Dealspwn Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3/Wii/PC/PSP/DS
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
I walked into my mate's lounge the other day to see a football match on the television. Bizarrely it featured England playing an autumn friendly against the Young Boys of Bern. It took me a little while to realise that Andy Gray kept repeating himself at the worst possible moments and that either the match clock was telling me that time had sped up, or I was somehow slowing down while reality zoomed by at its usual pace and that I'd sealed myself in some fourth dimensional traffic jam. Looking closer I realised that whilst the players on the screen did in fact look remarkably life-like, Wayne Rooney did kinda appear slightly more beaten-with-the-ugly-stick than usual, and that what I was actually witnessing was a game of FIFA 10 in progress. Six hours, and numerous Live Lounge matches later, I had run into town to buy my own copy.
Traditionally, EA's efforts have often been about style over substance: Shiny games that look amazing, but usually have fundamental gameplay flaws that prevent them from reaching the higher echelons of Metacritic's stats tables. You might say that EA is a little bit like a young schoolkid: A short attention span, tendency to rush, and occasional laziness being a few of the many issues such an enormous behemoth of a software production company might encounter. The FIFA franchise has traditionally been in that mould; high in production value (second only behind Madden), but low in footballing realism, clunky to play, and lacking generally in the realm of fun. These are the joyous criticisms of the Pro Evo fan.
Unfortunately for those die-hard Winning Eleven fanboys and girls, EA got their act together last year, with 09 proving not only the equal of Konami's equivalent, but actually better in terms of core gameplay - an arguable first. Many, this writer included, wondered how the hell this had happened and whether it was a one off, and whether EA would capitulate in the face of wild expectation and deliver a traditional totem to glossy mediocrity as per usual.
Sadly for the pessimists, but brilliantly for all football fans everywhere, FIFA 10 happens to be The Best Football Game Yet. Let's get the obvious things out of the way first: The beautiful game has never looked so beautiful. The player animations, the fluidity of the game mechanics, the way the players jostle, from the team-specific crowd chants to the grizzled stubble on Ryan Giggs' chin, the presentation is splendid. The game sounds pretty good too, with the roar of the fans lining the benches of the world's official stadia back up by authentic sound effects, occasional player chatter and the usual trendy soundtrack. The Martin Tyler - Andy Gray commentary unfortunately returns relatively untouched which, although perhaps not a huge sticking point, could have done with little more time being spent on it.
Not so much an overhaul as more of a spit and polish on last year's game (if it ain't broke...), the changes on the pitch are small yet spot-on. The AI has been tweaked - attackers will attempt to feint and bend their runs, there's force-feedback, bullish physical contact now as wingers cut inside and take on defenders with players vying for possession, through balls behave slightly more co-operatively this time around, and the goalkeepers are less prone to spectacular blunders (although we encountered the odd expletive-inducing glitch). The big gameplay tweak is the much-hyped 360° dribbling system which again is more of a subtle tinkering of the previous formula than a glaring revamp, but provides an increased level of control, particularly when used in conjunction with the shoulders buttons.The overall result is one of slick, impressive realism, and who thought we'd ever be able to say that about FIFA?
Off the field it's a similar story: Sticking with winning formulae and polishing where necessary, the biggest changes come in the Manager Mode. With a multitude of improved features - most notably the transfer market's realism boost and an upgraded and improved experience system - Manager Mode finds itself almost as fully featured as EA's standalone Alex Ferguson simulation FIFA Manager. Be A Pro Mode has also been improved. Now you can upload your own face into the game, the growth system - how you develop and improve your skills - is now implemented incredibly well, with on-pitch objectives and training mini-games helping you on your road to global superstardom. You can even take your created pro into the lobby, before trying your virtual hand online.
The odd glitch and the sometimes irritating commentary do little to take away the overwhelming sense of definition that EA have brought to football sims with this instalment. FIFA 10 is, quite simply, the best representation of football on a gaming platform yet, and I say that as an ex Pro Evo fan who was bitterly disappointed by last year's average effort. If you're already a FIFA fanboy then I'm preaching to the converted already; if you're a Pro Evo stalwart then you should probably ignore the jibes you'll suffer as a convert and buy this far-superior, more realistic game anyway but if you're just a footie lover, wondering what all the fuss is about, you'll want to pick up a copy of FIFA 10. You'll see more outlandish goals and pitch-long dribbles on Pro Evo 2010, but if you're looking for a game that captures the drama, physicality and depth of The Beautiful Game, this is the one you want.
- The beautiful game looks beautiful
- The beautiful game sounds beautiful
- The beautiful game plays beautifully
- Except for Andy Gray
- Sometimes actual football doesn't look this good
- I did enjoy evolving my team myself
The Short Version: If you want a realistic football game that's clearly had a bucketload of thought, time and effort put into it, then fight against your instincts and go with EA. You won't be disappointed.