With just a couple of months to go, Pocket-lint was allowed an early sneak peak at the latest iteration in the FIFA series: FIFA 09 on the PC. But can it improve on a series that has been going for over a decade? We make a dash for the penalty box to find out.
FIFA 09 on the PC sees a host of new features rather than just an array of tweaks and slight improvements. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions get over 250 enhancements to the physics, gameplay and graphics, the PC version has been overhauled to bring it up to scratch and try and "reward" the PC gamers for having to put up with ports from consoles in the past.
Core to the new gameplay is a control mechanism using the mouse rather than having to make the decision of just keyboard or gamepad.
Gamers will be able to play with just the mouse with players following the cursor around the screen if you're lazy or only have one hand.
Although the mouse controls aren't available to both players in two-player split-screen matches, gamers will now be able to play "first person shooter" style with a WASD keys and mouse combo.
In play and it is not only easy to pick up, but we actually found it easier to play. Rather than pressing the d-pad or keys in the direction you want to pass or shoot the ball you simply hover your mouse cursor over the player or space on the field and press the corresponding button: left click to pass, right click to shoot and the scroll wheel to force a run.
PC owners with more buttons can customise it further to give them even more control and it brings a more tactical element to the gameplay. We found ourselves having more control and therefore spending more time building up plays as passing was considerably easier.
The mouse controls also allow you to perform tricks quickly. The configuration we had meant a press of the scroll wheel and then move of the mouse performed a trick, handy for passing defenders, although the only criticism we had of the system was that sometimes you can lose the cursor as the action moves away from you down the pitch.
Of course, it is not just about adding mouse control, other areas include a greater emphasis on strength in the game. Bigger players have enhanced capabilities to win the ball in a jostle against smaller players, while smaller players are more nimble forcing you to pick your team wisely.
There has also been greater emphasis on improving the graphics to try and match the quality on the consoles and online features have also been improved, although disappointingly, while the PS3 and Xbox 360 version will be getting a 10 vs. 10 online match mode, the PC version is still rather lacklustre forcing gamers to use a reworked MatchPoint system.
There is some internet connectivity though and the home screen can be personalised so you can follow your stats, other's online stats, or even your real life team via news updates.
In the past PC gamers have been short changed by EA when it comes to the FIFA series and this appears to be an attempt to make amends.
The new mouse/keyboard combo control system has the most appeal here, but the continued lack of any real online support, as found in the console versions, is likely to limit the appeal for those wishing to play against others around the world.
If you've got a PC powerful enough to cope, and not to fussed about online play then the new control system does bring a new lease of life into the game, however we suspect that come launch day it will be the console version people will be clamoring for.
FIFA 09 on the PC is expected to launch in September.