FIFA Soccer 09 «

For all of the hype and fanfare surrounding FIFA Soccer 09 on HD platforms, many ignore the PS2 version, which is a shame. It’s still a household staple around the world, just like Madden, and it’s been amazing to watch the series go from a PS2 launch title with FIFA 2001 to its peak years with FIFA 06 to its new position this year. Rather than shoehorn most of the extensive features of the PS3 version onto the PS2, EA has taken a completely different route and concocted what could be the most household-friendly version of FIFA to ever hit a PlayStation console.

FIFA 08 was a fine PS2 title, as it took the mechanics of FIFA 07 and implemented the new Be a Pro mode to the best of the console’s abilities. FIFA 09 seems to rip a page from the failed experiment that was FIFA 08 Wii. The most noticeable element of FIFA 09 is the Casual Controls functionality, which pops up as soon as you boot up the game for the first time. It’s a great idea, since hardcore gamers who are still playing FIFA will jump into the season mode, and children who are just getting into gaming can pass, shoot, and tackle with the press of two buttons. If you’re so inclined, you don’t even have to move your player; the AI is designed to let your player automatically look for the best defensive gaps and go for runs.

The reason that it works here, but failed in last year’s Wii debut, is simple: The transition from newcomer to FIFA gamer is fluid and natural. There’s no plugging in a Nunchuk, nor is there the steep learning curve of reprogramming your brain to play FIFA with a new control interface. Instead, you can start out by simply passing and shooting, and eventually, move your player around with the left stick or d-pad. Eventually, as you become more comfortable, you can incorporate trick moves and sprinting into your knowledge base. EA Canada has also implemented a new “easy” difficulty that ranks below “amateur” to facilitate the transition.

There are other new additions, although they’re not nearly as dramatic as the casual approach. EAC has added new animation sequences, and although many aren’t immediately noticeable, we caught a few that affect gameplay in ways that we hadn’t noticed over the years. One in particular, which we also saw in the PS3 and 360 versions, is that your player goes down when he gets the wind knocked out of him. It might not seem like much, but it’s a big deal in Be a Pro when your guy takes a hit and it destroys a crucial run at the opposition.

Like the other versions, FIFA 09 for PS2 also introduces Be a Pro Seasons, which allow you to pick a player and bring him through four years of blood, sweat, and tears leading up to the World Cup. It also introduces the player-centric Be a Pro camera, under the name “3rd Person.” Although it resembles the camera on the other versions, it’s downright headache-inducing, and exemplifies just what the PS2 is capable (and isn’t capable) of pulling off. Visually, the remainder of the game hasn’t seen any dramatic updates in a few years, so it looks like the past few titles.

Fundamentally, FIFA on PS2 hit its peak somewhere around FIFA 06 or FIFA 07. With FIFA 09, there are a few new features designed for hardcore players, but hardly the many bells and whistles of years past. Instead, this year’s household-friendly approach with Casual Control succeeds where last year’s Wii debut of the concept failed. It implements simple controls and melds them with a natural-feeling learning curve. If you’re a soccer fan with a PS2, you’ll be glad to know that FIFA 09 has something for you, whether you’ve been playing it since FIFA 2001 or you’re just thinking about dabbling.


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