We’re not going to bore you by opening this review with a lengthy discourse about how PES and FIFA have been rivals for years, with PES usually succeeding as the prime choice for the football purist with FIFA often considered the game that appeals to the fan majority, slavishly devoted to authentic licensing and gimmicky gameplay features, where PES focused on the core mechanics that make it superior. Oops. We rambled on about FIFA versus PES anyway. Sorry.
What we will say for the purposes of this review is that times have changed. FIFA has steadily flourished into a valid contender to PES’ firmly held crown in the gameplay stakes. EA really started gaining ground with FIFA 08, the follow-up closing the gap on Konami’s football behemoth even further.
Physical play is great in FIFA. It all feels very rough, ready and robust.
This goalie’s in major trouble.
FIFA 09 was the real turnaround, edging out PES in terms of overall quality despite both games offering an equally robust, if moderately divergent game of football. And now as PES continues in failing to secure anywhere near as many licenses as EA can muster with their inexhaustible financial clout, Konami’s series has started to fall behind. More tellingly however is the lack of genuine innovation being brought to the table with limp features like TeamVision AI failing miserably to deliver on any level.
The gulf between the two titles is growing it seems, which makes this year the perfect opportunity to capitalise upon their lead in providing the football game that appeals to both purists and devout football fans (who crave official licenses) alike.
It’s almost impossible to resist comparing the two games since it’s a choice we’re tasked with making every year when each game launches - FIFA or PES? So the question is, does FIFA 10 do enough to actually eclipse PES outright this year?
Both include the superficially subtle, yet hugely important, game-changing innovation of 360 degree dribbling and movement that enables you to execute sharp changes in direction, smooth weaves through narrow gaps in the opposition’s defence or deft turns on the ball. In FIFA 10 it makes for the most fluid football experience we’ve played yet, far outstripping any of the franchise’s past ‘back-of-the-box’ enhancements.
What makes FIFA 10 really stand out is so much more than just the latest major addition - although 360-degree player movement is admittedly huge. Yet, the entire game has been attentively tightened up in every conceivable department, so passing play is more reliable, shooting feels brilliantly immediate and exciting, and timing a well-placed through ball on goal is a massively gratifying game moment.
There’s an increased physicality with jostling, nudging and in more extreme cases, elbowing or pushing that lends a far greater sense of connection to the game, unlike PES where you’re able to run through opponents without breaking a sweat.
Rooney is still the face of the game. Lovely.
Aerial challenges are tough and can go either way. Another result of the renewed emphasis on physicality.
AI is realistic and almost always fair too, with fierce challenges penalised by the referee accordingly. There’s never a moment where you’re questioning the reasons as to why something has happened - the game is always even-handed and logical, following the actual rules of the game impeccably.
More importantly though, FIFA actually feels much closer to real football than any of its predecessors - or PES for that matter - have managed to achieve thus far. EA Vancouver has refined FIFA to a dizzying degree for this iteration, but these aren’t only confined to the on-pitch action.
There’s been a great deal of tinkering within FIFA’s various modes, the most significant of which is a massive overhaul for the in-depth Manager Mode. Finally FIFA has its own version of Pro Evo’s much-loved Master League that’s actually well worth the investment of time and effort it takes to progress to the latter stages.
Unlike the PES Master League, you begin your campaign with the chosen team’s current squad and a huge budget to splurge on expanding the club. The amount of money you receive from the outset depends upon the difficulty level you opt for, which is also effected by the team you choose as indicated by a five-star rating. For a real challenge, you’ll want to take a one-star rated team from out of the doldrums of lower league football to the glory of life in the top flight, but you’ll have to work long and hard to make it happen. But you’ll be more than willing to do so, as playing FIFA is infinitely enjoyable due to the innate fluidity and immediacy that now characterises the entire experience.
There’re a host of other modes in FIFA vying for your attention beyond the compelling Manager Mode and standard Exhibition Matches. Lounge Mode allows four players to get involved in a persistent league table, with each of you taking turns to play against one another. There’s an exhaustive online mode to delve into and a Live Season 2.0 that’ll set you back an extra 8 quid or 800 MS points, which is a miserly move on EA’s part to charge for something that should already be included in the full game you‘ve just shelled out for.
Nevertheless, there’s a generous spread of game modes that’ll keep you hooked for months, if not years. Be A Pro and Virtual Pro return in revamped forms too, letting you embark upon a career with a custom player in the same immersive third-person view as before. Obsessively detailed training and practice modes round out the overall package, even going so far as to include a comprehensive set-piece creator.
Player attributes are right on the money, so a fast, skilled personality can perform deft touches of skill and finesse whereas lesser players can’t.
Manager Mode is incredibly deep and has been considerably overhauled.
There’s a mass of depth to FIFA 10 in both its extensive list of options and on-pitch improvements. The result is the most accomplished football game we’ve experienced to date, surpassing PES 2009 by some margin. We’ve yet to play any more of PES 2010 at the time of writing beyond the available demo, but based upon what we’ve seen we’d say that EA’s game certainly has the edge this year. Whether the full version of PES can prove us wrong, remains to be seen.
FIFA 10 VERDICT
For now though, we’ll confidently stick our neck out and say that FIFA is well worth a punt. Not only is FIFA 10 the best EA has ever produced, it’s also one of the best football games we’ve played, period. It’s not without its niggles, but setting these aside, FIFA 10 does just about everything else exactly right.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Managing your favourite team to ultimate victory never fails to provoke a feeling of complete exuberance.