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Demo Impressions: FIFA 10

September 12, 2009, Author: Brian Gourlay

I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be a very exciting year in the world of football games. While I think that it has always been a strong market with an outstanding contender every year, this could turn out to be the first time in a while that we have two soccer powerhouses at the top of their game.

EA Sports have been in the ascendancy since FIFA 08, while Konami are finally addressing the important issues with the PES series. However, this really could be the year that FIFA well and truly becomes the football game of choice for the masses, and they’ve already drawn first blood in this title fight with the release of the FIFA 2010 demo. So, do EA already have Konami against the ropes, or have they blown their load too early and left themselves open to a brutal Konami counter? (No idea why I’m using so much boxing imagery about a football game, but hey, I think it works)

When first starting up the demo, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were still playing FIFA 09. The style of the opening reels are almost identical to that of the previous instalment, and it struck me as slightly lazy on the part of EA. Fortunately this doesn’t carry over to the game itself (too much) and there are plenty of tweaks and small improvements to distinguish between the two. That being said, you still have to listen to Andy Gray’s moronic analysis.

The 360 dribbling has featured heavily in all of the hype mongering for FIFA 10, and it was the first thing I noticed when firing up a game between Barcelona and Juventus (you’re given the choice of Barcelona, Juve, Chelsea, Bayern, Marseille… and Chicago Fire). To be honest it didn’t drastically affect the way I played the game when I was in possession, although it did result in running with the ball looking much smoother and more fluid. It always bugged me that looking back at replays made the players look robotic and unrealistic when running, but the 360 dribbling combined with EA’s trademark silky smooth animations make the replays a joy to behold.

From a distance that is. In a similar vein to FIFA 09, the player models don’t stand well to scrutiny when you get up close and personal. The faces of the players don’t have any texture whatsoever and almost look like they’re made of clay. Even though you’ll never notice that level of detail when you’re in the middle of a frenetic game, it’s a nice thing to have when you’re admiring a wonder goal from every angle in a replay, and it looks like PES has soundly beaten FIFA on this aspect. Playing the game from the regular perspective on the other hand has been polished very nicely since the previous game, with the lighting effects and player animations in particular looking top class.

boxart

Right lads, scream if you think Rooney will be even uglier in this game!

Being a demo, you’re only given 3 minutes per game to test your skills, so it’s difficult to really explore what the game is capable of. From my brief time with it however, it seems obvious the ball physics have been revamped, with shots in particular feeling a lot more weighty. I didn’t like the shooting in FIFA 09 at all, every shot seemed to tamely float through the air, but it looks like this has been addressed and the shots really do look and feel great this time round. The ball has a tendency to bounce around and ricochet a bit more though, which adds to the realism but can result in some hectic midfield sequences of play. The main reason for this is that the AI’s idea of winning the ball in midfield seems to be to throw everyone directly at the ball when you have it. It can get pretty crowded in there, and I hope this will be rectified in the full release, since it’s never fun when the game is more reminiscent of pinball than football. However, the new ball physics also make slick passing movements look absolutely lush and very satisfying to pull off.

Goalkeepers seem a bit suspect in the demo, they seem to struggle to catch the ball and will punch it more often than not. This could lead to a lot of slaggy rebounds and really needs to be addressed, but it’s difficult to tell whether this is part of the game mechanic or simply because all of the goalkeepers statistics have mysteriously plummeted to the low 70′s.

Even though some bits are slightly too familiar from the evidence of this demo, FIFA has only got better in the aspects that have changed since the last game. I think they’re definitely 1-0 at the moment (only footballing metaphors from here, I promise), but Pro Evo could come back with a haymaker at any moment (ok, I lied). It’s probably the smoothest looking football game I’ve seen on any console, and with the sheer level of content that’s been spread across the Manager Mode, Be A Pro and multiplayer side of things, Konami are going to have to launch one hell of a counter attack to put a stop to EA’s growing dominance.