Hands-on: FIFA 10

With me at the EA showcase event were two IVG members, who are also ardent FIFA fans. You all know Omar (boltonfan), who represented India at FIWC last year. Along with him was Azaan (xzaanx), who was a finalist in our recently concluded IVG FIFA 09 League 2. Here’s what they thought of the game:

Omar’s impressions

This is the best FIFA game I have played yet, or to say the least, it is the closest that FIFA has got to the rival PES series in terms of gameplay. Before playing, I thought that this would be yet another FIFA, which was a polished version of the previous installment with some minor changes here and there. But boy, was I wrong!

To begin with, the arena looks very similar to FIFA 09, but once I started practicing with the player, I noticed that the ball mechanics have changed. The ball feels much heavier and so if I shoot the ball, it doesn’t bend tremendously or feel like it’s floating in the air. It feels more realistic.

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The game speed is a bit faster than that of FIFA 08 and slower than FIFA 09. It is perfect. FIFA 10 gives equal importance to physical strength as well as technical skills. Not only does one have to outplay the opponent (which Azaan did against me), but will have to also fight physical battles to win the ball back (which Azaan also did against me).

The jostling has been significantly improved. Players run alongside each other and fight and jostle for the ball just like they would in real life. This means it is not easy to just run through the defence with a fast player. A physical defender can equally match a fast striker. This shows that EA have worked on the defence mechanism and have considerably improved it.

Passing and crossing are more manual. A pass or cross does not guarantee that the ball will land exactly on the player’s feet. Heading is also tougher in this game, especially from corners. Even if one does head the ball, it is difficult to get it on target. The incorporation of quick free kicks has added to the surprise element and has made it easier to counterattack, so I’m not complaining.

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Along with the positives, there were some negatives too. During open play, the ball would hit the referee too often and the opponent would get the ball. Another major flaw I noticed was that the referee was giving frequent fouls even for X tackles. Also, I was fouled twice by the defender behind me when I was one-on-one with the keeper, but the defender only got a yellow card instead of the usual red. I was told that this was the E3 preview version of the game, which means that the game will go through many stages of polishing before release, and I hope all these flaws are ironed out.

Although I don’t want to say this, the game feels very similar to the PES series. All those who have played, have unanimously agreed. PES fans will love the game and FIFA loyalists will find this a different experience from previous versions. That said, I’m sure both sets of loyalists will appreciate the game as EA Sports have yet again produced a gem of a game and have raised the bar even further. The clock is ticking, Konami.

Azaan’s impressions

I have been a FIFA fanboy for more than half my life. Before FIFA 10, I’d played 15 FIFA games, but I’ve always had the feeling that PES was the better game when comparing gameplay. Last year, EA raised the bar high with gorgeous graphics and excellent online play, yet I felt disappointed with the gameplay and felt that FIFA 08’s gameplay was better. So I was a bit worried before playing FIFA 2010, fearing that all EA might do was improve the graphics and leave the gameplay unchanged. I was wrong.

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FIFA 10 looks quite similar to FIFA 09 in terms of presentation, but all this changes while you start a match. The graphics have not received a major overhaul, although the player animations and faces are slightly more realistic. The main changes are apparent in the gameplay. For the first time ever, players in FIFA run like real players do (some might say it is like PES, but I don’t agree because for years, PES has been the only game where the players ran properly).

The game pace is slower than FIFA 09, but faster than FIFA 08, thereby striking a perfect balance. Players move very smoothly and strikers bend their runs to remain onside. Defenders cover their areas well. At least mine did; I don’t know why Omar’s were not defending well. The jostling is outstanding, with the jostling winner now not dependent on pace but also on strength.

Crossing and through passes have also been improved. Gone are the days when you had to just put the ball in a particular area and the striker would head home. Now heading depends on timing your jump, the power you get on the header, and the placement. Shooting has improved as well, although hardcore FIFA 09 players might find it strange.

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Flaws are few, but cannot be ignored. The referee consistently got in the way of my passes, and the goalkeeper AI still needs improvement. Even on Legendary, keeping wasn’t great.

For three years now Konami have been losing their battle with EA due to online play and they may argue that they had better offline play. But this year, they probably will lose in offline play as well. I have not played PES 10 yet, but it would take something truly special to even come close to FIFA, let alone match it. First day buy for me.

Title: FIFA 10
Developer/Publisher: EA Vancouver/EA Sports
Genre: Sports
Rating: 3+
Release date: October 2, 2009
Platforms: PS3,
Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, PC, Wii, DS, Mobile

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