Reviewed: October 20, 2009
Released: October 20, 2009
I played soccer for over 20 years. I played well enough to get a tryout with a minor league team. But I never was able to live that childhood dream of playing professionally. I haven't played competitively in almost 10 years but I still watch games all the time (yes, Fox Soccer Channel and GolTV are on my DirecTV favs list). I still have the desire to play. Even watching games now stirs that desire. But as Indiana Jones said, “it's not the years, it's the mileage”. My knees protest even the slightest jogging motion. Playing soccer is a battle of heart over mind... today I may play soccer with my niece and nephew, but I know I'll pay for it tomorrow. So I'm relegated to the grandstands and the couch. The closest I can get to playing anymore is videogames... and it's getting to the point where it almost feels like the real thing.
EA does some sports very well, so well that they keep getting all kinds of “sports game of the year” awards. FIFA Soccer and NHL Hockey are about the closest to the real thing as a videogame has ever been. Interesting that those are also two of the few sports where EA actually has competition. It helps to have someone pushing you to innovate every year.
FIFA Soccer 10 starts out with the slightly improved practice field but it doesn't take long to see the improvements in details and player animation in all modes. Everything from how certain players run to how they fall down has been modeled in amazing detail. EA has dramatically improved the dribbling system so it is a true 360 degrees – giving you even greater control on how to weave through defenses. The player and goalie AI logic has improved so they adapt and are much more responsive to your playing style. Little gameplay improvements mean a lot – in FIFA 10 various control features have been added so you can change free-kick takers, move a wall, make the wall jump, and call for a teammate on corner kicks. All of these improvements and many more make FIFA 10 a top contender for Sports Game of the Year.
The number of licensed teams included in FIFA 10 is another big win over the competition. Leagues are from Austrailia (A-League), Austria (Austrian Bundesliga), Belgium (Belgium Pro League), Brazil (Liga do Brasil), Czech Republic (Ceska Liga), Denmark (SAS Ligaen), England (Barclays Premier League, Coca-Cola Championship, League 1 and 2), France (Ligue 1 and 2), Germany (Bundesliga and 2 Bundsliga), Italy (Serie A and B), Kora Republic (K-League), Mexico (Primera Division Mex), Netherlands (Eredivisie), Norway (Tippeligaen), Poland (Ekstraklasa), Portugal (Liga Portuguesa), Republic of Ireland (League of Ireland), Scotland (SPL), Spain (Liga BBVA, Liga Adelante), Sweden (Allsvenskan), Switzerland (Axpo Super League), Turkey (Turkcell Super Lig), United States (Major League Soccer), and the rest are in “Rest of the World” which has 10 teams and 2 all-star teams.
In this World Cup year there are also 41 International teams included, however there is no official “world cup” tournament in FIFA 10, just a tournament mode where you can pick from 17 cups. It has a lot of rule settings to customize your tournament to your liking, but no World Cup. We can assume that as in previous Men's World Cup years, there will be an official EA game coming in the spring.
Be-A-Pro mode still sets FIFA 10 apart from all other competition. This mode (as in NHL 10 Hockey) allows you to pick a player or make your own. When you play a game you are that player the entire game, so it actually makes for a wonderful teaching tool. The rules make a lot more sense to kids who see it on the TV screen. Just the other day my 6-year-old nephew was yelling at me to stay onside. Yes, my 6-year-old nephew actually knows and understands what off-sides means and how to run an off-sides trap (and beat one). Once you develop your player and work your way up to the first team, it really gets fun.
You can take your player online and play in leagues and earn more points and achievements to improve his skills and equipment. The number of things to do in FIFA 10 from practice to playing in 20 person online matches is amazing... and it's what keeps me playing this game all year. Manager Mode has been completely overhauled with over 50 major improvements. Player development is more realistic with more true-to-life growth curves based on age and environment. Transfers are also a lot more realistic.
Online play on Xbox Live has also been given an overhaul so it now features FIFA Fair Play. This new ranking formula now takes into account various cheating tactics like playing the same player repeatedly to try and boost rankings. The leaderboards should be much more accurate to player skills. Additionally the online matchmaking logic has been tweaked to consider player skill level and physical location to help give the best network performance. Once again your game results can be sent to you via email or SMS, a nice feature to have when you play in online leagues.
There wasn't much to improve on from last year for FIFA. But EA Canada found enough small details to improve that it all seems very fresh. The biggest improvements are in player animation with many new dribbling and tackling animations as well as an amazing new Game Face technology. Game Face technology really isn't all that new... at least not the idea. Many companies have tried some kind of facial mapping using the Xbox Live camera with very mixed results. Rainbow Six Vegas probably has the best facial map I'd see thus far. But EA just topped them. The EA Game Face is actually done on a PC. You take a front and side photo of yourself, put it on your computer and upload it to an app on EA's website. It takes about 15-25 minutes to render a custom face, but the results are well worth the wait.
I was stunned and amazed to see my face on the player scoring a goal. If you take the time, the facial map can be incredible accurate. It was weird and wonderful to see a little “virtual me” running around on the pitch. I was even more amazed to see Rooney and Lampard jump on my back celebrating when I scored a goal. Great stuff.
Ande Gray and Martin Tyler return to the broadcast booth again for the English commentary in FIFA 10. Mexican (Richardo Palaez and Perro Bermudez) and French (Franck Sauzee and Herve Mathoux) commentaries are also included on the disc. You can download 9 other languages in the FIFA 10 Store on Xbox Live but they cost 80 points each. The English commentary is, as usual, quite good. I rarely heard repeated phrases and the English style of commentary is a welcome change from the usual American rubbish.
The overall sound of the stadiums is huge... as it should be. Crowds are active and do specific cheers for their teams (G rated). Though I must say it would be a great expansion item for the FIFA 10 Store if they had R rated audio, which would include fans yelling. It would even be better if they got GolTV's Ray Hudson to provide some of his colorful commentary. But I suppose that's very wishful thinking.
EA Sports Trax provides 39 songs from all over the world. Once again it's a complete mishmash of styles. While kind of entertaining for an hour, the soundtrack is heavily loaded with reggae music so I quickly turned it all off in favor of the quiet sound of a football pitch.
The noticeable lack of any “create-a-team” function in FIFA 10 is a big issue. Not only is FIFA 10 lacking a second tier USL league in the United States, they also once again completely ignore the women's game. It's kind of ironic that EA keeps issuing press releases touting how many women are playing their games, yet their actions again speak louder than their words as they ignore professional women’s soccer (and basketball) entirely. I guess they think all women just play Wii Fit.
Also available on the FIFA 10 store are stadiums (including a free download of Real Madrids Estadio Santiago Bernabeu). You can also participate in the Live Season 2.0 for 400 Micro$oft points per league. Lastly you can download performance boost (cheats) for your Be-A-Pro player. Small improvements can be obtained for 80 points which usually works for 5 matches while longer 20 match attributes coast 160 points. If you purchase the game new you get a code for 3 free improvements but they last 5 matches. This seems to be EA's response to the used game market as a way to recoup some of the lost new game revenue. Most of not all of the improvements can be unlocked with accomplishments in the game but it'll take you some time to get them.
There is the usual 24-page manual in English and Spanish, which provides basic instructions. FIFA 10 has 44 achievements for up to 1,000 points for your gamer score. Some of them are not exactly a real struggle to achieve, such as “Visit the FIFA 10 store”. But you may be in for a long term time investment if you want the 50 points for winning a league in Manager Mode with a 1 star team or lower.
FIFA 10 supports hard drive installation but seems to be another game where copying the game to the hard drive gives no tangible improvement in load speeds. I guess it saves wear on the Xbox DVD drive, but that seems a pretty minor improvement if the cost is 4 gigs of hard drive space.
EA has really outdone themselves. Konami's Pro Evo/Winning Eleven does provide some good competition, but only in the actual gameplay category. EA continues to improve and amaze with the overwhelming number of licensed teams and significant improvement to gameplay and features. The Be-A-Pro mode is a godsend and 10v10 online play is what every sports game should aspire to achieve. FIFA 10 will be in my Xbox for a long time to come.