Was it really only a few years ago that the FIFA series was in danger of becoming stagnant? Minor incremental updates and graphical face-lifts year after year left the franchise in desperate need of re-invigoration. Someone at EA Sports clearly got the message loud and clear from FIFA’s loyal supporters because the series has changed remarkably over the last couple of years. Jam-packed full of game modes and cutting-edge features, FIFA isn’t just a decent football game that struggles to compete with its Pro Evolution Soccer rival anymore, but it’s now the most complete and accurate simulation of the beautiful sport, of any sport in fact, to have ever graced our consoles.
After FIFA 09, we expected FIFA 10 to be little more than an update to an already brilliant game, but it’s clear that the team at EA Sports are not content to settle for anything less than perfection. The last couple of years have proven that the studio is willing to pull out all the stops in order to consistently churn out the number one football romp on the market for many years to come. From the fluid animations, dazzling A.I. and wealth of game modes, FIFA 10 builds on the foundations of FIFA 09 with style and painstaking attention to detail. All bases have been covered this time around to deliver a smooth and technically-sound game of footy. If you’re a fan of football, you need to look no further than EA Sports’ latest entry in this long running series for the complete match-day experience.
First up, there are a couple of new features that may seem like minor additions, but which actually help to enhance your game on the pitch immeasurably. The addition of a practice mode, which boasts a range of well-presented video tutorials, finally gives those gamers who have struggled to get to grips with some of the more technical aspects of football in past FIFA games the chance to hone their skills. Equally as important to improving play on the pitch is the set piece creator, which allows you to practice and save up to four rehearsed set pieces. In FIFA 09, during online matches, we’d quite often see players repeating the same in-swinging cross to the far post trying to nab an easy goal, but now that there’s more choice there’s more unpredictability during matches and greater scope for tactical play.
On the pitch, gameplay initially appears to be identical to FIFA 09, but after a few games you’ll realise that there’s a brand new layer of depth to enjoy. Matches play out like fierce local derbies, with aggressive shoulder-barges and gut-wrenching tackles being the order of the day, alongside free-flowing, passing football that runs swiftly from end-to-end. Subtle enhancements, such as being able to take a free-kick immediately by placing your hand on the ball and picking out a team-mate, rather than waiting for the opposition to get back in position, gives you the chance to take them by surprise. Meanwhile, the referee plays the advantage rule accurately at any given opportunity, and he’ll leap over the ball if it happens to get in the way to ensure gameplay flows as smoothly as possible. These minor but significant tweaks have all been designed to alleviate any frustrations that we may have incurred during FIFA 09. It works. The result is an exciting, action-packed and challenging game on the pitch.
Indeed, FIFA 10 is a more challenging game to play than its predecessor. It’s hard to predict what the opposition are going to do next because the A.I. has been enhanced to further mirror the behavior of real-world players. They’ll move into space curving their runs to collect a pass, defenders will track-back and jostle your attacker off the ball, and wingers will attempt to dribble past your full-backs should you lose your concentration for a split-second. The result of improved A.I. logic is that you really do need to think like a footballer, pass the ball around and patiently look for openings. This is the first of the FIFA games that really encourages you to be creative and experiment with the full list of moves at your disposal because you’ll often need to if you want to out-smart the opposition.
The all-new 360-degree dribbling system helps to expand that choice and creativity on the pitch. It ultimately gives you increased control over the ball when it’s at your feet and allows you to dribble your way out of tight situations. Utilised in conjunction with some of the many visually outstanding tricks that you can pull off, such as fake crosses, reverse step-overs or rainbow flicks, the new dribbling system is an outstanding enhancement to the series that now allows you to play football with style, as well as substance. On the pitch, FIFA 10 gets it almost perfect, delivering an exciting, flowing, aggressive and technically outstanding game of football, but goalkeepers still let the side down. Though EA has said that goalkeepers have been tweaked to react more intelligently, they don’t always react well. They tend to parry shots quite a lot when it looks they should have easily caught the ball, which can often allow a tap-in by the opposition. They’ll also occasionally make a rash decision in coming out to get the ball when they should have stayed on their line. Still, it’s a minor annoyance in a game that largely gets the behaviour of players and animations on the pitch spot-on.
Off the pitch, there’s the usual array of fine online and offline game modes, including the return of the Be A Pro, where you take to the pitch as one particular member of the team and then have to work together to grind out a result. It’s a spectacular game mode, especially when you’re playing alongside a team that communicates well. Manager Mode also returns but has been more in-depth and now boasts more realistic player developments, player transfers and growth curves based on factors such as age and environment. Indeed, there were enough quality game modes last year and EA could have just stuck with them, but instead it’s expanded the roster. Virtual Pro mode allows you to create a player from scratch, even mapping your own face onto his shoulders, and build his reputation and stats in any of the offline game modes. Whereas, Live Season, which EA is charging separately for, allows you to download updates that take into account true-to-life stats of real-world players and teams. In terms of options and replay value, FIFA 10 really is the complete football package.
After last year, we didn’t know whether the FIFA series could actually get much better, but it has. You’ve probably noticed during this review that we’ve found it hard to rein-in our enthusiasm about FIFA 10, right? Well, that’s what great games do to us. And FIFA 10 is, without a shadow of a doubt, a truly a great game that boasts game modes which we could have only dreamed about five years ago. It’s on the pitch though, where FIFA really excels, with brilliant A.I., great animations and smooth, flowing and aggressive gameplay that does well to emulate the fiercest of local derbies. Whenever any PSU staff member has been playing FIFA 10 you can always be guaranteed of one thing. When a goal is scored their fist automatically clenches and punches the air with celebration as they let out an almighty cheer. Football is full of passion, both on the pitch and on the terraces, and FIFA 10 captures that in abundance with an outstanding tribute to the beautiful game.