FIFA 09 Impressions

   01/10/2008 at 21:51       Richard Horne       16 COMMENTS.
With so many iterations of the FIFA series under Electronic Arts' belt, previews and reviews tend to almost write themselves. Blah blah FIFA vs Pro Evolution Soccer blah blah cliché cliché FIFA stole the football crown last year, blah blah advanced AI tactics, blah Andy Gray blah blah pass and shoot they do go in. Blah blah updated squads and kits blah blah. Rinse repeat.

And so it's becoming increasing difficult to write a subjective and honest, yet also original piece on the games without continually retreading old ground. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone else has even used my bloody intro before.

As the year 2008 draws to a close, FIFA 09 is upon us already. And with the updates coming as quickly as [insert auto generated Theo Walcott speed demon metaphor here], it barely feels like two minutes since we were looking ahead to last year's title.

This is a first impressions piece and not a review as I've barely had two hours with the game, and as ever, it will take some time to figure out all of the game's nuances as well as the hidden flaws that eventually reveal themselves.

But as far as my own personal first impressions of the game go, my god it's good. It's really fucking good. But where to start? The new heading mechanic? The fantastic selectable goal celebrations? The impressive new procedural animations? The last two hours have been a blur.

OK, and in no particular order.

FIFA 09's features a superb new heading system. Instead of, as in previous years, simply holding down the pass or shoot button and letting go loosely around the time the ball flashes past your head, you now have total control over when your player will attempt to head the ball - often with hilarious consequences. Release the button way too early and your player will lurch forward in an attempt to head the ball even though it's no where near him, but time the release to perfection and depending on the type of cross or pass, your player will either bullet a header into the far corner of the goal or delicately glance one into the top corner. It feels like a genuine revolution and satisfyingly rewards proper skill and timing much like real life football.

'Procedural animation' tends to be a bullshit marketing buzzword wheeled out every year and stamped on the back of the box as: (another piece of marketing bollocks) a USP or unique selling point, without actually proving all that evident or effective. Yet this year I think that EA might actually have only gone and nailed it. In my few games so far the animation of the players felt so much more natural. Players' moves and actions seemed contextual and realistic instead of canned and scripted. And you no longer get that feeling of having to wait for your player to finish his current animation routine before he can move onto the next one. Players will lean in to shoulder charge when jostling for the ball, your striker will hang in the air before cushioning a header goalwards and your winger will stretch out a leg in a last ditch attempt to swing in a cross before the ball goes over the goal line. Players will also make intelligent runs and actually point to where they want you to pass the ball, and even better will actually collect it if you play the pass into the right area.

FIFA 09 also now features, and this has to be one of my favourite new additions, selectable goal celebrations that are activated by certain button combinations. And I'd even go so far as to suggest they've almost made a mini-game of it as the more flamboyant celebrations require more complicated inputs like half or full circles and one of the bumpers. Those of you of a more restrained and humble nature can simply hold down the B button to raise a simple Shearer-esque fist to the skies as your player runs to the corner flag. It's such a simple addition but it's brilliantly implemented and rubs further salt into the wounds of your opponent when playing locally or over Xbox Live.

The controls are also now completely redefinable. There's the typical classic and alternate presets but being able to manually configure your own control scheme is another example of how EA has slowly refined and evolved the series and it's these little things that make such difference.

As a fan of the fallen giants that are Leeds United, I was also delighted to see that my team has, in the main, had the same lavish detail and attention applied to it as the more glamourous Premier League teams. Specific and recognisable crowd chants as well as the excellent commentary provided by Andy Gray and Martin Tyler actually referring to individual players massively helps add to the atmosphere, and while this isn't necessarily something new to the series, it just demonstrates the lengths that EA has gone to, paying close attention to all of the teams and not just the big boys.

Custom tactics have also been added and it's now possible to adjust all manner of sliders that control how often your team will counter attack, cross or shoot and you can tweak your defence's position, aggression and width to the minutest of detail.

Penalty shoot outs have also been deliciously tweaked slightly with the deciding penalty kick or save now initiating a heavy vibration in your joypad in time with your player's increasing heart beat. Again, yet another simple addition that adds so much to the experience.

At this point in time I sense I'm positively gushing and on the verge of becoming the quintessential fanboy, but it's important to stress that Pro Evolution Soccer WAS my football game of choice and it's only in the last two or three years that I've really taken FIFA seriously. And if it happens to be FIFA that grabs my attention this year, it will be because it's the better game and not because of an unfounded allegiance towards either EA or Konami. I support Leeds United and not FIFA or Pro Evo.

The only criticisms I can recall from my time with the game so far are the occasional moments of slowdown on replays and the fact that the Amateur setting is way too easy. The game actually determines which difficulty level it thinks you should play on based on your FIFA 08 achievements and saved game (if you have one). I beat the mighty Hereford 10-1 in my very first game in the Johnstone's paint trophy after which I soon increased the difficulty level.

In conclusion, Seabass, you're really going to have to pull something out of the bag this year if you're to arrest Pro Evo's fast declining slide to the bottom of the league. And that's before I've even touched FIFA's online leagues, Be a Pro or manager modes.

Consider me very impressed.

(More FIFA 09 reviews at TestFreaks)
User Comments:

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kentmonkey - on 02/10/2008 at 00:11 wrote:
How's the speed Hairy? I found the demo too fast for my liking, preferring the pace of last years effort but the responsiveness of this years.

Is it as fast or has it been tweaked down a little (I was playing the PS3 version).

HairyArse - on 02/10/2008 at 00:13 wrote:
The speed seems just fine to me and I certainly wouldn't describe it as fast. Probably around the same pace (if not slower than) last year's version. PES last year was really fucking fast but this feel like a really realistic speed to me.

I really though it'd be just another FIFA but so far so good.

kentmonkey - on 02/10/2008 at 00:15 wrote:
That sounds totally different to the demo then. Everyone had the pace of 'Theo-Theo' and you had about 0.1 seconds on the ball before someone who was previously 10 yards away was now right on top of you.

It was much quicker than PES last year, which I found too fast. Could be a PAL thing perhaps (I play on a SD:TV, not HD:TV) but I can't see that being the case. What version did you play?

HairyArse - on 02/10/2008 at 00:22 wrote:
I've been playing the 360 version in HDTV. I shouldn't have thought that would make much difference to be honest but you never know.

kentmonkey - on 02/10/2008 at 00:26 wrote:
I've got the PS3 version turning up (hopefully tomorrow or Friday at the latest) so I should find out then for certain.

If anyone gets the PS3 version before that, let me know what the speed's like compared to the demo, as that was the only thing I didn't like about the demo.

Micro_Explosion - on 02/10/2008 at 00:47 wrote:
As I understood it, there is an option to adjust the speed (fast, medium, slow) just before a match start but that might not be true.

The pace of the demo was certainly slightly faster than FIFA '08 but not a massive leap up; no idea if they've adjusted it since then. I think if you play for a slower build up then it isn't going to be a problem - the demo doesn't fully allow for that because half of those options were greyed out.

HairyArse - on 02/10/2008 at 00:52 wrote:
It might also depend on the team you play as. I imagine the Aresenal are fast and flowing, but I've been playing as League One Leeds and I dunno if they've been 'crippled' for being in the third division.

Micro_Explosion - on 02/10/2008 at 01:42 wrote:
I think Leeds might seem 'crippled' for very a good reason :)

Espad - on 02/10/2008 at 10:59 wrote:
please, please, does anyone know if there is online co-op vs the cpu?

HairyArse - on 02/10/2008 at 11:07 wrote:
I'll check tonight and let you know Espad.

Espad - on 02/10/2008 at 11:13 wrote:
cheers hairy!

Stevas - on 02/10/2008 at 12:16 wrote:
If they haven't added the facility to play a manager mode and let mates drop in and out...

/shakes fist

I'll be extremely disappointed. Yeah, I really need to work on this whole threatening thing, I know.

JimJam - on 02/10/2008 at 14:57 wrote:
Excellent stuff. Might well pick this up now.

Espad - on 03/10/2008 at 11:21 wrote:
any update on the co-op vs cpu thing?

Micro_Explosion - on 03/10/2008 at 19:42 wrote:
There doesn't appear to be any online co-op vs CPU. I certainly haven't been able to find it on any screen.

HairyArse - on 12/10/2008 at 13:27 wrote:
Seeing as so many people seem to have found the site recently (at least according to my stats they have) because they've been searching for FIFA 09 Xbxo 360 goal celebrations moves list, I thought I'd list them all here:

Basic Moves

Y Button - Two Arms Raised
X Button - Look At Me
B Button - One Arm Raised
A Button - Low Aeroplane

Advanced Moves 1

Right Stick 360 clockwise degree rotation from down/up - Windmill
Click Right Stick - High Aeroplane
Right Stick Down Up (Move and Hold) - Blow Kisses
Right Stick Up Down (Move and Hold) - Kiss and Point
Right Stock Right (Move and Hold) SHHHHHH!

Advanced Moves 2

Right Stick Down (Move and Hold) - Arms Low
Right Stick Up (Move and Hold) - Hold Face
Right Stight Right Left (Move and Hold) Fist Pump
Right Stick Left Right (Move and Hold) Come on! (To Crowd)

Finishing Moves

LB + B Button - Standing Arm Sweep
LB + X Button - One Knee Fist Pump
LB + A Button - Kneel Point to Heavens
LB + Y Button - Arms Out to Crowd

Advanced Moves 1

RB + Clockwise Right Stick Rotation From Down/Up x 2 then A to land - Acrobatics 1
RB + Anti Clockwise Right Stick From Down/Up x 2 then A to land - Acrobatics 2
RB + Right Stick Down Up Down - Acrobatics 3
RB + Click Right Stick - Knee Slide
LB + RB - Cancel Celebration

Advanced Moves 2

LB + Right Stick Down Up (Move and Hold) - Chest Slide
LB + Right Stick Half Turn from Left to Right x 2 - Triple Fist Pump
LB + Right Stick Up Down (Move and Hold) - Bow
LB Right Stick Clockwise Rotation from Down/Up - Forward roll and fist pump.
LB + Click Right Stick - Jump Punch

Advanced Moves 3

LT + Right Stick Clockwise Rotation From Down/Up - Cartwheel
LT + Click Right Stick - Robot
LT + Tap RB - Dance
LT + Right Stick Down Up Down - Finger Point

Advanced Moves 4

LT + Right Stick Up Up Up - Pump Up Crowd
LT + Right Stick Down Up (Hold and Move) - Fall to knees and hold face
LT + Right Stick Up and Click Right Stick - Fall to knees and beg

Advanced Moves 5

LB + Right Stick Up + Click Right Stick - Fall To Knees
LB + Right Stick Left (Move and hold) - Come On! (To crowd)
LB + Right Stick Right (Move and Hold) - Forward roll to sit
LT + Right Stick Half Rotation from down to up then Right Stick Up (Move and Hold) - I can't hear you!
LT + Right Stick Down (Move and Hold) - Fall to one knee

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