Also available on: 360, PC, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS, iPhone
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Release date: October 2, 2009
Despite its best efforts to improve and offer an increasing number of new features, while still retaining all of the player and league licences, FIFA has never fully managed to win over the legions of fans dedicated to Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series. Still, in the battle for sales, FIFA has always managed to prevail, even if the purists remain unconvinced.
However, FIFA's next-gen efforts have started to pry away a certain section of PES fans, who have become frustrated by Konami's seeming lack of ability to change with the times. If you think of FIFA 09 as a heroic cup final defeat on penalties, then its fair to say that FIFA 10 manages to find the back of the net within the 90 minutes, with a corker of a goal capable of winning any game.
The reason for FIFA 10's success the fact that it's without doubt the most complete and realistic football experience on a computer screen, and such a compelling one that you'd be hard pressed to better it, even if you managed to get a game for your favourite team.
Anybody who has played the demo, or read the press reports prior to buying the game, will know that the big new feature, and the one that makes all the difference, is the 360 degree player movement. Such a simple feature in theory, but one that really manages to free the football game from its digital shackles. Players now move with unprecedented freedom and precision, which opens up whole new ways to play and approach both attack and defence. Playing the game, you might not realise how good a feature its is right away, but especially when using top players such as Ronaldo or Messi, the opportunity to run in any given direction allows for smarter use of the ball when dribbling, and to a certain extent, eliminates guaranteed man beating, goal scoring tricks that have always plagued football games in the past. When combined with the usual improved tricks, ball physics, passing and shooting abilities, plus the defensive touches that allow for more physical tussles when going toe-to-toe, the gameplay is as smooth, fluid and realistic as it's ever been.
In terms of game modes, FIFA 10 doesn't re-invent the wheel, but it does improve on the modes that were introduced in past titles, with upgrades to the 'Be A Pro' and 'Manager Mode' the most striking of the improved updates. Although 'Be A Pro' remains largely the same, the 'Virtual Pro' mode adds a lot to the experience, and allows for players to become completely immersed and obsessed with one mode. Creating a player in 'Virtual Pro' allows for the created magician to compete in a regular 'Be A Pro' season, as well as take him online in virtual teams and play him in 'Manager' mode with the ability to drop him or make him captain as and when you please, while building his stats up in the process. EA's facial importing feature also means that he will look the part; although that might not be such a good thing depending on what you look like.
The individual 'Be A Pro' games, is which you are tracked and scored based on specific criteria, allows for a certain RPG-style progression, and if you fulfil targets set by your coach, you'll have more points to spend on a whole number of upgrades, including obvious talents such as shooting, passing and dribbling skills, as well as more obscure and subtle improvements such as tactical awareness and positioning. Each game will see your creation gain or lose points based on his position, passing - including calling for a pass - shooting, jostling and tackling. The biggest problem for some may be encountered with the default camera, which makes it tough to see everything that's going on; however, this can be easily rectified with a quick camera switch. The other problem stems from the point scoring, which at times seems a little harsh, especially when you are penalised for positioning, due to the team losing the ball, with players forced, often impossibly, to track back in an instant resulting in a point loss. This is especially tough with an attacking midfielder, who often seems to have to be the last line of defence, as well as the furthest forward attacker depending on who's got the ball. A small gripe admittedly, but it can be frustrating when you are busting a gut and getting punished; although perhaps that's how Steven Gerrard feels every time he plays.
The 'Manager Mode' has also added a slew of new touches to add authenticity, none of which are particularly groundbreaking, but they all add up to create an almost flawless experience. The transfers are much more genuine and competitive; players select realistic clubs to join and spend more time weighing options up thanks to multiple teams and offers coming in at once. The opposition are smarter too, with a bigger emphasis on fatigue and opposition playing a factor in squad rotation. Like any EA Sports title, the whole thing can be slightly overwhelming thanks to the trawl of stats and financial implications, but this can be helped by selecting a more generous board, so as budgets become slightly easier to manage.
The other modes, especially the online, remain as strong as ever, with players able to join teams as individuals, as well as partake in various competitions etc. There's also the 'Live Season 2.0' mode, which sees the game update at regular intervals to incorporate real-life results and occurrence in the world of football. The obvious benefit of this is that you can change your team's fate; however, frustratingly this comes at a price, and with so much more content to choose from, it may well put people off.
FIFA 10 is as good a football game as there's ever been, and really does move the goalposts in terms of what a sports game can achieve. There are a few minor bugs in the game, such as players freezing on the spot at times, and the commentary, although deeper than most games out there, does become somewhat repetitive after a few games with the same team. However, neither fault really ruins the experience in any way, but is perhaps more noticeable when considering how polished the rest of the game is. The realism, presentation and abundance of options and gameplay modes to choose from, not to mention leagues and teams, means that FIFA 10 offers enormous value for money, and will keep players satisfied until EA's next annual offering. It will be interesting to see how EA can top this, not to mention its rivals, because it truly is the most riveting footy experience on the market.
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