FIFA 09 • Page 2

Changing tactics with Xbox 360 and PS3.

In 09 players also have an awareness of the direction of an incoming tackle. Rather than a uniform reaction wherever a lunge comes in from, the positioning of each leg now counts. As you'd expect in the real thing, a player is more likely to keep going if he's tackled on his non-standing leg. And this, in theory at least, should allow for more dramatic implementation of the 'play on' rule for last ditch challenges.

The same principle applies to responsiveness. EA shows us a series of side-by-side comparisons of FIFA 08 and its sequel. One looks at dribbling in slow-motion - in 08 the player is "skipping through his animations to allows him to turn", causing him to take more touches than necessary before dispatching a pass.

In 09, the dribbling is "faster and more responsive" as the player "manoeuvres their body to get to the ball quickly as a real footballer would". First-time actions, such as the sliding pass, are also new to the mix.

As is always the case with major sports simulations, such details usually sound great on paper and can often look great in a demo situation; but proving any palpable improvement to the game is a much more onerous proposition.

Picking up the pad for a quick game (a Man Utd vs. Chelsea grudge match is the only tie available), it looks and feels remarkably FIFA-ish, of course. But the more intensely physical nature of the game is one of the changes that is most obviously apparent - and watching your player, arms up and frantically jostling for possession while sprinting down the wing becomes a mini-drama in itself.

Beyond that, and with a very short playing time, it's tough to discern any other significant changes at this stage. And several of the promised improvements, including a new trapping system, improved goalkeeper intelligence and retuned ball physics, have not yet been implemented in the build EA is showing off.

Nevertheless, the personalisation of the most notable players also has a more straightforward aesthetic benefit: Ronaldo's pre-free kick stance has been replicated; meanwhile, the game's updated ball physics leads Rutter to garble excitedly that Scholes' stunning 25-yard drive against Barcelona in the Champions League, with its wicked, unstoppable curve, is now possible in the game.

One of FIFA 08's greatest additions was Be A Pro mode - which let you assume the role of a single player on the team, with the camera fixed to his position. Many, including us, welcomed the excitingly fresh perspective, but bemoaned the limits of its implementation. As it turns out, we were lucky to get it at all.

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Did you know that Villa have given their sponsorship deal to a local charity next year? Barcelona of the Midlands.

"We have stuff that the team do that never actually figures in that year's title," reveals Rutter. "That could have been Be A Pro last year. We might have been at the point where we said, this is a great thing, but we should expand it out. It was felt to be so strong and the feedback so good, we couldn't sit on it - it had to go in."

With an extra year's fiddling, Be A Pro is back with bells on, offering the richer, career-orientated experience fans have been clamouring for. You can choose either an existing player or create your own and embark on a four-season career during which your goal is to emerge as an international legend. "It's being able to expand that really innovative way of playing football out into something a lot more meaningful for people," says Rutter.

But for the true football anorak, the most exciting new feature for this season is customisable tactics. Rutter isn't mucking about: "Customisable tactics, in my opinion, will really revolutionise the way people play football games." We knew that whole "just evolution" line wouldn't last.

He continues: "You're going to be able to dynamically change the way your team plays football at a very low level to allow the drama of real sport to unfold before your eyes. If you want a way of playing that involved [People's Hero] Peter Crouch, you can have that; if you want a way of playing that involves Tevez, you can have that. You can change them during a match, you can put them online and use them with friends."

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Johnny Minkley

Johnny Minkley

Contributor  |  johnnyminkley

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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