After several posts full of little other than high praise for the FIFA09 demo, it’s time for me to play devil’s advocate. At least a little. This is all based upon what I have found in the demo only. I know the full game will be different.
First things first. I think the FIFA09 demo does its job admirably. A demo is supposed to show off the gameplay of the full game. Nothing more, nothing less. As far as that goes, the FIFA09 demo does its job perfectly—and even goes that little bit further. I can’t remember the last time I played a demo that gave me such value. As of right now, I’ve yet to see a potentially greater football experience on the next-gen consoles. I await the PES2009 demo, whenever it shows its face, with interest. (Incidentally, if I was Konami I’d choose to release the PES2009 demo on October 2nd. It’d be a slight spoiler for FIFA09’s full release the next day.)
But what about the FIFA09 negatives? Are there any negatives? Of course there are.
Games would like to be viewed in the same way as art. They would like to be appraised in the same way as a book, a film, a television programme. And there is no such thing as perfection in art.
You can find imperfections anywhere you look, in anything. This is why arguments on the internet about games will never end—never. The FIFA09 demo is damn good, in my opinion, but like its predecessor it has received a fearful kicking from some quarters.
Overall, I find that the FIFA09 demo promises a full game with the potential to be the best football game I have ever played. Better even than any of my beloved PS2-era PES titles. That is shocking for me even to think—never mind to write in public where anyone can see it. Over the years PES has been much more to me that ‘just a game’, and it still is. It’ll take another dismal PES year to change that.
If the demo is any guide, FIFA09 has resolved many of the issues I had with FIFA08. The crummy shooting, for one. I disliked in FIFA08 how the ball would often just die in mid-air. In FIFA09, the opposite would seem to be the case. Many early demo-players complain that their shots fly too hard, fast, and far, zooming over with the merest touch. They’re trying to sprint and shoot, of course—a PES trait if ever there was one. You don’t get penalised in PES for squeezing the sprint button for pretty much the whole game. In the new FIFA, you do get penalised, and heavily, in a number of ways—wild and wayward shooting is just one of them.
So, yes, I love the new shooting. I love the new passing and the new camera options. I hope I will love the new tactics customisation options—their limited availability in the demo was a disappointment.
Lots of people are still complaining about the new FIFA’s response times. I think too many people are still complaining about it for it to be some evil conspiracy. Right now, I honestly can’t see the problem myself. Response times seem vastly increased after last year’s (admittedly) rather sluggish handling. I think this one will have to wait for the full game before being resolved one way or the other.
So what’s still, as of now, bad? A few things.
The CPU players’ animations just prior to your kickoff—they all jump up in the air and shake the same leg at the same time. It looks very silly indeed and I hope it’s not in the final version.
The PS3 graphics are poor next to the 360 graphics (I’ve played both)—but actually I am less worried about this than some people. For me the PS3 graphics, if that’s what they are like in the final PS3 version, are just acceptable. It’s slowdown during gameplay that I was worried about, and there is none. Hopefully the framerate drops in the replays and cut scenes will be ironed out for the final version.
In general gameplay, the CPU still seems to have an insane possession bonus when it wants to keep the ball. At times, I find that winning the ball down in my corner areas is still virtually impossible. The CPU players will simply jink and twist and turn until they get their crosses in, and there’s apparently nothing I can do about it. Yes, I know all about the L2 shield thing. Perhaps I still need to work on it. Coming from a decade of PES play, I do tend to feel that I have a divine right to win the ball back whenever I want to.
No doubt the full game will be lacking many of the tweaks to Manager Mode that I would have liked to have seen. I’m just an offline player. If the online element was greatly reduced or even completely missing, I really wouldn’t care. For me, the worth of any game is still measured by its offline, single-player experience. We’ll see.
And that’s probably my last word on the FIFA09 demo. As of today, I’ll be making an effort not to play it again. My last session was comprised of a few games on Monday night. The two-minute matches are adequate for their purpose—providing a taster of the game—but I dislike the way I try to play during them. I try to do too much too quickly. This is antithetical to the spirit of the new FIFA. I refuse to spoil myself for the full game.
For the next couple of weeks, my focus is switching back to the nominal subject matter of this blog. Pro Evolution Soccer. Come on. It’s going to be better than last year. That much is clear. What isn’t yet clear is: will it be better enough?