I'm so weak willed. No sooner had the latest annual FIFA update hit the shelves, I was handing over my hard earned cash to grab a copy.
In much the same vein as last year, I'd convinced myself that I wasn't remotely interested in EA's cash cow - typically consisting of a squad data update and little else. I had barely raised an eyebrow when Wayne Rooney appeared on my television screen to advertise FIFA 10 a few weeks ago, or when the animated hoardings at the Champions League football matches flashed and scrolled to tout the upcoming release.
But, as usual, when launch day comes, I cave in and completely disregard any misgivings.
So what are my thoughts? From the box art - bearing a couple of high profile footballers - to the intro screen and upbeat soundtrack, little appears to have changed from last year's effort... at first glance anyway.
After only a few button clicks I found myself in the familiar surroundings of the arena - effectively a loading screen where you take control of a player and hone your skills. It's a great way to wile away the moments between matches. Tactics can be customized, and set pieces practiced.
EA has clearly spent a lot of time tweaking the graphics in recent months and the whole thing appears sharp and glossy-looking. Thanks to the official FIFA license, all players, team strips and, in some cases, stadia are lovingly recreated to add to that sense of immersion. In most cases, the players are stunningly accurate - unfortunate for Manchester City's newly-acquired Carlos Tevez perhaps, but good news for the rest of us!
Should you so desire, EA also offers those with access to a PC the option of importing a couple of mugshots, which can be modeled and downloaded to the Xbox/PS3... allowing you to actually appear in the game, taking the mantle of a star striker or creative midfielder. A bit of an ordeal having to upload and tweak the images perhaps, but a really nice touch nonetheless.
Ultimately, it all looks very good indeed. Combined with brilliant (albeit slightly repetitive) commentary from Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, you could be forgiven for thinking - for a few brief moments - that you're actually watching a real footy match! Hats off to EA for a great looking match engine too. Player movement is realistic and the ball bobbles about the place and bounces off the referee with annoying regularity.
The introduction of 360 degree ball control is fantastic, allowing every blade of grass to be traversed with ease. It really does add to the game, making intelligent runs, through-balls and crosses seem like second nature.
It's generally accepted that FIFA 09 finally smashed the final nail in the coffin of arch rival Pro Evolution Soccer. Pro Evo has never really cut the mustard on the latest crop of gaming machines, while FIFA has never failed to hit the target - particularly with its online play.
My first few hours were therefore spent playing against like-minded people from across the globe on Xbox Live. A nice touch this year is that you're quickly matched with players of a similar standard, which means that even me - with my limited ball skills - has at least some chance of victory.
I started well, winning 2-0, 3-2 and 1-0, picking up all manner of achievements along the way. I really liked this game; it looked great, sounded excellent and was tough, but eminently winnable.
My gusto was short-lived, however, as a 5-0 and 8-1 defeat quickly followed (although it was raining quite heavily on both occasions!?).
And therein lies my annoyance with FIFA and the online community. Only a few hours after the launch, my Xbox Live competitors had rapidly developed their skills, leaving me in their wake. To progress in this game - like many sports titles - you really need to invest a hell of a lot of time into learning every facet of the controls, strategies and techniques...
I couldn't even redeem myself by playing the large 10-player team matches - as my (lack of) skills were quickly highlighted.
Any attempt over the past few days to recapture my early form has been woefully inadequate and I've found myself crawling, tail between my legs, back to the offline matches.
Fortunately, this didn't prove a disappointment. EA has kept the Be A Pro option from last year and improved the Manager Mode, which is as engrossing as ever. While it will never live up to the realism of Football Manager on the PC, it certainly adds longevity and there's plenty to see and do.
There is really very little to shock or surprise the die-hard fans of the series; it builds on last year's release and manages to better it in many ways. In terms of how it looks and feels, FIFA 10 is definitely an improvement, and unless Pro Evolution Soccer pulls something out of the bag, FIFA is going to retain its crown as THE football game of the year.
Even if you own last year's edition, this is definitely worth a punt.
(Picture credit: EA)
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Posted by AndyB
10/06/2009 02:00:00 pm Fifa, Football Manager, PC, pro evolution soccer, PS3, review, Xbox, Xbox 360 No comments