FIFA 10 Review

Lee Abrahams

Another year, another FIFA, although after last year's impressively strong showing, it would be foolish to just write this iteration off as a mere annual update. EA last year finally got their act together in spectacular fashion to craft one of the franchise's strongest ever entries and hopefully they can enhance their reputation further this time out. With Pro Evo hoping to make a comeback after a few drab displays, the race for the top should be a tighter affair this year. Hopefully EA will not slip back into their old habits of bog standard updates and will actually have included enough new content worthy of your cash. Only one way to find out.

A crisp volley – back of the net?

The key to the success of FIFA last year was the fact that every aspect of the game was so tightly polished, it seemed that everything came together perfectly to offer the ideal football package and one that many thought EA would never be able to deliver. The have always developed a football game that includes all the teams, stadiums, songs and modes you ever wanted but when the gameplay is not right that all counts for nowt. Thankfully, as with last year, this game has the basics down to a fine art.

As ever with FIFA the presentation is top drawer. All of the teams are fully licensed and the usual array of rock songs will assault your ears within seconds of you inserting the disc. The players and stadiums are fairly accurately presented though a few of them look a tad stocky and robotic when compared to their actual likenesses. A wealth of game modes and options are presented to you from the get go, none more important than creating your own Virtual Pro to use in the game. You can change the players likeness in a number of ways, choose his position and then assign him to a team or even slap on your own face via the EA website should you so wish. Obviously your rookie is hardly going to be able to compete with the big boys from the beginning, but more on that later. Suffice it to say that you can play one off matches, play an entire season, enter manager mode, play a few casual lounge games with friends or even head online for more of the same. No option has been left out and it means you can play the same old game in a variety of fun ways.

All of the teams are bang up to date and you can even opt into the live season updates which will monitor player form, injuries and transfers – ensuring every team has the most accurate statistics available. Obviously it is entirely voluntary whether or not you want to do this and the difference is realistically fairly minimal. Obviously the one exception is your new pro, and a wealth of youngsters coming through, who can be added to any team you see fit. Every time you use your Pro you will gain experience which will to improve his skills, and the abilities he learns are tied to the actions you undertake within a game. So for example, if you score a hat-trick, make a saving clearance off the line or net a sweet volley, it will enhance your own player's abilities. Thankfully these stats track across all game modes and every use of your player, so you can choose to boost him up through exhibition matches or go into a full on season. It is a neat idea and one that ensures you want to use your likeness at every available opportunity as well as giving you set in-game tasks to aim towards.

Your own club, the ultimate vanity project.

The main gameplay has thankfully remained relatively untouched. If anything the players seem a bit less nippy than before, which encourages a more languid, passing approach. Luckily this means you can no longer just use one player to speed through the entire opposition and makes getting a goal a bit more of a challenge, even on the easier settings. The big selling point this time around is the introduction of full 360 degree control which sounds awesome in theory, but in reality actually has very little impact when you come to play the game. When you are on a surging run you will still stick to the regular eight directions and it is only when you are trying to manoeuvre in close proximity to the opposition that you will feel the finer points of the control come into play. It was a nice idea and can lead to a few "see what I did there" moments as you wriggle through a tight spot, but overall it is hardly breaking much new ground or offering a significant improvement.

Probably the most pleasing addition is the training set up, which allows you to create your own set pieces from scratch and then take them into real games. There is nothing more satisfying than working out a cute free kick routine only to see it execute flawlessly in the heat of battle. Of course you are more likely to see it fail miserably as well, but at least you can go back, see what you did wrong and make the required changes. There is always another game.

The other offline modes are pretty much the same as last year. There is an expended Manager Mode, which offers you the chance to experience fifteen seasons in charge of a multitude of clubs (assuming they offer you a job of course). Player growth and statistics have been enhanced so that you can now nurture raw talent into the finished article and you also have a bit more control over the sponsorship and stadium facilities this time around. Other than that you have the fun Lounge mode where you can set up a mini league amongst your friends and then battle for points and badges to emerge the overall victor – nothing novel but a decent diversion. Obviously you have the usual array of leagues, cups and the Be a Pro mode where you control your own player in the search for glory. All well and good but nothing new over last year's offering.

Once you have exhausted all of the options the game has to offer offline - of which there are more than a few - then you can step online to pit your wits against other players. Yet again the list of things to do is amazingly comprehensive, with one off matches, leagues, cups and the Pro Club Championship. The Clubs mode allows you to have an entire squad of friends at your disposal, with up to ten of them taking to the pitch at one time. It is good fun, though only recommended if you have people of equal skills to prevent frustration. Everything runs fairly lag free, although depending on your connection, you could have a few issues when a number of you are playing at once. The whole online set up leaves no stone uncovered and it certainly provides a benchmark for other games to follow.

On my head son!

It pains me to see companies churn out the same achievement lists year after year with very little thought given and that seems to be the case here. A lot of the tasks will seem very familiar to anyone that played last year's title and even the dreaded fifty hour achievement makes a comeback – though thankfully it is worth a lot more than one measly point this time around. Having to do the same things yet again is hardly inspiring though and even the few new challenges are drawn out affairs, especially using your created pro five hundred times and winning one hundred classic online matches - both of which are a bit much to stomach when you can have sampled everything on offer within a few hours. Nothing here is too taxing but it is all far too time consuming and unoriginal.

This is pretty much the same game as last year but with a few welcome tweaks. If you already own FIFA 09 then there probably is not enough here to really make you want to go out and buy fundamentally the same game straight away. Still, the gameplay is a touch smoother, and the 360 degree control makes for some neat moments, and with the enhancements to the manager mode, Be a Pro setup and online tweaks, then you could happily lose yourself for hours at a time. It was a shock that FIFA was so strong last year and it makes sense for EA to have stuck with that winning formula and just attempt to polish those rough edges. The real question now is, where do they go from here?

As ever with EA the track list might not be for everyone. There is some decent stuff on there – mixed in with some more dubious choices. Still it does a job.

Everything looks good although a few players do seem a tad robotic compared to their actual selves, and the arenas could do with a touch up, but on the whole it presents a wonderfully smooth game of football.

Things have been slowed down a bit from last year, resulting in a more studied passing game. It works well and all of the regular tricks are present and correct too.

Great presentation, graphics and a wealth of options mean this is easily the most varied football game on the market. It caters to all tastes and skill levels and you cannot really ask for more than that.

If this was an original list it would score highly, but it relies far too heavily on last year's bunch. Most of the usual suspects rear their ugly heads and being asked to play - and win - 100 online matches is a major chore.

This is still a great game of football and has a few neat improvements over last year's offering. However, the 360 degree control hardly seems groundbreaking and the rest of the package seems amazingly familiar. For all those that picked up the game last year, it will seem like very little has emerged to justify another full price release.

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