FIFA 09 • Page 2

Gesture politics with the Wii version.

What he means by "level playing field" is that each player can select their control style: so in theory, a non-gaming idiot person can swish-and-click at random and still do a passing impression of the beautiful game, while a FIFA veteran will have the same basic skills at their disposal, but in a much deeper, more satisfying way.

Once again, there's a Soccer Academy to work you through the basics. And EA is keen to stress there will be "stepping stones" to take the willing and able from All Play up to Advanced, with additional support for the Classic controller and GameCube pad, covering off all the bases.

"We've done some crazy, wacky prototypes," Chorney reveals. "That's the thing with the Wii - it's a unique gameplay experience. We've also been testing it with a broad demographic of people, from kids all the way to their parents."

Motion-sensing play might seem an obvious choice for any Wii sports title, but while its application is relatively obvious and intuitive for tennis, bowling and golf, football - the clue's in the name - is by definition a more abstract proposition.

"Shooting is the biggest problem," reckons Chorney. "What's the perfect way of doing it? Do you put the Wiimote in your sock, as that might feel more natural? In other sports games, when you're doing a motion that's natural it translates; it makes perfect sense."

Anyway, shake-to-shoot might not provide that 'eureka!' Wii Sports moment, but it's a perfectly acceptable compromise, and one which we, if part of EA's marketing team, would be paying Maradona industrial quantities of pies and burgers to promote.

However, the system is still very clearly work-in-progress in the build we get our hands on at EA's Season Opener event in Vancouver: while the basics are in place, implementation needs attention. We have a blast through a few quick games of FIFA in both Footii Match and standard modes. In the spirit of 'Family Play', it's no surprise that EA has catered for up to four-players at once; but in practice, you begin to understand why Konami stuck resolutely to a two-player limit.

Icons and flashing indicators litter the playing area in a manner more reminiscent of Rez than a football game: arrows everywhere, visual trails from shots, flashing circles to show where the ball will land, coloured circles around each controlled player, individual pointers... It's as confusing as it sounds, and runs counter to the philosophy of accessibility at the heart of the project.

EA readily acknowledges this and is swift to point out that, since this is the first time any press have played the game, feedback is important, and there is still plenty of time left to make changes. Clearly, the fewer human players involved, the more comprehensible and therefore enjoyable the action; but for a title that puts 'Family Play' at the top of its team-sheet, EA won't want Uncle Dave and Nana Doris going catatonic before half-time.

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Technically not a screenshot, but it's a bit Battlestar Galactica so we used it. Who are the final four? Is one of them People's Hero Peter Crouch?

These presentational issues aside, the team wishes to draw a clear distinction between its title and Konami's.

"What we've tried to do is create a comprehensive package," says Chorney. "Personally, when I was playing [PES], I felt like I wasn't having the control I wanted to over the defence. On the attacking side it felt good, passing felt good. Konami's strong, we know they're strong, but that makes us stronger.

"We want to be a lot more approachable; but we also want to cater to the hardcore gamer, as these are fans that we've had for a while and I think what we're doing with our Advanced play is getting them to that position. And we're also introducing a new audience who, when they pick up the controls for the first time, don't need to know 300 combinations."

And this a fair point. Right now, Wii football fans have the deliberately simplified FIFA 08 at one end of the scale, and the unashamedly Gordian PES 2008 at the other. And as persuasive as those ads featuring Michael Owen and grinning-imbecile-for-hire Ian Wright frolicking on a sofa may have proved, one wonders how many footy-loving-but-resolutely-casual Wii gamers ever got beyond learning the most basic controls.

With FIFA 09 EA is attempting to bridge the gap between the two and deliver an experience that makes good on the promise of that cheesy 'All Play' tag. Over the past couple of seasons, the lead version of FIFA has proved emphatically that it need no longer exist in the shadow of Konami's colossus; the onus is now on EA to prove the same on Wii.

FIFA 09 is due out later this year.

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Johnny Minkley

Johnny Minkley

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Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.

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