What We Liked
FIFA 09 is the best version of EA's soccer game yet created. The AI is insanely better than ever before, the graphics are improved, the ball bounces more realistically, the header control has been tweaked, even the WAGs are hotter than ever. (Whoops -- that last part was wishful thinking.) Mostly, winning games in FIFA 09 requires intelligence and switching up your tactics, just like a real manager would require of his team. Except for maybe Juande Ramos.
The Be A Pro mode has been expanded, and now you can take your custom created player through four years of his career playing for club and country. It's cool to play the games from a unique viewpoint, and it's fun to call for the ball and try to slot home goals. Also, I fully enjoy creating a guy from scratch and trying to build him into an elite player. (And do you think when Landon Donovan creates a player he gives him a receding hairline?)
This game has more online features than any previous version, and one of the neatest new things is the online Be A Pro game, where up to 20 people can each play in one game, controlling different players. The problems come when people play outside the team concept, but it's a very interesting way to play the game.
Taking a page from the Winning Eleven series, EA has installed what they call Custom Tactics, in which you can go in and micromanage your team's style of play and formations. You want some of me, Mourinho?
Check out FIFA 09 in action:
What We'd Change
The passing is occasionally a little too precise. it used to be that just pressing X would sent the ball to the nearest open man. But in FIFA 09, more than once I tried to redirect a ball and ended up passing it in a completely wrong direction. And as with every year, there are still problems with players making bad passes you called for moments before they received the ball.
The Adidas Live Season feature, which gives you weekly roster and player performance updates, is a great idea, but only allowing people who paid for the game to subscribe to one world league for free each year and making users pay to access more leagues isn't such a good deal.
Why is it that every time you make a substitution, FIFA gives you a cut-screen visual of the cheap seats and lighting apparatus of whatever stadium you're playing in? It's been this way in the FIFA series for as long as I can remember. Can't we get highlights, a shot of the field, anything other than a bad view of the top row of the stadium?
Another thing I don't get is why -- and this is not just in FIFA 09, but in almost every sports game -- in the create-a-player mode you can't tweak your player's appearance as you go along. Do the game designers really think any self-respecting footballer is going to have the same haircut for four seasons in a row?
If you love soccer, this is your game, it's as simple as that.
-- Reviewed by Lang Whitaker, SI.com