FIFA Soccer 09 review
Available for
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher
Electronic Arts
FIFA Soccer 09

Reviewed by Jason Zingale

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W

hile Electronic Arts’ other sports titles have all laid down a solid foundation, to which they can make minor adjustments each year, the company’s “FIFA Soccer” series seems to always be in a state of flux. Hopefully, that has finally come to an end with the release of “FIFA Soccer 09,” which expands on the progress made in last year’s edition with a deeper and more enjoyable Be A Pro mode, advanced AI and shooting mechanics, and a more fluid all-around playing experience.

When Be A Pro debuted in “FIFA 08,” it was little more than an undeveloped add-on that allowed gamers to experience what playing a single position for a full 90 minutes felt like. It was essentially an on-the-job tutorial, but instead of teaching you how to play the game, it taught you how to play soccer in real life. This year, it’s become a full-fledged game mode – a four-season campaign that tracks your player’s progress through his early days on the club reserve team to his big call-up to the national team. Along the way, you’ll fight to earn captaincy and earn experience points based on your weekly performance. Additionally, EA has taken the Be A Pro mode to the next level online (allowing for 10 v 10 matches), but it’s not as great as it sounds. After all, who wants to get stuck playing center back (or for that matter, any defensive position) for an entire match? The only one that might be fun to play is goalkeeper, but sadly, that’s the only position that’s not available. What do you expect? They need something to save for "FIFA 2010."

Also new to “FIFA 09” is Adidas Live Season and Custom Team Tactics. The former is an add-on you can buy that updates in-game player information based on their real-life performances. So if Cristiano Ronaldo has a bad week, his digital self will play just as poorly. It’s a cool little feature for those looking to further blur the line between reality and fantasy. But while EA gives you access to one free league, the fact that you have to pay for all of the others limits this feature to diehard fans only. The same is true for Custom Team Tactics, which gives you complete control over 11 different tactical sliders that determine how your team plays. Most people probably won’t care about whether or not their wingers play wide or if they prefer long balls over short passes, but it gives the hardcore crowd a little extra depth.

Causal fans are more likely to notice some of the other changes, including enhanced player animations (teammates call for passes and appeal for offsides) and improved goalkeeping (they no longer take forever to get off the ground after diving for a ball), but that doesn’t mean “FIFA 09” isn’t still plagued by some familiar problems. For starters, while the ability to fire off first-time shots has certainly improved, the shooting system in general is more sensitive than usual, causing shots to soar over the goalposts from only a few yards out. Additionally, every computer-controlled team seems to play the same way, with the main strategy comprised of launching the ball over your defense into the corner and then crossing it into the box. The biggest problem, however, is that much like “FIFA 07,” just about every tackle results in a booking. It’s annoying to say the least (especially when referees will sometimes card a player several minutes after they’ve committed a foul) and it’s the one thing that prevents “FIFA 09” from attaining a better score. EA is definitely headed in the right direction, but until they can make a game that doesn't have just as many flaws as improvements, they've still got some work to do.

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