With the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 now established as current consoles it's easy to forget that a lot of gamers still use their PS2 to play the latest video games. Given Sony's support for the platform and its steady sales it's no surprise to see FIFA on Sony's ageing console for the ninth time (not including mid-season releases). With fans eager for the game to offer something new yet again, and EA clearly focussing on modern consoles, is FIFA 09 on PS2 worth buying?
For long-time FIFA PS2 players there's good and bad news. The good news is that EA hasn't simply updated the player rosters and slapped a new name on the box. Numerous changes and enhancements have been made to last year's game and new game modes have been included. The bad news is that unless you played last year's game obsessively it'll be hard to notice many of these changes. This was always going to be the case considering how many FIFA games have been released on the PS2, but worth bearing in mind before you head to the local store, cash in hand.
Of the additions this year, the improved animations will be one of the easiest to spot. Over 500 new sequences of animation have been included in FIFA 09, giving the players a more realistic look on the pitch. This affects gameplay too, with character attributes really influencing gameplay. Quicker players can shift the ball faster, giving them the ability to edge past defenders, and bulkier players now use their strength to hold off smaller players, even knocking them to the ground. Skilled players can even hold up play like the very best strikers, shielding the ball while team mates catch up with play.
As has been the case for a number of years, tricks play an important part in advanced play, with four new skills being included in this year's game. You can get by without using them at all, but play against an expert and your defence will be torn apart. Although they don't look nearly as impressive as they do in the PS3/360 versions, it's still great to see Ronaldinho performing tricks in the middle of the pitch. The first touch control system returns too and is once again a great tool in your attacking arsenal.
Something that had been exclusive to the next-gen games is the Be a Pro camera. FIFA 09 includes this on PS2 for the first time, letting players see the action from a camera focussed on your single player. Combined with the season mode in which you can create your own professional player, Be A Pro is one of the main reasons to pick up FIFA 09 on PS2 if you already own last year's game.
Also new this year are simplified controls. Before you get hot and bothered over EA dumbing the game down, fear not - this is just an option for new players. The idea is that novices can start playing using a simplified two-button control system, learning more advanced controls as they progress. It's a good idea and similar to the approach EA is taking with its sports games on Wii, and should allow players of all experience levels to have a decent game together.
Manager mode returns almost in the same form it was last year, although you can now play in a number of friendly matches during pre-season. You've also got all the expected tournaments to play in, exhibition matches and Challenge mode. There's plenty to do as always, but lots of it will feel very similar to what you've been doing for the past few years. We haven't been able to check every team, but it also seems as though the deadline day transfers have made it in.
There's no question that FIFA on PS2 is starting to show its age. It looks good for a PS2 game and the new animations are excellent, but the frame rate isn't as smooth as we'd like it to be. It's also a big disappointment that online play is nowhere to be seen in FIFA 09 on PS2. We know the focus has shifted to modern consoles but the lack of online play seriously restricts multiplayer options. Still, EA has made an effort to improve a series that has been tweaked to death over the past decade, and produced a game that all FIFA fans will be pleased with. It might just be time to make the jump to a new console though.