What a difference a year makes. Last year EA released FIFA 08, its first attempt at a football game on the Wii. We gave it 82% and warned that while it was fun, the yet-to-be-released Pro Evolution Soccer 08 (PES) would probably be better. Turns out it was, thanks to the innovative pointer-based controls that let you make pinpoint passes. EA had a lot of work to do in order to match PES: well, they've done it and then some. We'd even go so far as to say that FIFA 09 All-Play is now the best football game on the Wii.
There are numerous reasons for this and the most important is the game's control method. If they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then PES should be feeling pretty honoured now, because FIFA 09's passing system is pretty much a direct lift of Konami's effort. You pass to players by pointing at them with the Wii Remote then pressing A. Unlike in PES however, you don't have to draw lines to make runs or anything like that: you simply point to the location you want to pass to (whether it's at a player's feet or a space you want them to run on to) and your teammate's AI does the rest. Shooting is a case of flicking the Remote: once again, no different to Konami's effort.
The main difference however is in the defending system, the one issue that annoyed us about PES. In that game you had no direct control over your defenders: you simply pointed at an opponent, pressed a button and hoped the game would decide your defenders were good enough to get the ball off him. Thankfully, in FIFA you have full control of your defenders meaning it's up to you who tackles who and when. It's the best of both worlds: the innovative attacking system of PES but the old-school (and preferred) defending system too, meaning you're in full control at all times, not just half of the time.
Naturally, some people just prefer traditional joypad controls and can't be bothered with all that Remote and Nunchuk lark, so in a nice touch you can choose to play with a GameCube Controller or Classic Controller instead. It's refreshing to see a game not forcing a new control system on people who don't necessarily want to change.
A League Of Their Own
So the game's fun, we've established that much. Even better, it's packed to the brim with loads of gameplay modes, more than any other football game we've seen on a Nintendo console. For starters, you can take part in any of the game's tournaments: there are a massive 32 full leagues and 22 cups to play through. In a cruel touch, the game has a My Trophies screen where you can see how many of the tournaments you've won. So if you're the sort of person who feels the need to completely finish a game and unlock everything, you've got a lot of matches ahead of you.
One thing that disappointed us about last year's Wii version of FIFA was the lack of Manager Mode, the career mode that let you play as a team during a number of seasons while also dealing with transfers, sponsorship, staff and club developments. Thankfully this mode is now present In FIFA 09 and is a welcome addition. Then you've got full online multiplayer, which works well and generally lag-free for the most part due to the fact that players connect to EA's reliable servers in order to play.
Of course, there's also the much-hyped 8 Vs 8 Footii Match mode but while that's fun in multiplayer for a while, it's pretty basic when all's said and done. It makes for a nice change though, unlike the Footii Party mini-games which are exactly the same as those in last year's game and just as forgettable as they were then. The only real disappointment is that the game doesn't have the Be A Pro mode which features on the other systems' versions (even the DS one!). It's a fun mode, where you control one player and are rated on your performance, but we can live without it for another year. Get it in next time though, EA!
FIFA 09 All-Play is simply the best football game on the Wii just now. With a control system that improves on PES, full online multiplayer and literally hundreds of hours of gameplay for those who want to win all the cups, there's a very good chance you'll still be playing through this by the time FIFA 10 (or FIFA 2010 or whatever it's called) comes out.