FIFA 10 Review

By Sterling McGarvey - Posted Oct 15, 2009

FIFA 10's rich subtleties reward everyone. If you're looking to pick up a soccer game in time for next summer's big tournament and kick a ball around, there's something here for you. If you've tracked every evolutionary change year-by-year, there's an embarrassment of riches. After two years of sublime soccer, the EA Canada team deserves to hold a trophy above its collective head. FIFA 10 renders the Beautiful Game more beautifully than ever before.

The Pros
  • Refined dribbling and physical play improves an already-solid formula
  • Improved and accessible Practice Mode and custom set pieces
  • Manager Mode is more realistic
  • Virtual Be a Pro personalizes the experience
The Cons
  • Other Be a Pro elements getting stale

By now, it’s no secret that EA has figured out the formula for building a solid soccer sim experience, but as I stave off five consecutive nights of minimal sleep to build a verdict on FIFA Soccer 10, all signs point back to a fateful afternoon in May 2007 when FIFA producers pitched me their ultimate vision: a 10-on-10 virtual World Cup filled with top-notch gamers and their real-life likenesses. With the 2010 World Cup in South Africa just around the corner, EA has laid the groundwork for it to happen, and in doing so, the team has arguably created its most triumphant depiction of the Beautiful Game in some time.

FIFA 10

Allen Iverson Would Suggest Practice.

From the time you first fire it up and enter the 1-on-1 arena game, there’s something different amiss. You can shoot around in the now-standard arena, or with a button tap, you’re whisked away to a near-seamlessly loading practice mode. Want to get a feel for the revamped dribbling system without time limits or ref interference? It’s here. And as the sport itself adjusts to the current emphasis on set pieces and counterattacks, so does FIFA 10. There’s an extensive practice arena provided to not only create your own set piece macros (which you can summon in-game), but also as a safe place to tweak and refine your free kicks and corners. The shift toward easily accessible practice modes and set pieces pays off in spades once you’re thrust into Manager Mode or Be a Pro Seasons, both of which have seen changes this year.

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Turn Oil Money to Trophies!


I’ve dabbled in Manager Mode in past FIFA games, but usually lose my appetite for training, staff upgrades, and the whimsies of the transfer market by season’s midpoint. This year’s updates offer subtle adjustments that have kept me hooked, from more realistic player growth to transfers that feel more realistic based on the size and prestige of the club, whether that’s nouveau riche Manchester City, farm-betting Real Madrid, or a scrappy debt-laden team like AS Roma. It’s much more entertaining than years past (the transfer market responds more realistically to your club’s finances), and should finally attract FIFA players who skip the mode in favor of online or one-off matches.

FIFA 10

Face, You’re In!


Be a Pro evolves into its next iteration, albeit slower than I’d prefer. EA’s Game Face implementation (dubbed Virtual Pro) rings even more strongly if you can form a virtual club with friends and compete in 10-on-10 online games. It’s a great leap toward bringing the user into the game without the tedious minutiae that hobbles user-generated content. It’s also a good way to shift the focus away from the superstars and onto bringing the players themselves into the experience alongside other gamer teammates.
The face generating procedure starts off a bit rocky, but it did a great job rendering my face.

That said, by the time EA’s inevitable licensed World Cup 2010 game or FIFA 11 hit, Be a Pro is going to need some facelifts. The default camera gets muddier as it zooms back (to the point that you can’t see your ideal positioning), the real-time rating feedback from Euro 2008 still hasn’t returned (you have to wait for halftime and end of game for your rating), and the AI coach still tends to demand you play out of position (while penalizing you for not getting back to your post fast enough). Also, there aren’t many rewards for you if you’re playing anything other than a forward, which doesn’t do much for virtual Cannavaros and Puyols out there. They’re all annoying issues, but the fundamentals help overcome these stagnancies.

The Engine Still Purrs


Neither of these modes would resonate so strongly without hefty core gameplay. And that’s what separates FIFA 10 from its predecessors. It’s the first truly major update since FIFA 08 rebooted the franchise. It’ll take vets a little time to dig in and relearn the dribbling system, which has evolved from eight directions to a full 360 degrees of mobility. Teammate AI is much smarter (yet, at times, prone to human-like error, especially in Be a Pro) and has a better idea of space and positioning. It hits the sweet spot between knowing when to make a run on offense and tenaciously attacking when you need to call on a second defender.

Defensively, there’s a real weight and physicality here that almost echoes the “small, medium, hefty” players from FIFA Street 3. Compared to past games, I’ve never felt the same sense of weight to different players as I have in FIFA 10. A big defender like Kolo Toure might lack fancy footwork, but it’ll be a pain to win possession. Likewise, he’ll be able to force a smaller player off the ball. Leo Messi glides effortlessly through defenders and controls with the nimbleness you see every time he’s donning Blaugrana. Although the fluid animation improves on years past, size matters here.

Online, Where Egos Bruise Easily


Few in North America play FIFA in an offline bubble, especially since it’s tough to find that cross section of American soccer fans who are also hardcore gamers. So far, most of my online games have been against British and Australian players, and although I had a few spots of lag, the tech has come a long way from the choppy online of 360 launch-era FIFA. On both PS3 and Xbox 360, online performs smoothly, and I’ve entered games with minimal issues.

Even more importantly, the filtering options are even pickier than before. Last year, you could mitigate the “Man U/Barça/Chelsea/Inter Effect” by picking manual controls (as opposed to CPU-assisted cruise control) for online games, which leveled the playing field and kept the scoreline more realistic. Now you can pick out game speeds and pick opponents according to club star ratings. FIFA has always needed better filters to weed out the unrepentant glory hunters, and the new system works…as long as the servers stay populated.

Other features, such as the ability to upload your video replays and photos (but not save them to your hard drive, unfortunately) make a return from FIFA 09, as does Adidas Live Season, which you’ll have to buy this year in order to maintain its real-time stat updates, if you’re interested.

FIFA 10

Trophies and Confetti Time

I’ve got a confession to make: after over twenty hours of play across PS3 and 360, I really didn’t want to write this review, lest I overlook yet another deep layer. Even with that much time logged in, FIFA 10’s rich subtleties reward everyone. If you’re looking to pick up a soccer game in time for next summer’s big tournament and kick a ball around, there’s something here for you. If you’ve tracked every evolutionary change year-by-year, there’s an embarrassment of riches. After two years of sublime soccer, the EA Canada team deserves to hold a trophy above its collective head. FIFA 10 renders the Beautiful Game more beautifully than ever before.