Luis over at the Red Card (my prime source for Chicago Fire news and other soccer stuff) blogged about FIFA 09 and Pro Evo Soccer 09 this week, which spurred me to add my on $.02 about online soccer gaming. Specifically FIFA 09. I have PES 09 for the PS3 but haven’t played it much due to points: 1) The online play mode doesn’t really work, and 2) The game doesn’t include the real rosters and players. I am a PES fan on the PC platform from way back, but mostly I play online with the soccer games these days, and FIFA is a least competent on that front.
Nearly all my FIFA online play has been head-to-head; haven’t really explored their other modes, such as be-a-pro and online leagues, though that could be next. I really dig being able to get on the game and play some dude from Italy or Brazil in real-time. You have to give EA credit – they’ve made an effort to improve gameplay in this often-criticized franchise, and it shows in the latest version. 09 plays a lot like PES did years ago, in terms of player movements, tactical options, and ball physics. Sure, the controls are complex, and some of the options are counterintuitive, but the game mostly rewards your skill. Which is probably why I have a losing record.
I’ve played a lot of online matches, on both the PC and PS3 platforms. The two platforms are similar but not identical, and I have to say I prefer the motion and physics on the PS3. But the PC does allow games to finish in a draw, which is a big plus. So, having logged many hours, I offer this five-point critique of FIFA 09. EA is developing their World Cup edition for next year even now, and they can always make improvements. The Pentagram follows…
- More credit to US and MLS players. The USA team has 3.5 stars, while Mexico has 4.5 stars. This is a grade of the relative abilities of the players on those two teams, and as everyone (including Mexicans) knows, such a ranking is just flat wrong. Don’t believe me? Check out the results over the past decade or so… But in general, the dudes who create and rank player skills and abilities traditionally give short shrift to Americans. A cultural bias, no doubt. The most egregious examples are of players like Tim Howard, DaMarcus Beasley, and Michael Bradley. These guys are better, stronger, faster, than they’re given credit for, and it’s just annoying. This bleeds over to the relative rankings of MLS players as well. MLS has its faults, but the teams should be able to compete with the smaller leagues in Europe and South America. In FIFA 09, good luck with that.
- Ties and Quitters online. You can’t end in a tie in online mode for the PS3. I’d simply like that corrected. As far as the quitters, that’s a little more difficult. For the PC, if you are the away team and you take the lead, you can disconnect from the net (a.k.a. stealth-quit) and register a win immediately. It took me a while to figure that out, as opponents were scoring goals and immediately stealth-quitting when I was the home team. What this leads to, is no one wants to host a game (and thus risk the quitters). On the PS3 if you’re home and stealth-quit, you get the loss, and the away team registers both a win and a loss. This still sucks, but it’s not as bad. I don’t know what the solution is here, but I sure wish there was some kind of penalty for stealth quitters. (NOTE: I realize you can set up the online match to only play against opponents who finish games, but good luck trying to find those opponents.) One helpful feature EA should consider would be listing more information about your opponent, including their Did-Not-Finish percentage, in the Ranked-Play-Now game menu. Then you could see that your opponents quits one out of three games and simply choose not to play him.
- Better Tournament mode. It would be nice if the interface for creating and participating in online tournaments or short-run leagues was there. If you could set up a Champions League, or MFL Clausura, or MLS Playoff, or some weird custom tourney, it would improve the overall experience. Allow players to search for tournaments or even receive updates on tournaments that meet their interests.
- Forwards tackle too well. One major gameplay complaint has to be the defensive prowess of your forwards. C. Ronaldo hasn’t tracked back or tackled anyone all year, and yet cyber-Ronaldo is a fearsome defender on the wing, always a threat to strip the ball and score because he is one of the fastest and most skillful players in the game. The same for other fast/strong forwards and wingers. Ronaldinho and Zlatan do not play defense, but you wouldn’t know that on FIFA.
- One-touch passing too easy. Just a fact here. You can toca-toca-toca all game long with nearly any team, and those passes rarely go awry. EA has improved so many other aspects of the physics and gameplay from their formerly robotic model, they just need to make first touch and one-touch play a little more difficult. This has traditionally been the strength of the PES series, and something FIFA should continue to refine.
I have other complaints, such as getting sick of having to play Barca and Man U all the time if I want to get a game, and I don’t understand why they didn’t include practice mode in the PS3 version, but I really do enjoy FIFA 09 for the most part. It’s a vast improvement over previous versions. I play as MacShark_72 (don’t ask), and I’ll see you online. Just don’t stealth-quit on me…