IGN Review of FIFA Soccer 10
It's tough for sports game developers to outshine previous efforts substantially enough to emerge as something special. NHL 09 was able to do it, NBA Live 10 was able to do it, and now the folks at EA Canada have miraculously created a FIFA title that is markedly better than the impressive previous effort.
When it comes to sports games people are always crying out for some genre-defining feature addition or a graphical upgrade that blows the doors off of anything that you've seen before. FIFA 10 is devoid of those giant leaps forward, yet still manages to impress in every one of the traditional aspects of the sport.
Let's start with Virtual Pro which, in my opinion, should make its way into every EA Sports game in the coming year or two. It starts similarly to the standard Be A Pro modes (which are also included). You create a player, design his attributes to fit your play style and sculpt his look to match your own – or some disgusting alternative rendition. You can even use GameFace to upload a photo of yourself into the game. It works better in FIFA 10 than it ever has prior. It isn't perfect, but it's better than the previous iteration that made its way into Fight Night Round 4.
After you're done sculpting your future footie star, it's time to take to the pitch. Here's where Virtual Pro differentiates itself from the Be A Pro modes of the past. Instead of being confined to a Be A Pro game where you can only play as your fledging baller, you can use your created player in any mode in the game. You can take him into the new practice arena and work on drills, you can hop into a Play Now match, you can play in Manager Mode or you can hop online and play in the Pro Club Championship mode with a galley of other Virtual Pros. All of these modes can be used to improve your soccer star, which is done by completing a laundry list of accomplishments that are perfectly crafted to range from the short-term to things that will take you your entire career.
One of my biggest issues with the Be A Pro model of building a soccer superstar was the tedium that set in after several games. Playing as only one player is fun for a time, but eventually I'd like to be able to build my player while also progressing with a full soccer club. Virtual Pro lets you do exactly that and it's great fun every step of the way.
So while Virtual Pro is a slightly more accessible approach to the career modes of past FIFAs, there's also a nod to the hardcore soccer fans of the world in the form of a practice arena. Here you can scrimmage against other squads and even create your own custom set pieces for free kicks. The custom set pieces work similarly to the create-a-play feature in the NHL series. You switch between players and record movements for each. A niche audience will likely appreciate the feature, but the fact that it's in there is cool for the right crowd.
Manager Mode is still a big part of the FIFA package and it doesn't disappoint. While I'm not a fan of the wall of statistics that is constantly presented in the menu screens, the depth of what's tracked on the field is undoubtedly impressive. The usual trimmings still accompany this dynasty mode of sorts. You can make transfers, scout players, upgrade your team's staff with money earned from ticket sales (which you have control of) and you'll need to meet the expectations of your club's controlling board in order to keep your job. There are even quips from the duo of commentators about you being a new manager and what you'll need to do to be successful.
Speaking of commentary, Andy Gray and Clive Tilsley do a typically wonderful job of following the action, providing insight and adding to the excitement of the action. Every so often they'll be just plain wrong about an observation and it's annoying when they make very obvious mistakes, but the issues are few and far between. Gray delivers his usual sour attitude when refs make improper calls or players play poorly on the pitch.
When you're done wading through the list of single-player modes and actually do make your way to the hallowed ground known as the soccer pitch, you'll notice the subtle, yet sweeping changes that have been made to this year's game. Gone are the days of eight-direction dribbling that greatly limited your offensive options. You can move in any direction, switch to your strong or weak foot depending on your attacking angle, and pull off an impressive list of skill moves if you're cocky enough to try them. This paired with the advancements to the physical play that debuted in last year's FIFA make for an awesome spectacle of soccer authenticity.
To put it frankly, this year's physical play allows big guys to play like big guys, and small guys to play like small guys. Muscular defenders can easily chuck an incoming forward off the ball if they can't keep up with their speed. The difference between a seasoned physical player and a weak attacker has never been more apparent and it brings everything even closer to reality than it was before. Other physical interactions on the field perform just as well. You'll see players getting tripped up and fall to the ground or stumble away from their dribble. There are brief moments when your player can feel out of your control while stumbling. I'd like to have the ability to recover with the left analog stick when you get violently knocked off of your dribble rather than just being able to watch it all happen. Maybe next year.
Other behaviors on the field don't fare quite as well. They're solid, but the AI is still slightly lacking in certain areas. Despite claims that say AI urgency is now factored in, I still found instances when players wouldn't react to loose balls with the tenacity that they should. On the upside AI players do make excellent sprinting runs to the goal and they'll call out when they want the ball. Goalkeeper behavior has also been tuned and performs better than it has in the past. Again, I still found issues with some of its decision-making (like when they dive at a ball going out of bounds and still fail to make the catch, resulting in a corner kick) but the improvement is most certainly noticeable.
Much like the single-player modes in the game, the online space offers up plenty to do. Aside from the typical ranked head-to-head matches you can also join up with nine other players for team play and you can even link up with nine other Virtual Pros and form your own club. EA Sports is going to hold monthly regional and worldwide tournaments to incentivize players to practice-up. There are a number of ways to bring your game online and they're all wonderfully varied. I noticed a bit of lag during some online games, but that's probably just because I was playing from California and the only blokes who currently have the game are across the pond in Europe.
No matter if you're playing online or off, FIFA 10 is a wonderful soccer experience. The new dribbling mechanics and physical play really bring videogame soccer into a new light as it gets ever closer to truly emulating the genuine article. The list of game modes will make you want to perfect your Virtual Pro in a number of different ways and you'll spend weeks working your way through the list of accomplishments.
Graphically FIFA 10 has made small adjustments to what we've seen in the past. Detail on the field holds up to the level that you expect from the series with the greatest improvement being the almost total removal of the stuttering that used to plague instant replays. The framerate also holds up well during Be A Pro gameplay, something that was a problem last year. I noticed a few physical inaccuracies, but they were very few and don't dampen the experience much.
Aside from the usually spot-on commentary, you'll want to crank up your speakers to hear the pumping stadium environments. Spend five minutes in a game and you'll be able to tell who the home team is and who is away. They aren't quite as boisterous as real crowds, but they're close.
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