Although FIFA updates can often bring a feeling of deja vu, the development team on this year's PC version are doing some genuinely interesting things. Aside from the usual tweaks to animation and AI systems, they've included a new keyboard-and-mouse control system, a new interface with Web 2.0-like widgets, and a new engine that will make the game visually on par with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions.
The announcement that EA Sports was discontinuing Madden production for the PC wasn't truly painstaking to those who had played a stagnant version on PC for years. The bigger concern about the announcement was what it could possibly hold and reflect with regards to EA producing sports games for the PC across the board in the future.
On the PC title, the developers have added new PC-specific elements to the game including a new collision system that this year includes a strength attribute that will determine how players react dependent on their size and strength.
Improved controls and branching dribble animations should make players like Ronaldinho even more dangerous.
Specific to the PC will be a new online widget mode that if the PC is connected, online players will be able to see a home page similar to Google's personalised homepage with widgets on their own stats as well as other online players. Additionally users will be able to choose a team widget that offers news and stats from your favourite team in the real world.
Finally on the PC version, EA has added mouse controls for gamers looking to play with not just the keyboard or a gamepad.
For those of you who don't like using a pad when playing games on your PC, FIFA 09 has a solution that reminds us very much of the "Call Your Shot" technique from Madden 09 on the Wii, although it was dreamt up entirely independently in two separate EA studios. A new input system allows you to use your mouse along with the traditional keyboard input in new, different ways. You can now click on a player to select him in defense; offensively, you can select a player and then click an open space for him to run into. By using more force with your click, you can have a player move beyond the screen into the space behind it; less force allows him to make a shorter run.
With over 50,000 combinations in Custom Team Tactics, you will have greater control of your teammates than ever before.
First up, the controls. The Wii version of Pro Evolution Soccer pioneered the cursor-based control system, and although FIFA 09 borrows heavily from Konami's idea, the mouse feels more precise than the Wii Remote. The idea's basically the same: You can make players move around using the standard W, A, S, and D keys, but you control passes and tackles using the mouse. An onscreen cursor helps you point to where you want to pass, while the computer figures out how to get the ball there. For example, if you left-click on a player on the opposite side of the pitch, your player will automatically perform a cross to get the ball there. Likewise, if you click in front of a player, you'll perform a through-ball, and the recipient will automatically run to get there. You can also use the mouse wheel to tell players to make a run into space, and pressing the space bar makes the player with the ball step up his pace. You can still use a joypad, but the mouse-and-keyboard scheme is highly intuitive, and we managed to score a goal within the first half of a game.
Also, if you press the button hard enough when going for a 50-50 ball, your man will slide in and sweep the ball to a colleague. Players are more responsive too, with people positioning themselves more precisely for headers on the goal and following up for rebounds more quickly. But the keepers are insanely good, pulling off unlikely saves as a matter of course.
All-Play controls features pass, tackle and shoot will according to EA be "easy for casual gamers" and feature lots of on-screen support.
Advanced play controls will feature in-depth "point-and-play" control scheme similar to that seen with the mouse on the PC version and allow precision passing, skill moves, off the ball runs.
There will also be an 8 vs. 8 footy match option and the ability to import your Mii avatar so you can feature in the game alongside Wayne Rooney et all.
The other cool thing is that when you have the ball, you have a different level of control over where your teammates move. We've always been able to tell people to go on runs, but now, if you click empty space, you can control where your players go. You can have your teammates do diagonal runs, backwards runs. I'll send guys on runs to the pitch and then send the ball at the same time, it gives a good feeling of chemistry. That's how it plays out.
The separation here is very tangible: Instead of controlling a player or two, as you do now in the game, you can virtually control an entire team at once. The idea, according to FIFA 09 PC Line Producer Paul Hossack, is to go outside the box and use features from other genres in sports games -- here, first-person shooters. "As game designers, and as a game lover myself, the amount of control available in first-person shooters is ideal; it's a very intuitive control", Hossack said. "We're not taking advantage of the controls on the PC, so we started prototyping this type of control last fall, and it was only after a couple of months that that mouse idea came up.
In 08 & in 09
In 08 players had no idea where they were being hit from or which leg was being hit. In 09, players have a sense of direction, they know where the tackle is coming from and react accordingly [read: fall over in a more realistic way]. The non-standing leg, now... in 08, if a tackle caught that, he’d go down. In 09, you’ll see players be able to skip out of those tackles and keep on running.” And that’s true - which keeps the game flowing, resulting in fewer frustrating breaks in play and extra goal-scoring opportunities.
Players are more physical when jostling each other off the ball, tangling together in a far more lifelike way than last year, when they would run on-rails next to each other before one of them came away successfully.
Last year players had no sense of urgency that they really wanted to get into space .Now you’ll get a more urgent response from the releasing of the pass. We did see players sprinting more quickly into space, pointing where they wanted the ball to be played. There were still, however, times when we found ourselves screaming for a teammate to make an obvious run, but far less so than previously.
Fifa 09 Online
The new widget system may also have been taken from elsewhere, but it suits the FIFA front end perfectly. Assuming that you're online, FIFA 09 will pull in football-related info from the Internet and display it in the game. The main menu is dominated by five of these widgets, presenting information on your favourite team, your team's upcoming games, and a detailed history of your FIFA 09 activity. The data from ESPN covers most major football teams and nations, and you'll be able to see live updates on your favourite teams as well as their real-world upcoming fixtures and table positions. The widgets can be moved around and collapsed as you like, and anyone who's familiar with Web sites such as iGoogle and Netvibes should feel right at home.
The unstoppable Drogba
The other changes are mostly behind the scenes and will be noticed only by players of the previous games. More than 350 new animations have been added, mostly to improve the collision system, which will now let Drogba come out on top in a battle with a smaller player such as Owen. There are also four new skill moves, two of which are performed standing, whereas the other two are used when running. Your players are likewise much more efficient at shielding the ball, and you can even push over players if you want to gamble a run-in with the referee. Finally, there are improvements to the goalkeeper, who can punch the ball in new ways, fake throws, and get up quicker than before. None of these improvements seemed to stop Liverpool's keeper Reina from dropping a simple shot when we were playing the game, but with the game still at alpha stage, there's plenty of time for bugs to be ironed out.
Drogba is a hulk of a beast. He can hold off a lot of people.When you controlling Drogba, however, he tended to topple over as soon as a defender brushed against him, which means either physicality isn’t that good or that FIFA is exceptionally realistic. While we’re on the subject, FIFA 09 hasn’t taken a cue from PES 2008 and included diving .but if players go down as often as Drogba does, it’s likely to get frustrating.
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