No sooner have I finished one FIFA review does another sequel appear on the store shelves and yet again I am teased by all manner of EA advertisements and information regarding their latest masterpiece. FIFA 09 pummeled the opposition into the ground even converting the hardcore fans of the ‘other’ rival series over to their fold. This shocked the fans of both factions yet Pro Evolution Soccer has not reacted very well to the challenge and instead seems to be sticking with what now is considered a pretty dated formula.
FIFA 10 has it all and enough to satisfy even the most judgmental footy fanatic. Although this is sounding like a conclusion at the start of the review, you probably already knew from its predecessor that the hard work was already completed and now it was just a matter of adding some new features and animations as well as tinkering with the visuals.
When playing your first competitive match, attention is quickly drawn to the new flowing animations. They were already pleasing to the eye and added depth to your passing, crossing and other football manoeuvers, but now they are so robust the gameplay as a result has again stepped forward in quality and indeed possibilities. Every year the ability to enjoy not just the thrills of scoring goals, but just the process of defending and attacking plus the interplay between your team advances. It is not all good news in this area though as unfortunately with this extra zing the ball has a knack of pinging a little oddly between the tackles. Football is certainly a little random at times and this is certainly reflected, yet the nasty feeling of being let down by an unlucky bounce off a knee straight to your opponent happens far too often. Tackling although an important part becomes almost a coin toss at times of whether you are going to win from the encounter or not, which harms the overall feel quite a bit.
FIFA 10 is suitable for those like me who just want to select a team and get straight to the action and those craving depth and time sucking setups can also plunge into every detail and even create their own movements in free kicks to control every aspect of the setting. It almost feels like American Football the level of detail when creating a new tactic to throw off your adversary and incredibly rewarding if you can be that bothered to go that extra mile.
The artificial intelligence (A.I.) has noticeably been enhanced allowing for greater movement over the pitch and your team mates calculating their best action as a result. Of course with this increased awareness your opposition have also learned a trick or two and will more effectively remove your threat if you aren’t paying close attention to everyone around you.
Another tweak is the new 360 degree dribbling. This system gives you a little more control over activating those fancy moves akin to Ronaldo’s antics which you either love or hate him for. They are tricky to pull off and in reality you will stick with the typical pass and shoot routine, but if there is space and a single defender to trick, its worth a crack and you may surprise yourself and your team mates at your wizardry. Just don’t tell them it was a fluke!
The Manager Mode continues with more realistic transfers and player development and this section will be the place you spend a lot of your time. Virtual Pro though will allow you to create your own player and includes the ability to add your own face. Bizarrely this doesn’t support the Xbox Live Vision Camera and instead you will need to take a couple of photos of your face and upload them with a little bit of tweaking to EA’s Game Face website. Seems a little disconnected having to use my computer to create a game face when other titles from EA’s own label creates far better results just by using the camera on the Xbox 360, but hey that’s how it is and this year we have to suffer the long winded process of installing browser plug-ins in a beta environment. The key though to Virtual Pro is the way in which you increase your player’s statistics both offline and more excitingly online. The more moves and qualities you use on the pitch are reflected by rewards in the name of achievements. No not the achievements that will give you more Gamerscore, but ones that increase your players statistics and also appearance. You start out as a lowly reserve hoping to make your mark in the footballing world and eventually play for your international home team. It takes quite a bit of patience and resolve to progress as long as you can put up with equally lowly team mates executing the most abysmal mistakes at times. Even with the slight frustration, the addictive nature of this mode has you battling on regardless providing bucket loads of entertainment and value.
What really annoys me though is their micro-transactions that Electronic Arts insist on pushing. For the impatient among us there are purchasable options to enhance your performance on the pitch in the pro career and I really hope no one is daft enough to splurge their Microsoft points on such silly offerings. Although I understand the wonder of additional content and that a fee is acceptable, but these paying for what comes down to nothing more than cheats is becoming a serious pet hate for me. Please create stadiums, game modes and other such tempting purchase options, but this other dark side to EA games really needs to stop!
Presentation has always been one of the FIFA series strengths and it builds upon this by not adding yet more cut-scenes for the inevitable excuse of admiring the quality close up. In fact cut-scenes have been drastically cut, most notably when the referee comes along to upset your day by cautioning you or worse sending you off the field of dreams entirely. Instead the camera remains at its usual height while the harshness of the upsetting news is revealed, which also has the added bonus of the commentary revealing the news at the right time instead of magically looking into their crystal ball and revealing the result far too early.
This years addition doesn’t push much harder to wow you visually and do yourself a favour, don’t gander over towards the crowd, the feeling of being there will evaporate quickly as their blocky mess stares back. It has improved however not by much, yet the areas that have are noticeable and increase the realism.
I have been banging on for years for the FIFA series to reintroduce the weather system and finally after a lot of badgering they have heard my plea and I can finally smile. With being a predominantly English game they obviously saw fit to have it rain quite a bit, but as I sit here writing this review with the wind and rain battering my window, I can hardly blame them! It thankfully is a subtle feature that adds to the atmosphere rather than going over the top for realism and that is good news indeed. Just having an overcast day contributes to the dullness that our poor teams have to suffer week in week out.
Gears of War engaged the player by dragging the camera close in with the famous wobble when running and accentuating the aural surroundings. FIFA takes a few hints from this title and does its best to replicate in a football setting. For those with 5.1 systems, FIFA has lovingly cherished the almost gladiatorial like stadiums with sounds coming from every channel making you believe you are actually part of something immense and with the addition of controlling a single player rather than a whole team, opens up the possibilities of yet more adrenaline pumping situations. Like me though you will probably tire of the close up camera angle and instead resort to good old reliable that we use typically, however please at least experience the sensation before you start fiddling with the settings.
The commentary always suffers no matter what game you play and FIFA 10 actually seems more problematic than its predecessors. Mistakes happen fairly often and when such details have gone into the rest of the title, you wonder why just a little more effort hasn’t gone into this area as well, but its not enough to put you off purchasing.
The single player options certainly won’t leave you idle and the appeal of increasing your created footballers attributes will have you hammering away at those controller buttons for many hours to come. Online as ever with its massive participation (10v10) and addictive rivalries will also make FIFA 10 the 12 month enjoyment fest at least until FIFA 11 comes along. You can’t say that about many games as usually you unlock as many achievements within your reach and move onto something else, yet FIFA 10 you play just for the enjoyment and not for those pesky achievements that can often destroy the dedication of the gamer.
FIFA 10 is untouchable for its gameplay, presentation, audio and feature set and although there is still room for improvement, there is no doubt in my mind that EA Sports have again created a spectacular addition to the long running series. It certainly isn’t as momentous a moment as when its predecessor smashed onto the scene, but its confident enough to stride into the stadium and crush those who still dare to ignore the virtues and pleasures that only FIFA realistically presents.