I‚Äôve had the honour of reviewing the last three FIFA titles for NZGamer and up until four days ago I always considered FIFA ‚Äô09 to be the best football video game ever built. But without a doubt EA Sports‚Äô latest efforts with the 2010 edition of the franchise crams in even more footballing goodness than ever before. In fact it makes FIFA ‚Äô09 seem instantly dated and sluggish. Which is no easy feat.
As you can imagine, the core of FIFA ‚Äô10 is very similar to the last game so we have taken a different approach to this review. Rather than rehash old ground, the following high-lights the new features that have helped push ‚Äô10 high above the previous installment.
Total "Balls-out" Control
EA have been flogging the whole new 360 degree dribbling for months now. But the truth is, FIFA ‚Äô10 is unlike any other football game I have ever played because of it. It takes some getting used to as players will need to use more finesse when controlling the ball, but it results in a very authentic experience. The last FIFA had eight directions to run in which meant that getting past a player required a clunky diagonal shift in direction. Now in FIFA ‚Äô10 the slightest nudge on the control stick will affect your players angle allowing you to blast past defenders without the need for trick moves. The game not only feels and looks more natural, running with the ball is now a more fluid experience and better for it. Of course your handling on the ball will be determined by your player‚Äôs attributes too so you will need to adjust to suit each different player. With Samuel Eto'o you‚Äôll be able to zip past opponents but don‚Äôt expect the same performance from defender Paddy McCarthy for example.
Move over Rooney
This year bulks up the ever-popular ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode that allows you to create your own player and play entire seasons with your favourite team, working your way up to International stardom. Customising a ‚Äėvirtual you‚Äô is no longer a chore either thanks to a very detailed player editor that lets you tweak just about every aspect of your person. The face editor uses the left and right analogue sticks to alter aspects of your nose, chin, cheeks and so fourth in a similar way to what we saw in Fight Night 4. You can even upload your face and download it to your console via EA‚Äôs online ‚ÄúGame Face‚ÄĚ server. It requires you to sign up and upload a couple of photo to EA‚Äôs site, but the advantage is EA are looking to incorporate this into a wide range of titles from now on. Other than the face, FIFA ‚Äô10 also allows you to customise your player‚Äôs physical stature as well including height and weight. Interestingly EA have balanced up these attributes by making it affect your playing abilities. Taller lads will be great in the air, larger ones will be able to push others off the ball easier and shorter players will have better acceleration. Some people will argue that there are players out there who can do all three but in the greater scheme of things, EA have done the right thing by having a range of advantages suited to your body type. Besides players can hone in and improve individual statistics on the pitch as well.
Grow Your Pro
Once you are happy with the look of your player you set out to make a name for yourself, starting off in the little leagues and working up to play alongside the likes of Liverpool‚Äôs Torres. It‚Äôs all about impressing your coach with your performance on the pitch and ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô has an impressive rating system that follows your every match. Every pass, tackle and shot is graded and affects your score in either a positive or negative manner. Being in the right place on the field for your appropriate position also affects your rating, so midfielders will need to travel the lengths of the pitch to attack or defend. Defenders need to be marking players (indicated by a clever red halo so you know who is open) and attackers need to be on-side and wary of through-balls. A great performance can earn you respect and also unlock extras such as branded boots, accessories or new celebratory moves. A poor performance can see you sitting on the bench as you battle to remain in the squad.
On top of this FIFA ‚Äô10 ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode also throws in objectives for you to complete through-out your career. They range from Game Objectives such as ‚ÄúScore a Goal‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúAchieve a Match Rating of 6.0 or greater‚ÄĚ through to Club Objectives like ‚ÄúTake a Total of 30 Shots on Goal or Greater‚ÄĚ. These objectives obviously change depending on your position, so being goal-keeper sets you tasks as ‚ÄúSave 4+ Shots on Goal‚ÄĚ or a defender might have ‚ÄúSuccessfully tackle a player six times‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúConcede no fouls‚ÄĚ and so fourth. Achieving objectives earns your player extra attributes and points to help enhance your abilities and statistics. Eventually your player will even be able to represent your country and then even National Objectives start to kick-in. There is no question that ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô is one of the high-lights in FIFA ‚Äô10 and gives gamers a true sense of rags to riches in football.
‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode also includes a new camera mode which puts you right in the action. Initially it pans from above giving you an end-to-end type viewpoint to let you see a large part of the pitch. But when making runs down the line or taking a shot on goal the camera zooms in nice and close to the action causing a surge of adrenaline just prior to your final cross or attempt on goal. It‚Äôs incredibly effective but truthfully takes some getting used to. Judging distances as the camera focuses in takes practice and some gamers may prefer to switch to the standard camera angles (and all of these are all available in ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode).
Who‚Äôs a Clever Boy then?
There was nothing quite as frustrating as watching players standing around like lemons or staring in disbelief as your goalie fails to latch onto a cross in FIFA ‚Äô09. For all of the pure brilliance in the last game, the AI left a lot to be desired. Thankfully EA seemed to have ironed out a lot of the stupid in FIFA ‚Äô10 and off-the-ball players are more aware of their surroundings, quicker to find space and can anticipate the ball better. I also noticed a dramatic reduction in the number of off-sides from non-player controlled players. Goalkeepers are a lot more savvy now as well, often staying on their line until just the right moment to close down the angle of your advance. Chipping the goalie or even side-stepping him is a much harder (and realistic) affair now. Goalies and defenders can sense pressure as well, often playing a safe option rather than lofting the ball straight back into the danger zone as they used to. My only complaint is FIFA ‚Äô10 doesn‚Äôt seem to be built to handle hand-balls. But I can only assume that this could be a potential nightmare as how do you try and prevent your players from accidentally getting their hands in the way? I still think the option to take a dive would make for an interesting game though. But again how does the game allow for leniency and ‚Äėhuman error‚Äô with rigid computer referee AI. Taking a dive would probably just result in yellow cards every single time.
The Beautiful Game Gets a Face-Lift
From a distance FIFA ‚Äô10 doesn‚Äôt look all that different from last year‚Äôs version except for the stadiums. But when you get in close to the action the improvements in the visuals are out-standing. All of the players have had a major over-haul in the animations department and react to the ball (and other players) better than ever before. Fending and jostling for the ball is just as much upper-body as it is footwork and FIFA shows this off beautifully. With the replay mode letting you view every angle in slow-motion, you can really see the massive attention to detail in every push, over-step and tackle that occurs. Even off the ball you will witness clever little touches of detail such as players arguing with match officials at half-time, reacting to bad challenges and referees and lines-men now dive or duck to get out of the way of the ball.
All of the top-billing players are all modeled nicely with Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba all looking recognisable. Some of the lesser known teams start to pull their faces from the generic pile though and a handful of the Wellington Phoenix FC players don‚Äôt look much like their counter-parts. EA have been especially kind in the looks department with Archie Thompson from Melbourne Victory.
As mentioned the stadiums have grown in size and now include extras such as camera-men, security guards and so fourth. Unfortunately the crowds still appear relatively static and repetitive, but from a distance certainly do their job. One surprising feature though was that despite the stadiums and players being more detailed, the loading times seem to have been reduced by a couple of seconds. It‚Äôs almost a shame as the loading screen Arena sequences are more enjoyable than ever. In the Arena players can now select their choice of practice mode whether it is 1 on 1 (the default that we are all used to) or any of the new ones including ‚ÄėPractice Set Move‚Äô and ‚ÄėPractice Match‚Äô. Setting up your own Set Moves is definitely another stunning feature of FIFA ‚Äô10 and lets you customise your own free-kicks, corners and throw-ins. Each set-piece can be saved to a position on the field, such as 30 yards out and tried out until you get the move just perfect for a real match. The editor allows you to move individual players around and even program in run paths to really confuse opponents in multiplayer. I had three players all run off in different directions before chipping a pass over the defensive wall. It takes a bit of time and practice but the option will be totally appreciated by the hardcore FIFA fans. Practice Match was good fun too, allowing you to set the number of attackers and defenders but unfortunately it still takes place on a full-size pitch. And the AI goal-keeper is still happy to just boot the ball half-way up the pitch even though you only have 3 on 3 and you have to run and retrieve the ball. There is room for improvement on this one, but still a nice shift in pace from the standard attacker on goalie Arena mode. Finally your own ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô player can even improve his skills by taking shots, juggling the ball or just mucking around in the Arena.
Who Are Ya?
The sound effects have been given new life in FIFA ‚Äô10 as well. Thankfully us ‚Äô09 fans finally get some new commentary. Of course it is provided by the ever faithful Andy Gray and Martin Tyler who as usual, supply a great voice to the game. Some of the off-the-ball banter from the commentators seems to be more educational than usual though, with pitch comments and more team history lessons than previous titles. Matches also now feature player and coach team-talk over the top of the roar of the crowd. Often in a game you will hear yells like ‚Äúbury it!‚ÄĚ when in front of goal or ‚Äúman-on!‚ÄĚ when being pursued. In ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode it really helped make you feel part of the team. Finally, in the sound department the music soundtrack is on par with previous titles and includes a plethora of tunes from all genres.
FIFA ‚Äô10 of course brings updated teams to the game, complete with new strips and latest additions to the squad. The formidable Real Madrid look to be the ultimate all-star team this year but of course many will opt for Manchester United who are probably one of the most balanced five-star teams in the game. It‚Äôs also a great chance to don the red and black in ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode to try and impress Fergie alongside the likes of Rooney and Berbatov (and try to replace Michael Owen perhaps?). But being a sadistic sort, the Wellington Phoenix are my team of choice and the game includes the full A-League tournament complete with the two new teams North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United. The new line-up for the Phoenix is intact and the statistics crew at EA have been pleasingly generous with the likes of Greenacre and Ifill up front. I only noticed some unusual names when playing for the Phoenix in the ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô mode but without captain status you don‚Äôt have any control over your team‚Äôs line-up.
There are plenty more surprises instore for those picking up FIFA ‚Äô10. Every year when EA Sports release their annual sporting titles many are stuck wondering if the upgrade is worth their money. It can be a difficult decision and perhaps for those very casual FIFA players who only pick up the game when mates are around to kill a couple of hours it isn‚Äôt worth it. But for all those FIFA fans who are annoyed at the dodgey AI and lack of real control in FIFA ‚Äô09 ‚Äď I think it‚Äôs safe to say you won‚Äôt be disappointed with this year‚Äôs edition. Whether playing single player and pushing your team through tournaments or taking your personal ‚ÄėBe a Pro‚Äô player online and making a name for yourself ‚Äď there are hours upon hours of pure football brilliance here.