Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


FIFA 09 (Playstation 3)

Instead of resting on previous accomplishments, EA's FIFA 09 offers significant improvements in many areas. These combine to create a surprisingly deep and authentic title. FIFA 09 expands last year's Be-a-Pro mode to cover multiple seasons and allows multiplayer pro mode online matches. You can also download player forms from top leagues that mimic each athlete's performance in real time during the season. From a gameplay standpoint, the game's controls have been improved which makes each match flow much better. The tweaks make for a more intuitive title that allows you to pass and shoot with increased accuracy. FIFA 09's impressive array of new features makes it the most authentic and playable FIFA soccer title this generation, adding up to make it a solid purchase for sports gamers.

The FIFA series is definitely one of the most under-rated sports game franchises out there, and this year's edition once again brings the excitement and depth of the professional soccer to life brilliantly. It excels in terms of gameplay, design and interface. As usual, one of the most impressive aspects of FIFA 09 is the sheer volume it provides hardcore soccer fans. Featuring hundreds of officially licensed teams, thousands of players, official stadiums and even authentic game balls, the game's comprehensive list of official items makes it feel quite authentic. Most of the players are also represented here, with faithful renderings of them that look and, more importantly, play just as their real world counterparts. From Ronaldo's flashy moves, to Beckham's trademark style, you'll find almost every major star in the game. Almost all the major European clubs including Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, Arsenal and Chelsea are represented in the game, with complete rosters and tactics included as well. There's an extensive array of international teams, and other leagues such as MLS and Seire A here as well. Players can choose to play in a number of modes, choosing to play either a quick, arcade-style match in Exhibition mode, play against a rival, go through a season with their favorite club or manage the team through multiple seasons. FIFA 09's options don't end there, since players can now set up and edit their team roster, edit individual players and change tactics in a number of areas before each match. There's an impressive number of customization options for each match available that allow you to change parameters including match time, difficulty, speed and more. Players can also set up the controller's button mapping to their liking. This gives you almost unlimited control over how you want to play. This is important because, like real soccer, style plays an important role in the flow of each match and can determine whether your team flows brilliantly through a match or struggles to make plays against opponents.

FIFA 09's standard modes deliver exactly what you've come to expect from the series, but dig a little bit deeper and you'll find some truly impressive features. The 'Be a Pro' mode from last year has returned and the basic concept remains the same - you control a single player on the field throughout a match and have to play their position effectively. This is more challenging than it seems since you have to stay focused on your own individual skills and not worry so much about whether your team is winning or not. This runs contrary to most sports games on the market and really helps to differentiate the game from the pack. It's surprisingly well implemented as well, with intuitive controls that mimic team games, but with the added twist of being able to call for the ball or set up passes to other players. Pro mode is surprisingly fun and successfully performing moves, staying in position and making calls to your player make up the majority of your time. It's still a very unique feature, and the implementation this year is much more integrated into the game. For example, you can now call up to 20 other players online for a massive Pro match where each player controls their own character - which is truly an impressive technical achievement. In addition, this year's installment allows you to take your Pro player through multiple seasons and watch as they grow and build their skills. This allows you to create a cool soccer avatar that you can identify with throughout. It can either be an existing player that you've selected yourself or can be player-created character, which is pretty impressive. FIFA 09's customization engine is quite extensive in its own right and allows you to nearly create a virtual avatar that looks like virtually anyone out there. Once you're done finishing their appearance, you can then choose their attributes and skill levels, which can subsequently be built upon even further. These players can then be used in this mode, or in the standard modes when added to a team's roster. Overall, these additions to FIFA 09 are quite impressive and help you to immerse yourself into the soccer experience to an even greater extent.

These features are quite impressive and become all the more so once you get on the field and discover FIFA 09's intuitive controls and ball handling. Most players should be familiar with the basics of passing, dribbling and shooting the ball, and while these parameters remain largely unchanged, this installment seems to flow a bit better on the field. This is immediately apparent when you first boot up the game and play in the arena, where you can go head to head with a goalkeeper. Here, you can see the changes immediately, and the improved feel and flow is quite noticeable from last year's installment. When you get on the field and play a competitive match, you'll also notice that there seems to be greater shot and passing accuracy this time around. This makes for a faster, more intense experience. Players feel more responsive this time around, particularly when it comes to performing trick moves such as fakes or dodges. These techniques have been made easier thanks to the use of the right analog stick to perform these quick moves. Your team-mates are relatively smart and respond to changes on the field quickly and intelligently. Opponent AI has also been strengthened this time around, and the other team will put up quite a defense, with more aggressive tackling and blocking making it harder for you to gain momentum. Individual player tactics and styles do an excellent on-field job in recreating their real world styles, and a new element this year allows players to download player forms during the season, which update their progress as the season moves along. You can download a single league for free using the patch on the game manual and purchase additional leagues if you desire. FIFA 09's excellent controls and flow help to make it one of the best playing soccer titles from EA to date.

Improved visuals with more dynamic cameras give FIFA 09 added flair, while the basic viewpoints haven't changed, there's more sweeping angles, better cut-scenes after spectacular plays and an overall higher polish to the proceedings. The game's replay feature remains versatile and easy to use, allowing players to create and save their own mini-movies easily. FIFA 09's animations are silky smooth with fast gameplay unfolding at a fluid rate making for a pleasing visual experience. Adding to the polish are the more elaborate stadium animations and player celebrations which add to the overall excitement level. As usual, there's an excellent selection of music tracks to listen to on the arena practice field and in-game commentary is fairly good. Overall, the game's production values are excellent, showing the polish and professionalism players have come to expect from EA. With it's extensive list of features, numerous improvements and solid gameplay, FIFA 09 delivers an immersive, realistic sports experience that captures the excitement, drama and passion of professional soccer in a package that is simultaneously deep and accessible. This year's installment features enough changes and differences to make it must-purchase for any fan of the sport.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

> Related Reviews

Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (Wii)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (Playstation 3)
FIFA Street 3 (Playstation 3)
FIFA 08 (Playstation 3)
FIFA 07 (Xbox 360)
Winning Eleven 2007 (Xbox 360)