The circle is nearly complete as EA’s 2010 series of sports games are nearing completion, and so far each one has been a significant improvement over last year. The FIFA series has always been one of the most consistent of the bunch almost always being the better game of football available. This year continues this trend as FIFA Soccer 10 takes everything gamers love about the franchise and the sport and combines them for one spectacular collaboration. It has been an amazing year for EA Sports and while FIFA 10 doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the genre, it still manages to continue the trend of creating the best and most authentic experience of the respected sport.
One of the bigger changes that were made to this year’s outing though involves the player animations. FIFA has always been a gorgeous game and this year the team has focused on creating realistic animations based on player size and other physics. Much like the way Tiburon improved the Madden series by making linebackers look and move like linebackers. Smaller players are much more agile and able to keep ball control, while larger players move slower and with more authority. It is a subtle addition, but one that football fans will greatly appreciate when it comes to realism. When combined with the already elegant game engine you get the best looking football game ever conceived. Frame rate issues in certain mode have even been improved and the overall presentation is just fantastic.
Another huge addition to the formula this year is the Virtual Pro mode. This is reminiscent of the Be A Pro mode found in other EA Sports games, but with a much needed improvement. Instead of confining your virtual superstar to one mode, FIFA 10 allows you to take this character into any area of the game in order to advance their skills. There are various goals and achievements that your player will need to complete over time and all of them are perfectly paced. This quickly became the most addictive aspect of the game, and should keep players intrigued for months to come. The new creation tool also allows you to use GameFace to upload an image of yourself (or perhaps something ridiculous) and create a football star that is entirely unique to your game.
You can still participate in the traditional Be A Pro mode if you so choose as well as the host of other standard features from last year’s game. Manager Mode returns and is just as overwhelming as you remember. The sheer amount of things tracked within the game is astonishing. You almost feel like you need a PHD in order to make sense of the list of numbers it throws on the screen. The rest remains the same and should be familiar to EA Sports aficionados. You can adjust ticket prices, use the money to hire new staff and players, and of course control every aspect of your team management. The idea of becoming the brand new manager and having your job on the line is actually quite entertaining, and a nice diversion from the on-field action.
Speaking of the on-field action EA Canada has implemented a laundry list of improvements that really take FIFA to the next level as far as gameplay goes. Everything on the field feels more realistic and only a few setbacks will deter your enjoyment of the overall experience. For starters the AI still feels a bit shaky at times. They do seem more aggressive and willing to take open shots on the field, but often times I find them not reacting to certain situations with the same intensity that I do. I do love the revamped 360 degree ball dribbling and being able to switch to your more powerful shot on-the-fly. The amount of realistic differences and enhancements between this year and last will be hard to spot with the casual eye, but true fans of the sport will appreciate these more than anything massive that could have been added.
To compliment the solid single player affair EA has also buffed up the online portion of the game to take advantage of their newest addition. You can take your Virtual Pro online and compare them to the rest of the world. You can even form a club with up to nine other players and match up head-to-head for global domination. The usual stable of modes are also here and the lag was nearly non-existent in my play tests online. EA will also be offering various tournaments on a regular basis to keep things fresh throughout the season. Needless to say the online portion of the game is certainly worth checking out.
As I mentioned earlier the visuals are truly stunning. Player models look great, stadiums are expertly crafted and the animations are truly top-notch. The audio and presentation are just as impressive as the visuals of not more so. Commentary from Clive Tilsley and Andy Gray is some of the best in a sports game to date. The sheer accuracy that comes from the booth is insane and their personality shines in key moments. Crowd noise is just as impressive offering up some great ambience during the game. They cheer louder when goals are scored and boo harder when their team is not doing so well. You would be hard pressed to differentiate them from a real crowd.
FIFA Soccer 10 is a great closer for the 2010 EA Sports line. I know we still have NCAA Basketball on the horizon, but this is truly one of the most impressive years for the monstrous sports studio. If you love the game of football (yes I mean soccer for the US crowd) then you truly have no reason not to snatch up EA’s latest title. The enhanced 360 dribbling, improved player animations and physics and addition of Virtual Pro are more than enough reasons to slap down the retail price. Let’s hope EA continues this trend next year and makes sure that 2011 sports games deliver this much quality.