The next instalment of EA’s football game is here. Where you ask? Apparently the game has released in Europe and has rapidly spread all over the bit-torrent network. Some may have pre-ordered their copies while some might be waiting for it to hit the store shelves in their town. However, the ones who couldn’t wait for the game to release and were not afraid to get their hands dirty, got their hands on it through the generous torrent community. So what we have here is a scenario where people were playing the game one day before its scheduled release. Nice.
Anyways, let’s get down to the interesting part, the things most of you would like answers to. Is FIFA 09 really next-gen, as promised? Does it deliver oh-so-realistic visuals? Have the quirks and bugs in previous versions been ironed out? How does it compare to its arch nemesis – Pro Evolution Soccer? All these and more will be answered!
Okay, I’ll skip the installation part as most of you are aware of it. Started the game, and the first screen asks me to select a language. Did that, and the mandatory declarations about the leagues and the copyrights came up.
I waited with bated breath as the opening cinematic began. Looks like EA have stopped making interesting opening videos since FIFA 2004. Even the video quality was not all that impressive. Not at all enticing. Selected my beloved Chelsea as the favourite team and I was all set.
The interface is carried over from FIFA 08, with Adidas Live Season being a new addition. It basically allows you to select a league, for which you’ll get periodic updates from EA. For example, if a certain player is performing well in real life, his stats will be affected in the game as well. And if a player has a dip in form, his game stats will be reduced. Cool, innit?
The much-acclaimed Be-A-Pro mode is also there, with a new camera angle that looks better than the one in FIFA 08. This time around, you can opt to play a single Be-A-Pro game rather than a whole season. The other game modes are the same as in previous releases. Enough small-talk, now let’s get down to business.
Gameplay & Visuals
Sadly despite all the hype surrounding the so-called next-gen features incorporated in FIFA 09, the game did not live up to my expectations. What I expected was pretty clear – smooth, stunning visual quality, fluid player movement, ‘intelligent’ AI, engrossing gameplay. In short, I was looking for something which would make me go “Wow!” and make me want to play the game again and again.
But this was not to be. Now please note, I’m expressing my own opinions here, which may or may not correspond to your views. The first time I fired up the game, I set all details to high including 3-D Grass, Depth of Field and Shader Quality. Then I proceeded to set up my cheap PS-2 controller lookalike. But what’s this? Some buttons just would not get mapped and remained ‘EMPTY’! After a little searching on the Internet, I was able to find a solution for this.
Then I started a quick match and waited in anticipation at the loading screen. Ahh!! Looking good! The match began and being the seasoned footballer that I am, I could’t wait to… what the hell??
Why is the game stuttering??? Is something wrong with my setup? Is my 8600GT graphics card unable to handle the next-gen visuals?
Quit the game, reduced the detail level to minimum and started a new match, hoping for better results. Damn. Not again.
After much research on the Internet, I found many unfortunate souls plagued with the same problem. A solution was found, but the game was still not smooth enough, though playable.
Okay, so I can manage with a handicapped controller and laggy visuals, but glitches in gameplay? Not at all tolerable. The first glitch is, that after managing to get my controller working, whenever I pass the ball to a teammate, the ball bounces off him, as if the right-analog stick is pressed in some direction. Secondly, goalscoring is insanely easy! It’s as if the keepers have been picked up from a pub team!! Then, in a bid to improve the player physics, they’ve made it such that in a crowd of players, the ball just keeps bouncing off players until someone manages to get control of it. Imagine that while trying to clear the ball in front of your own box surrounded by opposition attackers.
Strike Three. You’re OUT.
Let’s start with the good. The players look absolutely breathtaking, much more realistic than ever. The crowds have been considerably improved. Overall visual quality is pretty nice, with some subtle touches such as sweat on the foreheads of players. The ambiance is well-maintained by the chanting of fans and the crowd noises. There are loads of licensed leagues, teams and players to chose from. The Adidas Live Season is a good concept. The ability to use the mouse to play the game is quite innovative.
Now for the not-so-good. The gameplay is definitely not next-gen. Players can still move only in 8 directions and the fluidity in movement is almost absent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not so intelligent. Apart from the visual elements, the game is not a big leap from its predecessor. Rather, it seems like 1 step forward, 2 steps backward. After all, it’s not just tricks & flicks that make up a football game. The core element, that is the gameplay, the feeling of actually being in the game, is lacking.
FIFA 09 is a good game, but after so much hype, I was expecting more than just a visual upgrade. There are several bugs that need to be ironed out and more than once, you’ll get the feeling that EA has short-changed PC gamers.
If I had to rate it, I’d give it 7 out of 10.
- Where is Andrei Arshavin? One of the best performers of Euro 2008 can’t make it into this game.
- Where are the UEFA Cup holders Zenit St. Petersburg? Actually, where is the Russian League?
- Klaas Jan Huntelaar, one of the best strikers in Europe, coveted by some of the biggest clubs, does not have a face in this game. But he’s not alone, there are many more like him.
- Many gamepads don’t work out-of-the-box with this game.
- Graphics on high-end systems are poor, but surprisingly good on mid to low range machines.
- Why can’t we assign custom offensive and defensive runs to players?
- Where is Mineiro, who has now signed for Chelsea?
- When a player is substituted, I couldn’t find out the substitution if no cinematic was played. There could have been at least a simple popup.
- The cinematics are all from previous editions of the game.
Okay, so that’s enough FIFA-bashing for now. In short, it’s not a bad game at all, but it’s not great either. So if you love the FIFA series and don’t care too much about gameplay or simply want to soak in all the visual goodness, you can very well go and get this game. Otherwise, in my opinion it would be wise to wait until Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 releases, and compare both games to pick out the one that suits your taste.