X2 Football 2009 Review

There aren’t many full-featured soccer titles in the App Store, and for good reason. Capturing the level of depth and complexity required to please purists is no doubt an intimidating task, especially on a platform as new as the iPhone.

X2 Football 2009 has risen to the challenge, and it could be the most complete soccer title on the iDevice. For starters, it’s actually called football. But beyond that, a robust control scheme and free-flowing gameplay set it apart from its competition.

A brilliant capturing of the world’s most popular game.

British developer Exient’s X2 title will no doubt draw comparisons to Gameloft’s Real Soccer 2009. Both feature full, 11-on-11 matches with the top superstars from around the world. While Real Soccer 2009 showcases the world’s top premier leagues, X2 sticks to national teams in an international format. X2 also has a stripped-down penalty shootout mode for those looking for a quick game, as well as regional cup tournaments.

X2′s superiority to Real Soccer 2009 is apparent from the moment you start playing. Instead of restricting gameplay to shoot or pass, controls are expanded to include through balls and crosses, as well as a more sophisticated defensive system that allows for tackling and pressure on demand. The directional pad is floating, allowing for control to take place wherever you decide to put your thumb.

Stringing together passes is a breeze, and an overall field map is presented in the top corner to show the locations of players off-screen. The combination of through balls and shots that can be powered up according to the duration of the button press can make for some pretty exciting offensive spectacles. Formations can be set through the team management in the options, but the game doesn’t do a real good at maintaining the shape–you’ll be hard pressed to see a difference between a 4-5-1 or a 4-4-2–but that may just be a function of the small screen.

Big plays, such as scores or particularly heinous fouls, are highlighted in a robust replay system. Presented as a cutscene, each replay features multiple angles and VCR controls. There’s no way to save these replays, however, so any gloating about how awesome your last goal was will be limited to those sitting around you.

All of the big stars are in this game, playing for their respective national teams. The game is decidedly pro-England, judging by the depth of commentary provided by the in-game announcers. Most of the players on the English side are called out by name, whereas players on other national teams will only get the call if they’re a big star on an English Premier League team, like Spain’s Fernando Torres of Liverpool.

The guy on the right side of the wall is doing it wrong.

Each team features the full national team roster, and most teams are fairly balanced, as you would expect for international style of play. Even the United States gets some respect, able to hold their own against superior European squads. That said, reigning Euro Cup champion Spain is particularly dominant.

Despite the superlative gameplay, X2 faces a glaring omission in its lack of multiplayer. Playing against bots can only hold your attention for so long, and as any sports gamer will tell you, it’s always more fun playing against a human. If X2 is to rise to our highest mark of “Must Have,” there has to be some kind of real competition, whether it’s local wi-fi or online, especially for its $6.99 price tag.

But as far as sports games go for the iPhone go, X2 Football 2009 easily falls near the top of the heap, and is easy to recommend.

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