Reviewed: November 8, 2008
Released: October 14, 2008
I know, most people think their Xbox 360 and/or PS3 are the best videogame systems on the planet. But functionally speaking, I still think the PSP is the best thing going. The PSP does everything – video, audio, photos, internet, and games – all in a compact portable package. My PSP goes with me just about everywhere. It's my MP3 player when I'm running, my video player when I'm waiting for the clothes dryer, my photo viewer when I'm out with my camera in some remote location, and when I long for my glory days playing soccer, I have FIFA 09 Soccer.
EA's FIFA Soccer 09 has come such a long way from the original PSP version. FIFA 09 has the same core content of the other systems, just not as many extras. It makes for a lean and mean soccer game that now is better than any other soccer game on the PSP.
FIFA 09 isn't a huge leap from last years offering, but there are enough improvements and additions to make it worth a look from any soccer fan. EA packs a lot on one little UMD disc. The usual “Kick Off” mode puts you right into the action. Kick Off mode is just a 'friendly' game so it's a quick and easy way to satisfy your soccer itch but there's no lasting glory with a win.
However the real fun comes by making a long term investment in the “Be A Pro” and Manager modes. In Be A Pro mode, you can create a player or take on the identity of a current player. You will be that player through all the ups and downs of a season. It's a great mode on the next gen systems and it was a welcome addition last year to the PSP. In FIFA 09, EA has tweaked the gameplay and cleaned up a lot of clipping bugs that plagued the game last year. In Be A Pro, you just worry about your player. You don't have to worry about scouting, contracts or any of the other team business. You just play as your guy and do everything you can to stay in position and maybe score a goal or two to keep the coach satisfied.
The manager mode is where the real meat and potatoes of FIFA 09 lies. As the manager, you must deal with cranky players, a demanding governing board, contracts, scouting, ticket prices, and a good list of other things. Those of you who take notes on graff paper don't get too excited. While this mode is good on the PSP, it is not anywhere near the depth level of such manager games as EA's FIFA Manager or Sega's Football Manager. Still, FIFA Soccer 09 includes much of the feelings of accomplishment when you manage Leeds United or another lower tier team to Premiership glory.
FIFA Soccer 09 includes the same 30 leagues from last year with 12,500 authentic players. Leagues include: Australian Hyundai A-League, Austrian Bundesliga, Barclays English Premier League, Belgian League, Brazilian League, Coca-Cola Championship, Coca-Cola League 1, Coca-Cola League 2, Czech League, Danish Superligaen, Dutch Eredivisie, French Ligue 1 Orange, French Ligue 2 Orange, German 2 Bundesliga, German Bundesliga, Ireland FAI Eircom League, Italian Serie A and B, K-League, Major League Soccer, Mexican 1st Division, Norwegian Tippeligaen, Polish Ekstraklasa, Portuguese League, SPL, Spanish Liga BBVA, Spanish Primera, Swedish Allsvenskan, Swiss Axpo Super League, and the Turkcell Super Lig.
Additional teams are lumped into a “Rest of the World” category with 18 teams including Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santa Cruz and others. That's 2 less teams than last year. EA unfortunately also took 3 International teams away bringing the total down to 40. There are no women’s teams once again. So any of you women who make up the reported 40% of gamers, please feel free to call and/or write EA about this oversight. With a new women's professional league coming back to the United States in 2009 and the recent success of the USA National Team in the Olympics, maybe it's time for the women to be given their due.
The Soccer IQ quiz feature is back for FIFA Soccer 09. The questions are based off of your favorite team. So you may get questions like “which of these Columbus Crew players is not a forward”. The questions are usually easy for anyone that knows their team well, but it’ll get frustrating quickly for the casual fan. You earn points for correct answers which you can use to purchase unlockable items such as third kits, game balls, stadiums and all-star teams.
Probably the biggest area of improvement in FIFA 09 is in the area of online functionality. Included this year is an online Interactive League where you pick a team and test your skills against players from around the world. One of the nice things about a game as long lasting and popular as FIFA 09 is there are always people online to play against. I never saw less than 75 players online in all my games. Additionally when you are logged in to EA Nation you get a soccer ticker at the bottom of the screen.
One of the biggest disappointments is the removal of the two mini-games that were included in previous editions of FIFA. Gone is the juggling game and the “breakout” colored blocks game. Those were about the only mini-games I ever really enjoyed so it was sad to see them sacrificed to clear precious disc space for other features.
The graphical improvements in FIFA Soccer 09 are not huge, but EA obviously spent some time and effort fixing most of the clipping problems. Additionally they improved on player animations, textures and other gameplay features that make FIFA 09 the only soccer game worth looking at on the PSP.
The music is 42 tracks (8 less than last year) of worldwide mishmash of different cultures and sounds. It’s interesting the first couple times through, but it quickly transitioned to annoying. Thankfully EA does support adding your own mp3’s from the memory stick. Clive Tydsley and Andy Gray are back again to do a great job adding excitement to the game. Player names seamlessly blend in for commentary in the major leagues while other not-so-major leagues (such as MLS) are instead announced with positions and other generic comments.
There are over 50 challenge games featuring various scenarios for you to complete before moving to the next level. In three skill levels there are various historic scenarios featuring teams from all over the world. Most of the scenarios involve coming from behind to win, but there is enough variation and different teams to keep your interest. There are a couple of tasks to complete for every scenario so it takes some skill to move on. I’ve been playing this game for over a month and still haven’t completed everything. It is simply the best soccer game on the PSP.
As you play FIFA Soccer 09, you earn points to be used in the store. You can purchase one of 76 items. You just need to choose from 42 alternate uniforms, 30 game balls, 2 stadiums (urban and rural), and 2 all-star teams (world XI and Classic XI). The manual is again the usual 30-page bi-lingual (English and Spanish). Nothing too extensive there, but it helps to have the control diagram close by.
EA does it again with FIFA Soccer 09. It is a very good game, certainly the best on the PSP. It is unfortunate to find some things being cut, most notably the fun mini-games from FIFA 08. But space is king on the PSP UMD discs and things had to be sacrificed to make room for the long list of improvements. FIFA Soccer 09 has again solidified their title as best soccer game on the PSP. Winning Eleven/Pro Evolution just doesn't measure up.