BY Jeremy Steeves  //  October 21, 2008

EA benches casual players for this one.


uthenticity seems to be the theme EA Sports has been going for with all the new editions of its various sport franchises. In choosing such an attribute to position a product on, however, there's an inherent risk of overlooking the casual player. With FIFA 09, EA has created a title that is phenomenal in terms of recreating an actual game of soccer on your console, but at the same time, it distances itself from being accessible to new players of the series.

Controls are complex enough
to scare away beginners.
It's almost as though FIFA 09 was made for the soccer player who likes video games, rather than the gamer who likes soccer. While the controls are more responsive and precise than they've ever been, they're also in-depth enough to scare away beginners. When you combine the complexity of the controls with the lightning fast decision-making required to be successful against veteran online opponents, a serious lacking in perceived ability, and therefore fun, may be the result. However, if you play or follow soccer closely in real life, your knowledge of the game may help you make faster decisions, allowing for a much more forgiving time learning the controls.

If you take a look at EA Sports' more touted feature for FIFA 09, the addition of 10-versus-10 online play (which suffers from occasional server hiccups), a background in the sport is almost required in order to fulfill your chosen role correctly.

Though your influence on the game is only through the position of your one player, should you fail at playing your position correctly — whether that's chasing the ball when you shouldn't be, or not seeing the field effectively enough — your team will have a hard time winning. For this reason, it would be almost impossible for someone without at least some experience outside of FIFA 09 to enjoy and appreciate what EA Sports has delivered this year.

Though the game is likely to be more difficult for some players, anyone should be able to appreciate the sights and sounds FIFA 09 has to offer. Venues are incredibly detailed, the chants of the crowd are inspiring, and all of the on-field sounds have been engineered wonderfully to create an atmosphere that replicates what I can best imagine it would be like to play in front of 100,000 fans. Though the commentary has been recycled (as it often is in EA Sports games), there are so many other things that stood out that it hardly bothered me.

It replicates what it must be like
playing in front of 100,000 fans.
In addition to the many refinements made to the core game mechanics, there's also a fair bit of value packed into the offline potion of FIFA 09. The Be A Pro: Seasons mode is a new feature that allows you to recreate yourself in the game and move up the ranks of your squad as you develop your skills. It's also a great way to learn how to play a single role on the field for those interested in joining an online team for some ten-on-ten. The Manager's mode has also made its return this year and offers a solid package for those that like to live out their favorite team's journey from the development of youthful talent to the signing of European stars. Should you want to, EA has offered a live season stat-tracking component that follows real world players and adjusts their in-game status and ranking weekly. The unfortunate catch here is that there is an additional cost (about $20 for all of leagues available) if you want to use the feature.

EA Sports has successfully created an authentic, beautiful, and challenging footie game. Though the developers may have alienated newcomers to the series in doing so, there's no denying that there's far more to praise about FIFA 09 than there is scold.

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