FIFA 10 Hands-On PreviewBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Jul 15, 2009
The FIFA team at EA Canada is listening. Continuing the successful revitalization of their marquee soccer franchise, they've now reached that stage in sports game development when the base has been established and accepted by the fans, and now there's ample time to make necessary fixes, subtle tweaks, and considered changes. So it is with FIFA 10, which I got to go hands-on with at a recent preview event at the EA studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Series producer David Rutter gave an assembled group of writers a focused pitch that quickly highlighted what is new. On the offensive side of the ball, the biggest bullet-pointable feature is the custom set piece creation tool, which lets you design specific plays for free kicks in the offensive end of the field. You first select what region of the penalty box area you'll be using the play from, and then using a system that looked much like a typical instant replay viewer, you can highlight specific players and draw out their running routes towards the net. You can run tests and refine your plays for the best timing, and when you're satisfied with the result, you can assign up to 4 set pieces per region to the controller's directional pad. When you're in the game and the situation arises, just tap the D-pad and your team will set it up. Naturally, the potential for seeing highly creative and effective plays emerge from the online community is huge (and hopefully won't expose too many A.I. holes and introduce scoring exploits).
Various aspects of ball control get some much needed upgrading, the most exciting of which is the increased definition of players' directional movement. No longer trapped in an 8-way run, you can use the right stick to move your player at more natural angles and curves. This is one of those features that clicks once you get your hands on it, and makes you think "why did something obvious like this take so long?" Players are also much better at trapping loose balls, with new animations based on how tightly the would-be-trapper is being defended -- players can now turn their bodies around to receive balls from different angles, which presumably will be effective in shielding away other contenders for possession.
Vague declarations were made that A.I. teammates will be better at making crossing passes, as well as vary up their runs on net to either attack it directly or open up new passing lanes. I didn't have too much time to test that out for myself, but in the 75 or so accelerated game minutes I did manage to play, I did notice that the offense seemed to run with more fluidity (or maybe that was because my opponent picked a vastly inferior team, hard to say).
On the defensive side, goalkeepers are infused with a new confidence and will come out to challenge more often, when the situation makes sense. I did get to see that multiple times in my play session, causing brief moments of panic, but I didn't get to see them show off new recovery speed for rebound saves or punch/tip shots away from the goal. Regular, non-gloved defenders will show what Rutter was calling "urgency" in their play, which results in greater defensive pressure when the ball is in their area, and if any fullback finds himself out of position, their spot will be covered by a teammate until they can switch back. Rutter used the example of a fullback coming in to take a corner kick, and a midfielder dropping back to protect against a counterattack.
Fixes from last year, based on overwhelming fan feedback, include a smarter offsides detection system, and a reworking of the advantage rule so that it actually, you know, works the way it should. A big exploit fix that was mentioned was the scoring goals from kick-off trick, and Rutter said that was just one of the many holes sewn up by the development team.
For those of you interested in Manager Mode changes or online refinements, they didn't really go too much into that during this particular tightly-scheduled event. (And I wouldn't be the best person to explain it, anyways -- wait for Sterling to get his hands on code for a full breakdown). All I know is that after missing last year's version -- I'm an NHL guy at heart -- I'm ready to dive back into the series.