FIFA Soccer 09 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PSP | DS
FIFA Soccer 09 box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: EA Canada 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: EA Sports 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 14, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4, 2-20 Online 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Soccer Done Right
by Jonathan Marx

True to EA SPORTS fashion, FIFA 09 is little more than a marginally upgraded version from last year’s outing. That being said, FIFA 09 is an excellent footballing experience. Moreover, the few upgrades that were made seem to be concentrated in the gameplay area, a place where the game has historically suffered compared to its competition.

FIFA Soccer 09 screenshot

All in all, the entire FIFA 09 package is extremely tight. The crisp HD visuals are great, animations are indeed more fluid, and crucial details of gameplay like ball control, off the ball runs, and players defending their space have all greatly improved. Truly, FIFA 09 plays much more like real soccer than ever before. Plus, there is a new Be A Pro Season mode and the ability to customize team tactics that offer a touch of something new. If you’re a rabid soccer fan or haven’t picked up a copy FIFA in the last few years, this year’s edition is a great buy. For everyone else, there’s always next year.

The best reason to pick up FIFA 09 (outside of updated rosters) are the multitude of subtle tweaks to gameplay. Players familiar with the series will immediately feel as though they have greater control over their players. Balls seem to stay nicely glued to their feet, traps (assuming the player is skilled) drop nicely to the ground, pushing pipsqueaks off the ball with big marking backs is now a possibility, and, conversely, slight taps of the left analog stick produces appropriate mini-touches that shield the ball nicely from aggressive defenders. Also, the all-important through ball and off the ball runs are more effective. The defense will still cut out the majority of them, but when timed correctly, the tactic proves to be lethal.

I’ve also found teams to play a much more tactically sound game. This is due to the new Custom Team Tactics feature. FIFA games have long employed team-specific formations, the ability to adjust strategy mid-game, and even, to some extent, define the overall team strategy before games (focus on wing play, a possession game, the long ball, etc.). Now, however, each and every team’s specific characteristics are nicely captured by a series of sliders. These sliders fall below the overarching categories of Build Up, Chance Creation, and Defense. Under each entry, players can adjust options such as the team’s tendency to use short or long passing, their positional play, frequency of crossing, what kind of defensive pressure they utilize, overall team width, etc.

FIFA Soccer 09 screenshot

These sliders, eleven in all, really do make each team, including your own, play differently. For example, a team like Arsenal methodically builds up from the back, utilizes a lot of short passing, and often attempts to make a final cutting pass in the box to bamboozle the defense. As such, these characteristics are accurately captured by a “Slow” build up, “Free Form” positioning, and “Risky” passing during chance creation. Essentially, what this allows players to do is adjust their team’s performances exactly how they want them to play (team management has never been better) and it makes the competition feel just like they should.

Additionally, A.I. seems truer than ever. My A.I. teammates consistently helped my midfielders with diagonal runs and square support. Also, goalkeepers are more aggressive than in the past. I’ve actually been saved a number of times by the goalkeeper charging off his line to stop breakaways, and even recovering well to make a second glorious save off the rebound he let go (again, thanks to the Custom Team Tactics feature). All your opponents play in a style and manner that is commensurate with their abilities and club characteristics.

FIFA Soccer 09 screenshot

Outside of these many subtle gameplay tweaks, not a lot has changed. Players will still have access to all the classic modes, including quick play, career, tournament, and online play. However, this year, Be A Pro: Seasons mode has been added. Much like what is found in EA’s baseball and hockey titles, Be A Pro: Seasons allows you to develop and play as a player over the course of several seasons. Unfortunately, FIFA’s Be A Pro is more similar to EA’s NHL experience rather than to that of the MLB. Whereas baseball is a game that completely fits controlling just one player (gamers only have to participate in the moments that involved their pro), soccer is constantly evolving. That means touching the ball only 25 times may get boring to those that are not part of the soccer hardcore. However, for true aficionados, you do have the power to call for the ball and even tell your teammates when to shoot. So, I still felt this mode was rewarding. Moreover, improving your player from season to season and watching them elevate in the virtual footballing world and garner renown is gratifying.

Screenshots / Images
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