (or stick in this case) for your tricks (by using L2 + R3) but more importantly, it counts as your first touch depending on where you wanna go.

But even when you decide which part of the pitch to go with your first touch, it could horribly wrong so time your first touch perfectly and correctly if you wanna have a decent pop at goal from far out. And speaking of taking a pop at goal from far out, free kicks in Fifa aren’t easy anymore, they’ve taken the Pro Evolution Soccer approach with it, aim and get the power bar within the right area instead of the easy concept of marking the ball with the analog stick then get Point A of the cursor to match with Point B to score and 90% of the time, it’d work.

Granted, the last Fifa which had this was Fifa 06 and since then, it took the Pro Evo style of taking free kicks but each year, it’s been progressively getting getting harder and harder each Fifa since Fifa 07 and in Fifa 09, it’s no different.

Just aim, put enough power into the ball (not too much though, it will go over…obviously) and hope that it goes in. But if you do score, free kick or no free kick, there is a good feature in letting you do your own celebration with the Analog Sticks like silencing the crowd, putting your hands to your face and many more.

The presentation in Fifa 09 is second to none. It has up to 500 teams in the game, 40 National teams and up to 30 leagues including my national league, the FAI Eircom League Premier Division as well as 49 stadiums in the game, 23 of which are real life stadiums including Old Trafford (Manchester United), Wembley, the Nóu Camp (Barcelona), the San Siro (AC & Inter Millan) plus more although why they took out the Bernabou (Real Mádrid) boggles my head as Real Madrid are one of the best sides in the world.

Plus, some pretty fine commentary from Martin Tyler and Andy Gray of Sky Sports once again trump that of Pro Evolution Soccer (Or well, that of the old pairing of Peter Brackley and Trevor Brooking anyways, christ anything was better then them two).

But even when Fifa was in it’s darkest days while Pro Evo was shining on, Fifa did have one thing that Pro Evolution Soccer could not, licenced teams. Yes, Pro Evo has now got licences from all over the place and recently acquired the Champions League licence to be put into use for Pro Evo 2009 but even then, they didn’t have full licences to teams, players, leagues and kits.

Fifa 09 shows once again how strong it is in the licencing department with full replica kits of the teams in Fifa 09 as well as perfect likenesses to every single player in the game as well as having any promoted and relegated teams back in the leagues they went to (Like Stoke, Hull and West Brom go up into the Premier League, Reading, Birmingham and Derby go down to the Championship)

And the graphics are just top notch once again for a Fifa game, it’s nice that when you see the lighting dim in and out as you cycle through the crowd sometimes during a pause. As well as that, it will show in the match how late it would be getting like an afternoon kick-off and by the time it’s all over, it’s turning into a dusky Saturday afternoon.

And there must be some serious music lovers in EA Canada, they pick once again a fantastic soundtrack to the game like they did in Fifa 06 and Fifa 07 (The two best soundtracks in a Fifa game) with artists including CSS, Sam Sparro, Hot Chip, Duffy, The Ting Tings, Damien Marlay, The Fratellis and a new song from Kasabian that is gonna be on their new album but there is also some stuff there that aint from the mainstream stuff like The Whip, Radiopilot, Cut Copy and The Kissaway Trail who have that sort of Arcade Fire feeling to them.

Final Thoughts: Let me go back to the start of this review and re-visit a question I asked.

Is this, at long last, finally the year EA truly reclaim the football gaming crown with Fifa 09?

The answer is a resounding yes. Granted, we’re still to see if Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 can do one better then it’s botched predecessor last year but Fifa 09 is a fantastic football game experience, probably the best I’ve ever played.

Only a few niggles keep it from scoring a full 10 but it was close to doing so. Fifa is back and, at least until October 17th when Pro Evo 2009 is released possibly with a chance, Fifa 2009 reign’s supreme as the best football game this year and probably one of the best football games of all time.

Gameplay: 9 – Jam packed with so many features which do feel needed (except the Adidas Live Season) + the gameplay is absolutely brillant as you fight for possession of the ball within attack and midfield.

Presentation: 10 – It is presented with such tidiness, the music is once again outstanding, the combo of Tyler and Gray for commentary, the licencing, everything which falls into this category is perfect.

Lifespan: 10 – There is more then enough here to get you through to next year’s Fifa with Interactive Tournament’s, Online Tournament’s, 10vs10 Be a Pro mode as well as the Clubs system.

Overall: 9/10 – If your a Pro Evo person, we encourage you to rent this game at least. Dont worry, it wont bite. If your a Fifa person…well, there’s no point in telling you to get this game, you most likely already have it. And for any neutrals on the wall, get this game, it’s seriously one of a kind.

But EA, as much as they are great players, don’t put Ronaldinho and Wayne Rooney on the front cover for next year, we’re sick and tired of seeing them for the past 3 years.

4 Responses to “GOONL!NE Review: Fifa 09”

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