Review by fgarcia1

"Bits of improvement among broken and flawed gameplay"

As is customary for the final quarter of the year, EA Sports releases FIFA 09, accompanied with promises of improved and possibly revamped gameplay. This year, we see a fair amount of new features and gameplay changes among a sea of bugs and flaws left over from as far back as FIFA 07.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics receive some notable upgrades, among which are more realistic skin and cloth textures, a softer-looking pitch, better lighting effects, and a sizable increase in stadium details. Banners, 3D-crowds, and architectural details bring stadiums to life. Player animations are improved, though they were already fairly well-done in FIFA 08.

Sound Effects: 8/10
Sound seems to have taken a slight hit from FIFA 08. There are some new crowd chants, as well as some comments and shouting from players on the pitch. However, other crowd chants (particularly those belonging to national teams) are strangely absent where they were available in FIFA 08; for whatever reason, EA decided to remove these, leaving many international matches sounding dull.

Commentary: 8/10
Commentary is improved over FIFA 08, though still inaccurate at times; the most egregious bug in this regard occurs when a goalkeeper punches the ball and the commentator remarks that the goalkeepers are the cause for a scoreless game, despite the scoreline being 4-0. On the plus side, there are more individual comments for players and teams, along with some extended commentary regarding the game's status on the pitch (these tend to be short and vague, but it is still a fine attempt at realism).

Music: 6/10
I'm not one to judge music, as I believe this is based on individual tastes. Still, as it is my review, my opinion is that the music is, save for a few choice selections, subpar.

Gameplay: 6/10
Gameplay seems to have taken a few steps forward but is marred by bugs that, aside from being remnants from FIFA 07 and 08, basically keep the game from being fully playable. In a tribute to Pro Evolution Soccer, the gameplay appears scripted; as a player you'll see more shots strike the posts than go wide or go in. Your players are subject to long and extended animations that force you to give up easy passes and end up on the losing side of 1-on-1 challenges. Moving in for a soft tackle and successfully knocking the ball away from the opponent often sees the ball fly directly into the foot of another opponent player, another feature aptly plagiarized from PES.

Goalkeepers will often stand perfectly still when a loose ball slowly rolls towards them, oblivious to the oncoming opposition striker approaching and within striking distance. They tend to stay in place when you press the "come out of the box" button, particularly during crucial moments.

The greatest flaw comes from being locked into your currently selected player in situations when another player is much closer to the ball; this occurs primarily after corner kicks: when the goalkeeper punches the ball away, oftentimes one of your players is very close to the ball, yet the game will not allow you to select him, instead forcing you to use the player you had selected just before the keeper contacts the ball. This is one of the worst bugs ever to plague FIFA (or any sports game, for that matter); it stifles gameplay and greatly alters the flow of the game. That it has existed for two years without improvement is indicative of laziness and ineptitude from EA Sports' software engineers.

Overall: 6/10
While EA Sports has slowly improved the FIFA series, there always appears to be a scripted aspect to the game that prevents the user from truly taking control of the game. Where PES may fall short in terms of graphics and presentation, it at least allows you to play football, which is more than anyone can say for FIFA 09.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 10/29/08

Game Release: FIFA Soccer 09 (US, 10/13/08)

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