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FIFA Soccer 09 Preview (Xbox 360)

Since moving over to next-gen, FIFA has struggled to create an experience that relies on skills and creativity rather than exploits and “money” tactics. Whether it was the ping-pong passing down the field or the bang ball up the sides of the pitch, FIFA has struggled to make itself seem like the real thing. The organic nature of soccer is certainly hard to re-create, but the developers of FIFA have taken strides with FIFA 09 to not only remove “money” tactics, but also create an experience that finally lives up to the promises of next-gen gameplay.

One of the most frustrating things to do in Euro 08 was shoot the ball. It was near impossible to score outside the box and in general most goals were scored in very specific manners that everyone memorized and replicated. A big focus on the gameplay-side of things this year was making sure that everything about shooting -- goalkeeping, ball physics, the act of shooting, defense -- was tightened up and sharpened for ‘09. While it’s too early to say if all that focus on shooting and its surrounding elements have made a huge difference, clearly there have been refinements made in all of these areas that will improve the gameplay experience in FIFA 09.

 


EA hopes their new version of FIFA will continue it's run as the #1 best selling sports game worldwide.

I think the best way to explain the improvements I witnessed would be to simply describe a situation I found myself in when playing a human vs. human game: In the midst of a Chelsea vs. Arsenal match, I ripped a shot on net with Didier Drogba of Chelsea. As the ball approached, the goalie dove, arching his back to reach for the ball that was flying by him, missing it; but still the fact that the goalie simply didn’t dive in a straight arrow manner and realized that he needed to reach back for the ball was impressive. The ball ended up smashing off the post and careening back into play as the defense and offense scrambled to get to the loose ball. As A Chelsea player approached to head the ball into the open net, an Arsenal defender automatically -- without the aid of the human player -- went into desperation mode and made a goal-saving header of his own to knock the ball out of bounds.

The surrounding parts to the situation were just as important though: As the Chelsea player readied for a rebound header, the Arsenal keeper was already getting to his feet, much more quickly than he would have last year. (As a side note, this happens because now the goalies don’t always have to get straight up. So, if a shot goes off the left post and the goalie makes a play on the ball, then the ball goes to the right, the goalie will get up already moving to his right, therefore more easily getting to the next shot. It’s still not perfect though because sometimes the goalie will still do that dreaded slow side-step and thus be too slow to get post to post.) Clearly a lot has gone into creating new player and goalie animations to make situations like the one described above happen more regularly, keeping the soccer experience fresh and dynamic -- that would be a big step for FIFA.

Another big addition this year is team tactics. There will be various sliders to help tweak not only the style of the human players, but the CPU teams as well. This means if you want a CPU team to be more aggressive and foul you more that’s entirely possible by tweaking the particular slider. If you expect Arsenal to make short little passes all the way down the field (slicing up your defense in the process) then tweak the necessary sliders and there you have it. The menus are a bit laggy when tweaking these sliders, but otherwise it’s seamless enough. You can also set up four custom quick-select tactics that you can change on the fly in the game. So if you want to change from a quick-passing offense to a more long-ball oriented offense, then just have two different custom slider sets in place. Also, since the EA Locker is in the game this year, this means you could re-create the entire English Premier League tactics-wise, then upload and share those tactics with everyone else in the world. There’s a limit to how many tactics you can save, but there are enough slots to at least make the entire EPL if you choose. Basically if you think EA didn’t do a good job creating the way Chelsea plays in real life, then change it, end of story.

 


The FIFA 09 folks boast 250 new additions to the game this season.

Another area of concern in past versions has been the 50/50 balls as well as the jostling amongst players. The jostling has been given various upgrades, one being the effect different player sizes have on the interaction between ball handler and defender. If a bigger player has the ball, a smaller defender won’t be able to easily muscle him off the ball now, rather the defender will have to use his speed to get in front of the ball handler or simply contain the player -- which can do be done more easily with contain-like controls in place. The same type of system works into the 50/50 balls in the air. Guys like the lanky Crouch will have superior header skills due to height, but defenders who are strong can muscle him for position before the ball arrives.

The one area that perhaps isn’t seeing a ton of improvement is the hit-or-miss approach when it comes to stealing the ball. When a player is dribbling and a defender meets him head-on, it still seems like either the defender wins the ball or doesn’t, with little middle ground in between the two binary choices.

The FIFA folks like to bring up the “250 additions” being added to FIFA 09, and while I didn’t see 250, FIFA seems to be building upon the momentum from FIFA and Euro of last year and capitalizing on it with FIFA 09.


FIFA Soccer 09 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 kerosene31 @ 08/18/08 03:17 PM
The shooting and goalies sound much improved.

However, as for stealing the ball, does it still take two defenders to strip the ball away from most CPU players?

If you get in good defensive position, do the CPU players back off and look for other options, or just plow forward and try to run over you all the time?
 
# 2 ChaseB @ 08/18/08 03:28 PM
Played human vs. human games, so can't say.
 
# 3 spit_bubble @ 08/18/08 03:34 PM
From what I've read about FIFA 09 so far, two things stand out to me:

1. As mentioned in this preview... The tactics. This has a chance to really make FIFA shine... Though it's not really clear if each team has sliders, or if it's a game by game thing that you need to adjust each time, depending on who you're playing. Whatever the case, the more teams play like they do in real life, the better.

(edit: just reread the part about tactics. I guess there are slots that can be assigned to a team pregame?)

2. I read elsewhere that the animations are better and a lot more responsive this year. Tighter controls would certainly be a nice addition.
 
# 4 ChaseB @ 08/18/08 03:36 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by koshi
From what I've read about FIFA 09 so far, two things stand out to me:

1. As mentioned in this preview... The tactics. This has a chance to really make FIFA shine... Though it's not really clear if each team has sliders, or if it's a game by game thing that you need to adjust each time, depending on who you're playing. Whatever the case, the more teams play like they do in real life, the better.

2. I read elsewhere that the animations are better and a lot more responsive this year. Tighter controls would certainly be a nice addition.
1. You can save them outside the game, and they stay like that for next time.

2. Animations are way more impressive this year because they are more free-form and natural. Couldn't say yet if the controls are much tighter or not yet -- though I thought they were already pretty good in Euro.
 
# 5 spit_bubble @ 08/18/08 04:12 PM
Here's where I read about the tighter controls.

"...You donít find yourself desperately pressing buttons to make a winning play only to discover that by the time the game has got around to executing it the opportunity has passed... ...And you donít find yourself closed down by lunging defenders while you simply wait for the player and ball to get their **** together so you can pass the bloody ball..."

**** yeah I mean ******* ****.
 
# 6 coach422001 @ 08/18/08 05:38 PM
Chase: Thanks for the review. I know you played human v human, but would you happen to know if they have included CPU v CPU this year?

Thanks
 
# 7 ChaseB @ 08/18/08 06:17 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by coach422001
Chase: Thanks for the review. I know you played human v human, but would you happen to know if they have included CPU v CPU this year?

Thanks
Sorry, no I don't.
 
# 8 spit_bubble @ 08/18/08 08:04 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by koshi
From what I've read about FIFA 09 so far, two things stand out to me...
I should've made myself more clear... Two positive things...

And on the other hand... From this OS preview:

"...The one area that perhaps isnít seeing a ton of improvement is the hit-or-miss approach when it comes to stealing the ball. When a player is dribbling and a defender meets him head-on, it still seems like either the defender wins the ball or doesnít, with little middle ground in between the two binary choices..."

This aspect really contributes to the constant back and forth action of FIFA, along with defending players closing down too fast in the midfield area and not playing enough positional defense.

ChaseB... If you can answer this from your time with the game... How is the overall team defense in the midfield area? Would defending players try to channel players properly, and close down more methodically like they should?
 
# 9 ChaseB @ 08/18/08 10:14 PM
Well I was playing human vs. human games. But there's some new defending controls this year which should help you better keep the flow of players to specific spots. Whether you press a button to more or less contain a player, or another combo to close down harder, there's more ways to defend now in the midfield area. I'd say in my play time there probably wasn't quite enough time spent in that middle half of the field.
 
# 10 sportsdude @ 08/18/08 10:34 PM
Quote:
Another big addition this year is team tactics. There will be various sliders to help tweak not only the style of the human players, but the CPU teams as well. This means if you want a CPU team to be more aggressive and foul you more thatís entirely possible by tweaking the particular slider. If you expect Arsenal to make short little passes all the way down the field (slicing up your defense in the process) then tweak the necessary sliders and there you have it. The menus are a bit laggy when tweaking these sliders, but otherwise itís seamless enough. You can also set up four custom quick-select tactics that you can change on the fly in the game. So if you want to change from a quick-passing offense to a more long-ball oriented offense, then just have two different custom slider sets in place. Also, since the EA Locker is in the game this year, this means you could re-create the entire English Premier League tactics-wise, then upload and share those tactics with everyone else in the world. Thereís a limit to how many tactics you can save, but there are enough slots to at least make the entire EPL if you choose. Basically if you think EA didnít do a good job creating the way Chelsea plays in real life, then change it, end of story.
giggidy.
 
# 11 spit_bubble @ 08/18/08 11:03 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaseB
Well I was playing human vs. human games...
Ah, I see. Thanks for the answer.

How the AI closes down at different parts of the field is paramount...

Though these tactics sliders make it sound as though maybe you can effect this. I hope so. I'd love to kick PES 2008 to the curb sooner rather than later.
 
# 12 Krebstar @ 08/18/08 11:14 PM
Chase, did you notice a decent amount of fouls? Or at least if you see a pretty rough hit with a rough animation that looks like a foul, was it called?
 
# 13 EXboxur @ 08/19/08 01:21 AM
Quote:
Thereís a limit to how many tactics you can save, but there are enough slots to at least make the entire EPL if you choose.
It would be nice if we could save tactics like roster saves or settings. So, if we can only save say 20 team tactics, then I could have an EPL set, Serie A, Bundesliga, etc. I'd like to have a bunch and load them in as I need them for the proper teams/leagues.
 
# 14 [Icy] @ 08/19/08 03:17 AM
I wonder why did EA decide to limit the "Be a pro" mode to only 4 seasons, when the NHL09 mode is going to last 15 seasons (more like real life players careers).
 
# 15 Krebstar @ 08/19/08 08:39 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by [Icy]
I wonder why did EA decide to limit the "Be a pro" mode to only 4 seasons, when the NHL09 mode is going to last 15 seasons (more like real life players careers).
They're banking on us all suffering an Eduardo type injury and then deciding to retire.

Maybe not the best explanation, but at least it's topical.
 
# 16 asu666 @ 08/19/08 09:43 AM
Nice review. I had about given up on FIFA until FIFA 08 came along and renewed my faith in the franchise. I'm really excited about getting FIFA 09. I hope they blow out the Manager Mode a little more with some of the options that were in FIFA 07 on the Xbox.
 
# 17 therizing02 @ 08/19/08 11:25 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by EXboxur
It would be nice if we could save tactics like roster saves or settings. So, if we can only save say 20 team tactics, then I could have an EPL set, Serie A, Bundesliga, etc. I'd like to have a bunch and load them in as I need them for the proper teams/leagues.
At the Community Days David Ruttter said that you could save up to 25 custom tactics.

It's going to be really hard to get a good gauge on how the game will play until someone puts in a good amount of time with the custom team tactics because there are so many possible combinations.

In FIFA 08 every game played out basically the same way because there were no tactics. For 09 it will be a completely different story. Every game will play differently. The game will be shipped with pre loaded custom team tactics for every team. The tactics chosen for each will be the best guess of the development team. Admittedly, they know some will be incorrect. This is why they chose to have the EA Locker feature so that gamers can share their tactics.

One good thing about the game coming out later in the states is that all of the players from Europe will more than likely have the true to life custom team tactics already loaded into their lockers. We should be able to download those on Day 1.
 
# 18 KG @ 08/19/08 11:48 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by therizing02
This is why they chose to have the EA Locker feature so that gamers can share their tactics.

One good thing about the game coming out later in the states is that all of the players from Europe will more than likely have the true to life custom team tactics already loaded into their lockers. We should be able to download those on Day 1.
That sounds goooooood
 
# 19 sportsdude @ 08/19/08 03:17 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by therizing02
At the Community Days David Ruttter said that you could save up to 25 custom tactics.

It's going to be really hard to get a good gauge on how the game will play until someone puts in a good amount of time with the custom team tactics because there are so many possible combinations.

In FIFA 08 every game played out basically the same way because there were no tactics. For 09 it will be a completely different story. Every game will play differently. The game will be shipped with pre loaded custom team tactics for every team. The tactics chosen for each will be the best guess of the development team. Admittedly, they know some will be incorrect. This is why they chose to have the EA Locker feature so that gamers can share their tactics.

One good thing about the game coming out later in the states is that all of the players from Europe will more than likely have the true to life custom team tactics already loaded into their lockers. We should be able to download those on Day 1.
everything about this post was awesome.
 
# 20 spit_bubble @ 08/19/08 09:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by therizing02
At the Community Days David Ruttter said that you could save up to 25 custom tactics...

...The game will be shipped with pre loaded custom team tactics for every team. The tactics chosen for each will be the best guess of the development team. Admittedly, they know some will be incorrect...


Seems perhaps a better way would be to just let you tweak each team's tactic as you see fit... Though 25 custom ones should be ample enough.

Anyone by chance know specifically what you'll be able to adjust with these tactics sliders?
 

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