OK, literally moments have passed since I laid down the 360 controller after my first play of FIFA09. For now, here’s what passed through my mind:
Quick download. At 11:00 I grabbed the whole 740MB in about 15 mins at virtually my full download speed. What was I ever worried about?
Full match with penalties! Thank-you, EA. Finally, a full match in a sport game demo. I’m tired of playing sport game demos where you’re just getting into the action and then the half (or the quarter) ends and you’re thrown back into menus and promotional screens and whatnot. The full match in the FIFA09 demo (albeit only with 2-minute halves) is much appreciated.
Arena. Love the new Arena. The melting-into-the-stadium concept works very well. Most people have seen it in videos over the past few weeks. But the first time you see it for yourself, you’ll likely have been distracted by playing in the Arena, and the ‘melting moment’ will be a surprise. I defy you not to grin.
Shooting. First thing I noticed in FIFA09 – the shooting is massively improved (IMO). The ball flies straighter and farther for longer. My main gripe with shooting in FIFA08 was the way the ball just seemed to die in mid-air at times. Yes, yes, I know it was all about the famous ‘ten trillion decisions’ relating to player position, power, angle, ball velocity, angular momentum, etc., etc. But I prefer FIFA09 shooting, I think I can say right now. I was firing them off with Ronaldinho in the Arena straightaway.
General gameplay. At first it’s disappointingly the same… but after a while it’s rewardingly different. I’ll be honest. All through my first match I thought, “Uh-oh. This is virtually the same as FIFA08. Better graphics, better menu options, but the gameplay is identical. Curse you David Rutter!” But then I started my second game. And it clicked. It’s like the old PES games. It takes a while to pick it up. A game and a half in my case. (No doubt the anti-FIFA lobby won’t have time to wait that long. Just watch the forums, and wait and see.)
Passing and through-balls. Oh no… I skipped UEFA2008, apart from the demo. This power meter thing is largely new to me. I could barely execute a good pass or through-ball at all. In my third game I did start to get a handle on it. More: I started to revel in it. I’ll be bold here and say it could be the best, most intuitive passing/through-ball system I’ve ever come across in a football game. And it does hurt me to say that, remembering PES of old. So, yes, it’s early days yet, and possibly premature to go that far.
Game speed. Didn’t see an option to adjust it, so I assume I played on the medium setting. If so, I liked it and it seemed about perfect to me. Faster that FIFA08 but not ridiculously so.
Scoring. I’m embarrassed. I played three full games and I still haven’t scored once. I only came close twice. Once with a snapshot across the goal that the keeper palmed away. Another time, worryingly, I ran with Drogba straight from kickoff all the way through a massive hole in the CPU defence. I messed up the shot – took it too close to the keeper – but still, it’s a worry. I was playing on World Class difficulty too (I didn’t know it could be changed at the time). Hmmm.
Camera. Finally, a fully customisable camera in a next-gen football game. It still lacks all the options we used to have in the last-gen, but it’s nice to be moving in the right direction. One very disappointing thing: the End-to-End camera still doesn’t swing around in the second half to let you play ‘upscreen’ all the time. So I will never use it. I think I’ll end up playing FIFA09 using the Broadcast camera with height and zoom way down low—i.e., as close to the old-style PES Wide camera as possible, yes.
Conclusion. Yes, a conclusion (of sorts) just 20 minutes after playing three games on the demo. It’ll take a lot more play to be certain (and I need to score a goal!) but FIFA09 looks as if it’ll live up to the hype—or at least not fall victim to its own hype, which amounts to the same thing.
I’ll be back. Sadly, work and other commitments will keep me off the demo for the rest of today. I plan a long session tomorrow for a more in-depth appraisal, hopefully with some replays and ad hoc screenshots. In the meantime, I predict an entertaining day across all the usual forums, with the (utterly bogus and childish) PES-FIFA war raging. I guarantee that the #1 anti-FIFA09 complaint will be “LOL it’s the same as last year”. Me, I’ll be keeping out of it. No time, you see.