|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||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
If you play sports games, then you know that it's not often that you'll experience a lot of improvements in a particular series from year to year. Upgrades are marginal at best, if you can call a new roster an upgrade. Sometimes, it's best to wait a few years, so that you'll really notice a difference, but that kind of patience may not be possible if you're a fanatic.
Fortunately, FIFA Soccer 09 for the DS is a much-improved version. It's going to be a hit with both hardcores and weekend warriors. If you're looking for a good sports game to play on your DS, then this game is guaranteed to score big points with you.
What I noticed about FIFA Soccer 09 is that the gameplay is very focused. This game appears to have a lot of bells and whistles, at least in terms of modes and features, but it's a very cohesive package. It defines itself not by quantity but by quality. The actual gameplay is so engaging that you won't be bored looking to see "what else" the title has to offer. There are no real novelties per se, just a good solid soccer game. Keep in mind, it's not a very complex game, this is a handheld machine and we can't be expecting next-gen miracles. However, it's got more depth than what you would expect from an arcade-style game, but it's every bit as fun.
Of course, there are other elements that contribute to the engrossing gameplay. It just wouldn't be any fun if it didn't control well, or looked like a Salvador Dali painting. A new game engine has been designed to deliver more realistic graphics, incredibly smooth animation that runs at 60 fps, and a simple and responsive control system; all of this and a four-player multiplayer mode to boot. This is definitely one improved game. It makes me wonder just what EA can do to top this next year. We might have to sit this series out for a few years after this upgrade.
Similar to the new and improved graphics, the gameplay also attempts to capture as much realism as possible. Popular players are included complete with their special skills and attributes. Some are brutes on the field and can jostle the ball from smaller players, while other are fast and lithe and are capable of outrunning and maneuvering some of these big baddies. Other players such as Frank Lampard are incredibly accurate with their aim at a distance. Accessing these players at the right time allows you to exercise a degree of strategy. There are of course the run-of-the-mill players that have no discernable advantages, but they do act intelligently.
Interestingly, the A.I. for both sides does a great job of anticipating and reacting to situations on the field in real time. If you're running, you'll find a mate or two by your side guarding you or waiting to receive a pass. Your opponents also play a good game, so you'll have to watch out for them as well. As long as you can stay out of the thick of things, you'll complete more passes without interceptions. You'll also be less prone to losing the ball due to jostling from a larger opponent if you can steer clear of the crowd. It's simple, the more opponents that you're surrounded by, the more chances you have of losing the ball.
Passing, crossing, shooting, running, jostling, intercepting, and deking are all part of the moves set which are easy to access and very responsive. A lot of the credit has to go to the graphics and animation, in addition to the ball physics, which combine to make things appear and behave realistically. You can make much better real time judgments when you can actually gauge/predict the results of specific shots. A meter appears over players' heads allowing you to see exactly how much power to put into a pass or shot. This will keep you from over-shooting the ball to a teammate, and risk having it intercepted. It's another example of the refined control system that gives you a greater deal of control and accuracy.