With Euro 2008 over, EA Sports and the soccer gaming public can now turn their attention to FIFA 09 and begin to wonder what the new version of the game will bring.
After a successful '08 campaign, the development team for FIFA isn’t resting on their laurels. FIFA 09 boasts more than 250 key improvements to gameplay, broken down into three key areas.
The development team took the time and effort to listen to constructive criticism of FIFA 08 and pack as much of the recommendations into the game as possible. According to Line Producer Dave Rutter, FIFA 09 is trying to become the undisputed number one game on the market when it comes to gameplay experience.
For those who are looking to manage a team on the pitch as much as play, FIFA 09 is also going to include a brand new tactics system, with more than 140 different options each for defense and attacking, as well as the ability to discuss and trade your tactics with other players.
The “Be A Pro” mode from last year has also been expanded, with shades of MLB The Show’s “Road to The Show” being thrown into the game.
On The Pitch
The development team was really trying to improve FIFA 09 in three key areas. The first, is overall responsiveness with the goal to give the player more control over whomever he was controlling.
This means more responsive dribbling, with smoother animations and more realistic moves. Players will be able to change direction mid-step and have momentum play a part in how their player reacts. In other words when you get the ball you’ll move and act like a professional player would.
"According to Line Producer Dave Rutter, FIFA 09 is trying to become the undisputed number one game on the market when it comes to gameplay experience."
Off the ball, your computer-controlled players will move more realistically as well. Instead of passing and lazily moving without the ball, players will move with more “professional urgency.”
Other physics and momentum-related aspects of the game have been changed. Players will now experience mid-air collisions when going for a header. Players who are tripped will fall or catch their balance with an appropriate animation depending on how they are tripped and where contact is made.
So if a player is breaking toward the net for an open shot and is tripped from behind, a few different things could happen. For instance, if his leg isn’t planted when he’s hit he might stumble, catch his balance and keep going instead of falling to the ground.
Players moving into each other will also have collisions, impacting your timing on things like headers and one-timers. The jostling system has also been improved to give players a greater range of movement and not feel like they’re on tracks.
FIFA's look has been tweaked for the better.
One big addition to FIFA 09 is a robust tactics system. Players are able to edit their teams strategy for defense, attack, and goal scoring methods. The goal of this new system is to make each match unique from any match played before, while also creating the ebb and flow, give and take of a real soccer match.
In all three scenarios, players will have sliders they can adjust from one extreme to another in 11 different areas. For instance on defense players can adjust the team's mentality, width, aggression and positioning.
The sliders give you every range of defensive play, from waiting back and trying to protect a goal, to aggressively pressing your opponent trying to get the ball back.
"Computer controlled teams will also be changing their tactics on the fly and responding to what they see you doing."
These tactics can be adjusted on the fly, letting players adjust and change their strategy based on the circumstances on the pitch.
For those not interested in playing around with these settings, preset tactics will also be available.
Computer controlled teams will also be changing their tactics on the fly and responding to what they see you doing. It will also change based on how the match is playing out. So a team that is behind will no longer be content to finish the day with no points, and instead will press to try and get the equalizer.
Player AI, especially that of goalkeepers, has also been improved. While there weren’t many specifics given, we do know that keepers are now able to change direction at the last second and respond to what the player with the ball is doing. For instance a player getting ready to dive left will see the ball move right and try to change direction enough to make the save.
FIFA 09 is also trying to do a better job of taking player ratings and having those influence the performances on the pitch -- with the goal of having a cyber Fernando Torres play more like his real-life counterpart.
Be A Pro
One of the exciting new features of FIFA 08 was the Be A Pro mode. Basically you were able to take control of a single player and play soccer from that player's point of view. (Later Be A Pro was expanded to allow 5-on-5 matches online.)
In FIFA 09, Be A Pro will be expanded to a career mode. You can either create your own player or take over an existing player, and play four seasons of a career with the ultimate goal of taking your country's team to the promised land and International Cup glory (presumably this is the World Cup, but EA can’t say that).
(Four seasons was selected, according to the development team, because they felt it was the right length that provided a clear beginning, middle and end to a player’s career in the mode.)
Be a Pro mode now spans over multiple seasons.
As you play games you will get experience points that you can then use for your player's attributes (similar to FIFA last year). As you play, your player will get better (or worse) depending on performance, with this impacting his future.
After picking your player you will play ever match he participates in. So if you decide to select our friend Fernando Torres, you’ll play for Liverpool in all its Premiership games, in the Champions League (or more accurately the fake acronym used for it in the game), and on the Spanish national team.
International play will include everything from the International Cup to reserve team games.
Keep your browsers tuned to Operation Sports as we release the newest FIFA Soccer 09 info as we get it!