It’s still not widely appreciated that FIFA09 offers a choice of Assisted, Semi-Manual, and full Manual control systems out on the pitch. Passing, crossing, through-balls, aerial passing, and shooting—any or all of these can be switched from the default setting (full Assisted) to any combination of Manual or Semi-Manual. You can leave the Assists on for everything and just choose full Manual passing, for example.
This can completely change the nature of FIFA09 and your emotional response to the game. It’s arguably one of FIFA09’s biggest attractions, especially in the longer term. Oddly, I don’t recall a single mention of these control options in any review of the game (and I’ve read a few). Discussion of the topic on the usual forums is also relatively muted.
It can take time to warm up to the idea of playing without the tried-and-tested, familiar Assists. At the moment I play FIFA09 with full Manual through-balls, crossing, and aerial passing, and Semi-Manual passing and shooting.
I barely glanced at these options in FIFA08. After a token game or two using Manual shooting, for example, I fled back to full Assisted and stayed there. I’ll admit that I found it too difficult and initially unrewarding. Dismaying, too: there’s nothing like blazing five yards wide in front of an open goal to send you scurrying back to the familiarity and comfort of Assisted. I bet lots of people who try Semi-Manual or Manual shooting barely last a full half on it.
But I’ve got religion about it now. My Damascene conversion happened in spite of myself, not because. I played online against a player who used a mixture of semi-manual and manual settings. I felt embarrassed about passing the ball around and playing through-balls and scoring goals using Assists. It motivated me to learn the semi-manual game at least, as a stepping-stone to full manual in the future. I’m really glad now that I did.
It’s certainly not easy. It takes time, patience, and the will to learn. I started myself off lightly, by just switching Shooting on its own to Semi-Manual. It was about five games in my case before I could see that it would work, if I persevered. It was about ten games before I started getting around 80% of my Semi-Manual shots on-target, instead of 99% miserably off-target. That was satisfying enough in itself—just hitting the target! And there’s no satisfaction like the satisfaction that comes from starting to score your first bunch of goals on Semi-Manual. (Doubtless I’ll go through the process all over again when I switch to full Manual. I can’t wait.)
I’ve been threatening to do this for a few weeks, so here’s my own individual take on the Assisted and Semi-Manual shooting systems. Each of my highly scientific and detailed diagrams assume the use of a player of average shooting ability, without the use of modifiers (finesse, pace control, etc.) that affect shooting in other ways.
The assisted shooting scheme is pretty generous, as it should be. In fact it’s hard to miss when inside the box, particularly using the finesse button. Assisted shooting helpfully interprets a wide aim as ‘top corner of the net’.
That green ‘wedge of accuracy’ is much, much narrower. Effectively, that’s all Semi-Manual is: a shrinkage of the ‘sweet spot’. This is why you’ll be banging easy chances into the stands for several games after making the switch. Semi-Manual shooting still helps you in some of the ways Assisted does, but not much. There’s little forgiveness for aiming outside of a quite constricted area.
Semi-manual shooting from an angle
When attacking goal from out wide, the ‘wedge of accuracy’ (I’m calling it that now) rotates accordingly—and narrows even further. Obviously it narrows, since there’s a smaller amount of goal at which to aim.
None of the diagrams take into account all the factors that would actually affect shooting in a real match. These diagrams assume no defensive pressure. I think the Arena is a great place to try out different shooting schemes, especially as it shows how dramatically you can narrow or widen the aiming wedge through use of various shot modifiers. (But good luck with trying to reproduce it in a match…)
At the moment I’d say making the switch permanently has revolutionised my experience with FIFA09. And… it has completely changed what I expect from a football game. This decisively tipped the balance for me in regard to PES2009. Poor old PES2009 already looked like a museum piece; factor in FIFA09’s Semi-Manual and Manual control options, and there’s no real contest IMO.
I used to have a vastly different idea of what Semi-Manual shooting was all about. I believed that aim was determined by the amount of time you held the analogue stick in the direction you wanted to shoot. After a long and sometimes painful learning process, I now think the system is pretty much like the one sketched out above.
As ever, I stand to be corrected. I think there must be Semi-Manual (and Manual) ninjas out there who may smile at this post. If so, I’d genuinely love to hear from you. Pretty soon I want to be playing with EVERYTHING on full Manual controls. This is a whole new ball game for me and I want more of it.