I must say I enjoyed FIFA 09 a lot. Many of the things EA had previously attempted came together in that title along with tons of content that put it comfortably passed the latest offering in the Pro Evolution (Winning Eleven) series. For many years Pro Evolution Soccer was the unchallenged king of video game football, but Konami has struggled with online features and adapting to the current generation of hardware. Thus giving EA a window of opportunity.
I had high hopes for FIFA 10. There was a lot of talk about freedom of movement, lunging tackles and improved animations and goal keeper behaviour. It's all in there, but somehow it still feels very similar to last year's experience. And if there is one area where I feel EA is still lagging behind somewhat it is in the artificial intelligence department. It has improved, but it still feels a bit stiff and robotic.
This becomes especially apparent in the Be A Pro mode, where you have to rely on your team mates for passes and runs. With that said I still feel improvements have been made in this area. One thing I would like included in FIFA 11 is the ability to make a team mate hold on to the ball and deliver the pass just at the right moment. Now you can call for a pass, but sometimes as you start a run into an open space you will receive a pass way too soon. I also think that the positioning score in Be A Pro needs some fine tuning. These days players move over much larger areas and it seems absurd to be penalised for making an incisive run to the opposite wing when you are on the attack. I also think crosses should be handled separately from passes, as they are of course more prone to be intercepted. You should not be penalised for a good cross just because the defenders reaches it first.
But let's go into the basics of the Be A Pro mode, the mode I've spent most of my FIFA 10 time with so far. When you start playing FIFA 10 you will be giving the option of creating a Virtual Pro, an avatar and player you can carry across all the modes, a nice idea, and you can also give him your likeness by uploading a picture of yourself through the official website. Whether you create a separate pro or use your virtual pro in Be A Pro: Seasons, you are going to start in the reserves, earning experience points you can use to build your players and slowly making your way up the ranks and into the international squad.
I created an attacker, modelled after myself (not very athletic), to play for Swedish AIK (my favourite squad). Konami have licensed the club exclusively for Pro Evolution Soccer so they're called A. Solna in FIFA 10, but that's okay all the players have the correct names and the line up is current as of the latest transfer window with one exception (Pierre Bengtsson has left the team). A good reflection on the EA Sports team as this is hardly a team or league of the highest importance. Seeing as I created a striker I decided to focus on making him fast, and improving his finishing. I played rather well during the first season, became a "fan favourite" with my club side and earning a regular spot on the national team. I was given offers from a wide variety of clubs after the season including Chelsea and Real Madrid. But they only offered me spots on their reserve teams so I decided to play another season for A. Solna.
The presentation and design of the Be A Pro: Seasons mode is not as well put together as the corresponding game mode in NHL 10, but I still feel it has been vastly improved since FIFA 09. I truly enjoy the RPG like antics, and I see an enormous potential to grow this mode even further. Just think of a massively multiplayer Be A Pro game where some players manage clubs, while others simply play and mind their careers. There is of course the option to play Be A Pro with some friends, and that helps alleviate the deficiencies of the artificial intelligence. Unless you have crazy friends of course.
The other major game mode in FIFA 10 is Manager Mode where you take charge of a club and attempt to build a dynasty. While not nearly as deep as something like Football Manager of even EA Sports' FIFA Manager series, it still provides fans of football strategies and tactics something on top of the action on the pitch. I found myself switching between the Be A Pro: Seasons and Manager Mode, as while I enjoyed building my Be A Pro character, and do enjoy playing a regular game where I control all the players more than the Be A Pro games that can at times feel a bit boring and uninvolved.
The physical game has also been improved as is more nuanced than before. Different players physical skills have more of an impact, and I feels as though ball winners are more important than ever to have on your team. It doesn't feel entirely balanced yet (sometimes stronger players just go through slightly weaker ones), but it's an interesting change.
But FIFA 10 isn't just about being a pro yourself. There are plenty of football's finest on offer and the starts have been recreated with uncanny precision. Not just faces, and kits, but more importantly the way they move, their characteristic behaviours, are so close to the real thing that you will have a hard time telling FIFA 10 and the latest Barcelona game on TV apart. This is something that has slowly crept up on us, and while it's not a major leap since last year, it must be noted how far EA Sports have come in this department.
Overall the game has been improved in most areas. The ability to tailor your own set pieces is bound to become very popular among the elite online, and even in a friendly game in the sofa it can bring a lot of extra tension as home turf advantage truly becomes a reality. There are still the occasional odd behaviour such as a defender opting to defend a throw by standing on the wrong side of the line and FIFA 10 is more of a refined version of FIFA 09 than a football revolution. Nevertheless, its a must own for fans of the sport.