It's incredible to think it's been 15 years since the FIFA sports game dynasty began. FIFA 09 is a far cry from the blocky graphics and rigid gameplay of the original, 16-bit version. But, of course, the question is, how much better is this one than FIFA 08?
The answer, in short is: a little. The graphics in FIFA 09 have been refined, with more photo-realistic captures of the superstars of soccer, and some great new animations both on and off the ball. The presentation of the game is as exquisite as ever, with new match intro sequences featuring the players warming up in the tunnel, crowd chants specific to each club, not to mention the cool new 'widgets' system on the menu pages, where various online and offline stats are displayed at all times. Unfortunately, it was impossible to test the commentary in FIFA 09, as it's not included in this demo version.
In terms of its gameplay, FIFA 09 offers a smooth ride, although there are few changes to the way the game handles other than a few new tricks and the addition of more realistic collisions. I could've done without these clashes, as sometimes it takes your player a long time to get up after a heavy hit. In fact, one of the new gameplay enhancements in FIFA 09 is the physical presence of some players, which means large defenders are more likely to bundle you off the ball, requiring more cunning to get past them.
While this demo of FIFA 09 is limited to four-minute demo matches between a choice of six clubs, the full release looks set to really raise the bar in terms of its online modes. I'm particularly excited by the new Adidas Live Season mode in FIFA 09, where player information is updated dynamically depending on performances in real life.
FIFA 09 is undoubtedly a great soccer simulator, although unless you're particularly interested in the online aspect of the game, you may not see a great deal of benefit in upgrading from FIFA 08 (other than, of course, the updated transfers).
Whether it'll prove better than Pro Evolution 2009 is a matter of extensive debate, but FIFA 09 is definitely the best version in the EA series to date.