EA has been slowly upping their game on the FIFA franchise and with the release of FIFA Soccer 09 one can say that they’ve now surpassed Konami’s Pro Evolution series. EA Canada has finally learned their way around the XBox 360 and can easily say they’ve got a handle on how to properly design a soccer game. With their in-depth FIFA licensing, new gameplay, and additional modes of play, FIFA 09 has come into its own and can be declared the best soccer game for any console.

One thing that’s noticeable in FIFA 09 are how well the controls handle. The controls are the same as FIFA 08 so there’s no need to re-learn them. All the usual features are there, but they feel better. The lobbed passes, through-balls, slide tackles, one-twos, shot fakes, etc. feel more fluid and refined. A new feature is the ability to control your goal celebrations. There are a number of different celebrations that are totally controllable by you, the gamer. This enhancement just makes celebration against a friend on-line all the more sweeter.

The motions of players and the ball physics have also received a bit of an upgrade and feel more finely tuned then its predecessor. You feel more in control when passing the ball or taking the shot on a rushing goalie. Goals can be scored in a variety of realistic ways, often in impressive fashion. Players will jump together and scramble for the ball in the air, trying to navigate the other player’s body to direct the ball. Players will also call out to each other and motion to indicate through-ball opportunities. The added sense of realism really helps enhance the games presentation.

Manager mode is still in the game with a few minor tweaks brought in to increase its relevance. Players gain experience points match by match and managers can then distribute points as they see fit, allowing you to customize your team as you’d like. There’s also the return of the Be-A-Pro mode, which allows you to create a player and have him start out with a selected team in the reserves and have him work his way up to a regular member of the senior team.

A new feature involving the on-line experience allows you to play 10 v 10 in any game, letting you and your friends take each other on. You control your player for the entire match, or if there are less than 10 players you can choose to control all players. Another new feature is the Adidas Live Season which updates player form from the internet week-by-week, allowing your in-game players to match the form of their real-life counterparts. EA allows you to choose one league to update for free, but if you’d like to update other leagues it will cost you a one time fee.

Audio wise the game is still top notch, the crowds chanting and singing sound very realistic as well as the on the field action. The commentary has improved this time around, with Martin Tyler and Andy Gray still giving the play by play and color commentary it sounds more realistic. The least noticeable improvement comes in the graphics, which have only seen minor tweaks.

Overall, FIFA 09 outshines all of its predecessors and the competition. EA seems to have figured out what the fans want and has included it in the game. If you’re a fan of football, or soccer as it’s called in the U.S., then you absolutely have to pick up this game. If not for the single player seasons, then for the on-line play which has seen nothing like it before. You won’t be disappointed.