Football is Germanyâ€™s national sport of choice and unsurprisingly, EAâ€™s display at GamesCom was constantly packed out with those desperate to try out FIFA â€™10. Although EA had a relatively small area, it was kitted out beautifully with glowing halos above the gaming area, a miniature goal with screens inside and large neon signs that lit up red and green. It looked like a digital Christmas. Despite the dozen Xbox 360â€™s, half a dozen PCâ€™s and several Wii consoles all running FIFA â€™10 â€“ getting anywhere near them without waiting twenty minutes proved difficult.
Luckily I had already received an exclusive hands-on session with the game the day before the event opened to the public. What amazed me with FIFA â€™10 was that after a couple of matches â€“ FIFA â€™09 seemed immediately dated. Personally I had considered the last FIFA game to be the best football video game ever made. Sure, it had some annoying quirks but overall it offered a fairly realistic attempt at the sport while keeping it extremely fun. But FIFA â€™10 is certainly an improved model in many aspects.
Firstly the player physics and models have been severely updated. Jostling for the ball is a whole new experience, letting you nudge opponents off their mark and watching them go shoulder to shoulder with one another just like the real thing. My only concern here is the balancing of the player statistics â€“ for example will playing as Drogba allow you to just barge any other player off the ball effortlessly? Unfortunately I wasnâ€™t able to determine exactly how this was solved with my short time with the game. But I am fairly confident that EA will ensure an even and believable contest even for Rooney-spammers (that annoying little bugger could shove his stubby little self past any defence in FIFA â€™09). Player reactions are a lot quicker now as well, with AI controlled players latching onto loose balls or turning quicker off the ball rather than standing around looking a bit blind like in FIFA â€™09. It was great seeing every player on screen looking more active this time round and trying to anticipate the play better.
But some of the best improvements come to your back line. The defensive AI has been massively improved, especially with regards to your goalkeepers. Not only have their reaction speeds been increased, goalies will now rush back toward goal if the ball is chipped over them in a desperate attempt to flick the ball off the line. They will also perform â€śsafety firstâ€ť saves by just nudging the ball over the bar from a corner or a cross that curves in too close. So many goals in FIFA â€™09 were scored needlessly from rebounds off the goalieâ€™s loose palms â€“ but it looks like these will be minimised this time around.
FIFA â€™10 also allows the user to control the urgency their players possess when challenging for the ball. Obviously this affects the playerâ€™s stamina but when you have a striker jostling for the ball inside the penalty box â€“ you will feel totally justified to maximising the playerâ€™s sense of urgency to get to the ball first. This also applies to the defender as well of course and the end result makes for a much more realistic and adrenaline pumping spectacle.
All of this does prompt a few concerns though. After two matches and around 20 minutes of gameplay, I had only scored 1 goal and both of my matches ended in draws. Although I found myself finding room around the pitch and making some brilliant breaks for goal (strikers are a lot better at making runs into space now) â€“ actually punching the old onion bag was quite a challenge. Either it was a mix of a refined shooting mechanic that I was unfamiliar with; the ramped up goal-keeper AI; or possibly just the pressure of having hundreds of eager eyes watching my every move on the big screen. But even if it is the former, having a tougher time of scoring isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing for FIFA. Winning 9 â€“ 0 wasnâ€™t exactly a very realistic scenario and yet it was certainly achievable in FIFA â€™09, even against evenly-matched opponents. Either way, FIFA â€™10 will raise the bar in areas that needed attention and will obviously be on the wish-list for many a football fan this season.
Especially with the newly announced feature of players being able to scan their faces into the game and then insert digital versions of themselves into the team of their choice. With the new â€śBe a Proâ€ť mode players will be able to take themselves online as well, building up a reputation, being scouted and eventually being one of the most sought after players of your time. EA Sports have also promised some more online improvements as well, so stay tuned for more info as we get it.
NZGamer.com would like thank Activision, Capcom, Microsoft NZ, SCENZ, SEGA, THQ and Ubisoft for making this trip possible.
The Good: Smarter AI, improved goalkeepers
The Bad: Finding the back of the net seems harder(?)
The Ugly: Peter Crouch and his gangliness