There are two types of gamers in the football world: those that play FIFA and those that play Pro Evo. In conversation it’s not really acceptable to admit to a split allegiance – you’re one or the other, and the other is wrong.
I am a Pro Evo loyalist, and I see the gaming world in black and white. So when the good people behind FIFA 10 invited Soccerlens along to a pre-launch tournament at a top secret location in London, I was the obvious candidate to attend.
FIFA Football launched in 1993 with FIFA International Soccer, a game which not only stood out in its market but became the first to be FIFA-licensed and revolutionised football gaming by introducing the isometric view, replacing the simplistic angles offered elsewhere. The franchise continued to improve cosmetically and in terms of gameplay through FIFA ’95 and FIFA ’96, but the next game was spoiled in the eyes of many players by the use of David Ginola’s motion capture.
In hindsight, it’s a miracle the players in FIFA ’97 ever moved at all.
Since then, the FIFA series has faced a significant challenge from one trailblazing competitor, to which I defected a decade ago. Before my visit to the dark side in London this week I was reliably informed that FIFA is back to its best and it’s time I found my way back into the familiar bosom of EA Sports, which I last visited during a very brief ownership of FIFA Street. The franchise’s latest title hits the shelves today amid a storm of hype and expectation, the next showdown with Pro Evo carrying a definite air of anticipation. This time, they say, FIFA will retake its place at the top of the pyramid.
So what can you expect from FIFA 10?
FIFA 10 Highlights
- Player awareness: Thanks to improved trapping intelligence the players seem to have a natural ability to bring the ball to the ground and under control in the quickest and safest way. It’s a very impressive development, instantly noticeable when you first play the game. Difficult passes and interceptions are dealt with realistically (but not too easily) and – reassuringly – better real-world players have more success than the cloggers. EA has also improved the players’ urgency logic, providing a focus on the ball and an amazing ability to react at an appropriate speed to any situation
- Better dribbling: 360 Dribbling makes the game smoother and truer, fine-tuning FIFA’s dribbling skills and opening up opportunities impossible in previous games. Again, the best players make the most of this while less skillful players remain as clumsy as ever. There has also been a tweak which gives the top players a quicker response for deadly dribbling
- Goalkeeping: The information floating around about 10‘s goalkeeping doesn’t really explain the developments too well, but take it from me: it’s excellent. The goalkeepers are superb, their reactions both realistic and wonderfully rendered. Part of this is down to improved urgency, better positioning and a tighter mechanism looking after their coming off the line
- Realistic battles: The increased freedom in the players’ movement allows for something called “collision sharing”. In a nutshell, this is the feature which adds variation and intensity to one-on-one fights for the ball. The stronger players tend to come out as winners in some battles, the quicker players in others. It all adds to the game’s realism
- Authentic shooting: So too does the shooting mechanism, improved by changes to both the physics of the ball and the shooting process itself. Along with the goalkeeping tweaks this makes goalscoring more varied and more exciting goalscoring. It’s a far cry from the rigid shooting of the first few games and the score-from-anywhere effect which ruined others
FIFA 10 is a world away from its predecessors and, barring huge improvement elsewhere, its competitors. It remains visually stunning with beautifully rendered kits and players, but it’s now matched with good quality gameplay. The feel is so natural that I was able to win my first two games before eventually crashing out of the tournament, largely because I foolishly played as Aston Villa in a group featuring Liverpool, Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal. More fool me.
The more flexible movement of the players opens the game up but EA have retained a feel more solid than older versions which played like ice hockey games, stunting the play by allowing a nasty glide effect when running with the ball. The last few versions have progressed away from the button-basher’s goal-fest games of yore and in the new version it is suitably difficult to score from distance. The game as a whole is quite realistic, even down to Fernando Torres winning matches on his own and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s unnerving finishing ability.
While it’s still a game for the modern day armchair-supporting Champions League obsessive – you know the ones, they think FIFA games live or die by the available tricks – the makers have also nailed the real football market in the same way as Pro Evo has done for the last 10 years. The teams and players are mostly licensed, of course, and the commentary is streets ahead of its rival. Despite my initial skepticism, this one most certainly comes with the Soccerlens seal of approval.
FIFA, I’m yours to lose.