First of all, hello my European fellows, nice to see you here! I'm saying this because being this an article about a football game it's almost certain that if you're reading it you're European. You know, the people playing the real football, not the American version where you don't even use your feet =P
Jokes aside, I used to love FIFA back in the day...94 was a very solid game for its time, a step forward from sensible soccer and kick-off with improved visual, isometric perspective and a huge selection of teams to choose. FIFA 96 raised the bar and set the standard for future football games with 3d players and an even bigger amount of national teams and clubs, it was a new experience in a time when PC still could offer something console could not. The 2000 version was very good too, I played it to death with my friends, it's the version I liked the most.
Then I discovered a little other game called PES (Pro Evolution Soccer).
Despite the use of the hated s-word it was a huge leap in terms of team tactics, ball physics etc and even if it didn't have original players names and licensed teams it made me completely forget about the EA sports game.
After the disaster that was, in my opinion, last year's PES 2008 I started looking again at FIFA hoping that I could find there something new and exciting to save the day. The 360 version was pretty good, I played it several times at a friend's house and I had fun with it. I liked how the matches were more like real matches, with a slower pace that favoured teamwork and strategy instead of superpowered famous players running 70 metres with the ball dribbling everything that moves (ref and coaches included) and then scoring with 120KM/H shots in the upper corner of the net.
Because in modern football games doesn't matter if you're really good...if you're famous, like Ronaldinho, you have to be an extraterrestrial compared to normal players.
I tried the PC version demo last year and it sucked a*s. Plain and simple. Later I discovered it was made by the same team which made the psp version...well, let's say the psp version was a tiny bit better that the pc one. You get the idea.
It was with a small hope that I learned that this year they would go all-out on pc doing a specific version for it with improved graphics, gameplay innovations making it closer to the PS360 version. So I gave it another chance and downloaded the 09 demo yesterday.
They got me again.
On a graphics standpoint, I didn't see that big of a difference, I mean there was a bit more polish but really looked a lot more PS2 than PS3/360. Now, my pc isn't powerful and I don't have shaders 3.0 so maybe it's my hardware's fault (even though I set all the gfx to the max) or just the demo was limited or something like that.
Anyway the gameplay was far from 08 on HD consoles. The ball looks strange (in proportion I think it's too big, and looks goofy for this) and behaves a bit funny sometimes, feeling too light. The quick match I played was chelsea vs real madrid and it was boring as hell, with an arcade feeling that made me sad. It wasn't arcade good like the old virtua strikers, it was arcade bad like a simulation that doesn't do its job well. The only real improvement I saw was the new interface and the integration of widgets, which are small windows that give you news and other stuff when you're online with your profile.
Like last year, controller settings were a nightmare: I was playing with a ps2 controller with a Smart Joy usb adaptor, like I always play PES for example. It was perfectly set-up (checked 3 times) and the triangle button (button 1 for the pc) worked properly in the menus, but in the controller settings it was impossible to se tit, or every other button, to the "through pass" option. Like it was impossible to save my other input settings so I had to play with the analog stick even if I chose digital pad.
I'm waiting to try the full game, if I'll have the chance, because if there's one thing that's certain is that I won't buy this game. Maybe if these very bad impressions the demo gave me are completely washed away by a wonderful full version of the game I could buy it of course, but at this time it just seems unlikely.
They say PES 2009 has improved from last year. I hope it's true (and that it won't require shaders 3.0 to run), because if FIFA is the better footy game on PC this year we're screwed.