The last few installments of EA's FIFA franchise have proven that the sports gaming giant is once again taking the world's most popular sport seriously. Last year's in particular delivered a rich, long-lasting experience that was a defining entry in the series. With the groundwork already laid, FIFA 10 improves on the formula while implementing broad refinements, and in the process delivers one heck of an addictive sports video game.
FIFA 10 is all about getting you into the game and keeping you there. Accessibility is paramount, but the game continually tantalizes you to dive one level deeper until you feel as if the experience is being painted by your personal interaction.
A great example of this approach are the game's customizable set pieces, which allow you to design and record dead ball moves from within the training ground. You can then map them to your controller and execute your user-created plays during matches, both online and off. Sure, it can be a bit involved, but with the opportunity to create numerous plays, this feature truly rewards those that take the time and effort to draw up and then execute their tactics on the pitch.
Last year's ultra-addicting virtual pro mode is back and allows you to create and cultivate the soccer star of your dreams. Match by match objectives and the allure of attribute-enhancing XP make the mode even more addicting, and taking your virtual counterpart online to square off in either friendlies or pro club championship matches only enhances the already deep single player mode. And with EA game face support, hundreds of kit and body customization options, and your created character persisting throughout the FIFA 10 experience, it's easily one of the beefier takes on the now standard create-a-player mode.
The AI has been pumped up this year as well, making the already competitive computer that much more challenging. You'll feel lucky that these enhancements apply to your teammates as well; you'll notice improved trapping ability and a better overall awareness of their positions on the field. You'll rarely be barking out at your squad mates, as the AI does a good job of making the plays flow smoothly, with players efficiently fulfilling their roles as best they can based on their stats.
Toss in the revamped live season 2.0 and an improved manager mode, and you have more than enough incentive to live, breath, and eat all things soccer. Honestly, it's all a bit overwhelming, and you ought to know that the full scope of some modes are on a pay-to-play basis, but if EA's in the business of making FIFA 10 the centerpiece of your soccer-filled life, then business is certainly good.
One of the big additions to this year's game is the inclusion of 360 degree dribbling. By utilizing a combination of the analog sticks and shoulder button modifiers, the game lets you dribble circles around your opponents, including lateral maneuvers that leave defenders in the dust. The moves are great, provided you can actually execute them, which is rare unless you have the perfect combination of field space and ball control to work with. Things happen fast out there on the pitch, and these newly-implemented superstar moves can make you feel like a true stud when you pull them off. Just don't expect to do so all the time, unless you adjust the appropriate sliders to accommodate.
Factor in the enhanced ball physics that make passing and shooting--two aspects that were somewhat of a sore spot of last year's game--more realistic than ever before, you've got a tight, responsive game of soccer. The new practice arena provides the perfect playground to test out all of the new moves, with the ability to quickly alter practice settings to determine how many attackers and defenders you want to play with as well as offering the ability to try out various set pieces and free kicks as well.
Once you're in a real game, you'll notice refinements and tweaks to the gameplay that add up to a more authentic experience. Whether it's the improved shooting physics, goalkeeper AI, or movement animations, the play on the pitch flows just like you'd expect. This is where FIFA 10 really shines. The action on the field is in-depth and immersive. The game does a great job of rewarding you for executing on the intangibles while ensuring that your teammates and opponents do the same.
When dictated by the action on the pitch, players will realistically stray from their positions, desperately attempt to keep a ball in play, allow passes to reach players that are in a better position to advance, and so on. Evident too are the variants in the 500 plus officially licensed teams featured in the game. The great franchises and players feel appropriately skilled while more obscure clubs and players will challenge your personal ability. It all impacts the on-field intensity and does the greatest thing any sports video game can do: make the outcome of each match feel authentic.
The presentation in FIFA 10 gets the job done, but when compared to other offerings in this year's EA Sports lineup, it falls a bit short of capturing the energy and excitement you'd expect from a game with global interest. The action on the pitch comes off well, with detailed players cycling though hundreds of animations, nice pitch detail to help differentiate the 50 or so venues, and the as-always solid and entertaining commentary we've come to expect from the franchise with only the odd hiccup.
When you consider the pre-game fanfare of this year's Madden and in-game atmosphere of NHL 10 however, FIFA 10 feels slightly bland in comparison, with only the excellent audio delivering deep immersion in the form of the sport's trademark chants. The presentation is good, but not great. We'd like to truly feel the electric atmosphere of a spirited match in next year's game and see even more emotion from both the players and the infamously intense crowds.
Deep, challenging, rewarding, and yet somehow approachable and fun, FIFA 10 truly shines as an example of how to please fans of a particular sport. Chances are you'll fall prey to the insanely competitive online mode, where there's always someone lurking with a bit more time than you to draw up plays and increase the attributes of their virtual pro. All the tweaks add up quite nicely to deliver a sum greater that its parts, resulting in a realistic, long-lasting, and memorable effort. FIFA 10 is the best entry yet in the storied franchise and one of the best sports games this year.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.
Source: EA Sports