After briefly – and enjoyably – departing the FIFA franchise, I returned to EA’s behemoth for the 06 and 07 incarnations. Both had the ugly mug of ‘Wazza’ on the cover, the in-game graphics were identical and the user interface on the menu screens pretty indistinguishable, but the gameplay was markedly improved in FIFA 07. Even so, I have a softer spot for its predecessor, almost entirely because of the included deadly highlights vids for the league seasons of the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue En.
Nonetheless, those two games were forgettable, unrealistic and not worthy of the money I shelled out on them. However, I was about to leap into the seventh generation of videogame consoles, and during one of my sofa sleepovers at a mate’s house happened to play a version of FIFA that has yet to truly be bested, in my eyes at least.
FIFA 09 on the Xbox 360
I had not played FIFA 08, so perhaps the impact the experience had on me was heightened, but the game seemed a monumental leap forward from the previous installments. Visually the game was crisp, pure and smooth, the gameplay was fluid, intuitive and satisfying, the addition of the ‘arena’ mode a stroke of genius, and all-in-all made me decide, then and there, to get an Xbox 360.
This was no mean feat; at the time, I hated the controller, having spent the last 5+ years using a Dualshock, and all I had learned convinced me that the PS3’s hardware was a fair bit better than the Microsoft console. I had been used, fundamentally, to playing games using the D-pad, not the analog sticks – and anyone can tell you that the 360 controller has a fantastically shit D-pad. However, FIFA 09 was the first game to convince me that football games should be played with the sticks, and it was in this regard that the Dualshock fell down – and still does, in my view. The Playstation controller has the sticks too close together, too central on the pad, whereas the 360 option had them positioned in a much nicer, more thumb-friendly location. I have always loathed the notion of ‘Killer Apps’, but to be fair, my whole approach to decided upon a console was built on it: I wanted PS3 for Little Big Planet and possibly Resistance…but playing FIFA 09 on the Xbox 360 just felt right.
I have played other football games over the years, believe it or not. Almost all of them were unable to hold a candle to those published by EA and Konami. Games like This Is Football, Viva Football, Club Football, Sensible Soccer, Football Glory, Virtua Striker, Ultimate Soccer Slam Virtua Striker World Cup Football Gold… Ok I made that last one up. You get the point.
It has been five years since FIFA 09 was released, and nothing since has really grabbed me like any of the five games I’ve gone through in this list. FIFA 14 and PES 2014 have both just been released, and having played the Demo for both on Xbox 360 my reaction can best be summed up by the word, ‘meh’. It seems that the next truly awe-inspiring videogame representation of the beautiful game will probably have to wait until the Next Gen…
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…⊗