reviews\ Oct 18, 2009 at 8:00 pm

FIFA Soccer 10 - PS3 - Review

Rarely, in the course of writing reviews do I use personal pronouns; however, as a preface to the review of FIFA Soccer 10, it might be helpful to note that I have a vested interest, passion if you will, in the game of soccer. Having started to play the sport roughly around the time I entered the first grade, for the past 40 or so years, it has been part of my life. I have played at a decently high level, I still play and I have coached youth teams for approximately 20 seasons. I know the game, and thus when it comes to reviewing a video-game title based on the sport I dearly enjoy, my expectations might be a little too high, or my perceptions a little bit too keen. Coupled with the fact that I was a newspaper sports editor for a number of years, having decent knowledge that provides solid analysis for the numerous sports I covered and it could reasonably be argued that my criticism might come across as too picky. However, I do realize that realism must take a backseat to game play. With all that said, on the review …

FIFA Soccer 10 certainly has made some wonderful strides forward in key areas of the gameplay. But the latest title in the EASports franchise is far from perfect, and some of the errors in the game mechanics can be a tad frustrating.

Still, if gamers are looking for a solid experience on the futbol or soccer pitch, FIFA 10 offers dynamic elements that are certain to intrigue and delight. The biggest improvement to the game is with the ability to create customized set pieces, tie them to the D-pad controls and then implement them during the game. This is a fascinating look at one of the richest opportunities within the game to not only expose weaknesses on the other team, but to cause some confusion and free an attacker for a possible scoring opportunity.

It all begins in the Practice Arena, where players can hone skills, improve the skills of their virtual player (which is handled differently than the Create-A-Pro feature, but more of that in a moment), or create set-pieces. When players create a set piece, they start by picking a region of the field, and then can create up to four set-pieces to assign to the D-pad for a play within that region. You can detail player movement and runs, and make the piece as complicated or as simplistic as you wish.

The game really does a marvelous job of allowing players to study the game and swing players around the defense for back-door runs, or even use crossing runs to try to rub off would-be defenders who are marking individual players rather than territory. If unfamiliar with soccer, but if you have a foundation is basketball, think of it this way – you can overload a zone defense, or using screens in man-coverage to free up players. While the onus is on the player to determine what play will work, it can be contextual to the situation or team you are playing.

Many of the teams in FIFA 10 opt with a 4-4-2 formation (from back to front line) and finding gaps can be tough when the opposition drops eight players into the defensive set. But with diversionary runs, you can free up players and that opportunity, through the set pieces, brings a new level of detail and excitement to the game.

For FIFA 10, EASports has brought in a variety of other new features, such as Live Season 2.0. If you have played any of the EASports titles that offer Dynamic DNA, you will know what you are getting here. This is a once-a-week update that takes real-world performances of the players featured in the game and updates them with performance benchmarks, injuries, transfers, formational changes, suspensions and the like. While not available for every league, for the purist this is definitely a boon. The updates will run from October to May of 2010 when the leagues close down for the season.

For those that like to micro-manage, the new Manager Mode puts them in the shoes of the executive who makes the decisions – from tracking player growth to trades, managing sponsors, working with the budget and so on. You can juggle the budget to enable you to sign hot up-and-coming stars, or to entice veteran superstars to join your club (keep an eye on the team chemistry, though, for not all egos mesh neatly and you may wind up with an unbalanced team)

As mentioned previously, there are two ways to insert yourself into the game. First up is the create-a-pro feature that gives you the opportunity to create a player and then play as that athlete in a league of your choice. Want to play for Manchester United? Or Arsenal? Or even a team in the Bundesliga? It’s all quite doable. As you play your position, you get rated throughout the game. There are pre-game objectives to realize (as a striker you might be tasked with scoring one or two goals, or taking seven shots on goal – that is specifically the area between the pipes, not in the general direction that sails slightly wide – or even winning by two or more goals, or achieving a match rating of 8.0 or higher), and as you play, you are scored. Call for a bad pass and you may get docked a few rating points. Play out of position and your score in that area goes down as well. At the end of the game, you receive experience points that can then be dropped into areas of the game – attacking, skill, defense, movement, mentality, power, et cetera. Each attribute has a point value and the higher the skill increases the more experience points you have to drop into that category to improve your ability.

This is a carry-over from previous FIFA games but is important to note because another new feature is the virtual player, which operates on a completely different improvement track. The virtual player does not get experience points but rather improves by doing during a game. Take several shots with your weak foot and the rating for that may go up. Pull of a couple of fancy dribbling moves (L2 and analog stick combination) and you may see improvement in that skill set. Additionally, EASports has a new program that is online and accessible from a PC. It is a beta program that is easily registered for and you can upload your own images and then have them transferred into a virtual format and uploaded to your in-game virtual player. Yep, that striker for Chivas of the MLS can actually look like you – to some extent.

The game does feature a robust online mode as well, allowing players to go head-to-head with others, play in leagues or play as part of a team. The action is fast-paced and you can play either as an individual player with the game’s AI filling in the gaps, or play as any athlete with either the ball at their feet or in proximity defensively.

But FIFA 10 is not without problems, and there is a laundry list that can prove very frustrating. Yes, there are sliders for correcting some of these problems, but the default settings show some breakdowns that cannot be overlooked. Examples? Ok, here are a few:

  • Playing in an online match, the controlled team’s keeper came out and stole the ball on a break-away attempt. The opposing striker was controlled by the human on the other side of the online game. As the keeper dropped the ball to punt it near the 18, the opposing player came up from behind, bumped the keeper and knocked the ball loose. That player then ran around, picked up the ball and scored on the empty net. An anomaly? Perhaps. But there was certainly a foul there. First, banging the keeper like that is not allowed by the rules of the sport. That should have been a whistle. Even if the contact was ruled incidental, the player came from an offsides position to take the ball, and that’s a free kick.

  • In the create-a-player mode, the default settings have players pass back to the controlled player in the single-player mode. The created player on Man U received the ball from the midfielders and turned. Wayne Rooney took off on a run, splitting two defenders. A through-ball found him in space with only the opposing goal in front of him. Rather than break for the goal and the shot, Rooney heel-passed it back to the controlled player, who then got points deducted from his match rating for a bad pass because he was receiving the pass while very well covered by defenders.

  • The ball is shot, sails slightly wide of the net and the outstretched arms of a diving keeper. The game goes to replay the shot. The X button is stabbed to skip the cut scene. But the X button is also the button that calls for a pass. The opposing has a free kick and like an idiot the controlled player is calling for the pass. Match points deducted for calling for a bad pass. It seems the X button not only bypassed the cut scene, but the key entry ghosted over into the real-time portion of the game.

  • The ‘ghosting’ of key inputs has long been part of the FIFA franchise and remains in the 10th release in the franchise. You stab the triangle button calling for a through-ball and instead of clearing immediately when the pass is made, the input ghosts over into the next play and instead of cleaning receiving the ball, your player passes it on. Maybe the key is held down 1/100 of a second too long, but with each play the input controls should clear and not remember keystrokes. The game of soccer is a dynamic evolving stage when situations change within the blink of an eye. You may call for a pass for a one-touch relay to a player running into space, but as the pass is being made the defense falls off and you find yourself receiving the ball in space. Instead of passing to a player now covered you should be able to receive the ball and move it until pressure is applied. FIFA 10 (as well as previous games in the franchise) does not allow that. Hold a key down a fraction of a second too long and you will end up turning the possession over with a bone-headed and totally illogical kick.

The game’s sounds are a bit of a hit and miss. The music features a variety of songs from bands throughout the world and while some are pleasant, others can grate on the third, fourth and fifth times they loop around. The commentary, though, of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray is superb and worth listening to. The duo provides some nice insight, and is entertaining.

As for the graphics, the team at EASports improved the dribbling mechanics so instead of the somewhat-stilted eight directions that seemed to play off a grid, players have 360-degree control over movement. The animation of skill moves is very nicely done and modifying shots for the finesse or chippy but using the R1 or L1 keys in concert with the O shot hotkey is handled very nicely.

The online is robust and there was never a problem finding a game to play in.

FIFA 10 is a solid game. There are frustrations here, to be sure, but the game provides a solid, team-based sim that should find a solid fan base. While it might not be quite in the same league as EASports NHL 10 title, FIFA 10 brings solid new dynamics into the game’s foundation and that should resonant well with long-time FIFA fans.

Review Scoring Details for FIFA Soccer 10

Gameplay: 8.7
The default AI can make mistakes that should be beyond the game’s development, considering this is the 10th iteration of the franchise. The ‘ghosting’ of input controls is also something that needs to be addressed. When it comes to game flow, in general, camera controls and user interface, this game is well designed.  

Graphics: 9.0
Some of the players looked a little funky during cut scene celebrations, and there was some awkward animation moments (a player coming up behind an opposing player to chase down the ball would go into a crouching, hunkering defensive posture even when the ball was shielded and moving away from him). Of course, the virtual player lining up offsides on the center kick-offs is just plain wrong.

Sound: 9.0
The commentary is superb, and the ambient game sounds are well done. The music can be hit or miss, depending on your musical preferences.  

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
Online can really challenge players, and there is a strong selection of difficulty settings that can be applied to make for a very challenging game experience.

Concept: 8.8
EASports has added some strong elements here with the set-piece creation editor. Attention to the 360-degree dribbling is also well handled. However, some of the basic elements need to be revisited simply because they can lead to frustrating moments.

Multiplayer: 9.2
Robust and fun online experiences with a lot of players involved in leagues. There was always a game available to play online, either head-to-head or as part of a team. This element can go with Pro Club Championship play or online leagues. This is a socially dynamic setting and a strong game feature.

Overall: 8.8
FIFA 10 has some very good moments and some not-so-good moments. The dev team seems to be on the right track to bringing a realistic and compelling game – rife with the vagaries of the sport – to the PS3. A few mechanics need to be addressed, but for FIFA fans, this is a solid game.



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