GamesCom 2009: FIFA 10 Hands On Preview - Strengthening The Foundations
Written Wednesday, August 26, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
In simple British terms, EA Canada did a “bang up job” with FIFA last year. It wasn’t enough that they had the best selling sports title of the year, but for the first time in I don’t know how many years, they can also say they created the best football title of the year as well. The battle for the crown is shaping up to be a little more fiercely fought this year and we were on the frontline at this year’s GamesCom to see how FIFA 10 was coming along.
Leading the way in terms of new gameplay tweaks and additions in FIFA 10 is the game’s 360 degree dribbling – ultimately giving players the ability to move in any direction with the ball instead of the traditional 8 angles. According to FIFA 10 producer David Rutter, gone are the days of the restrictive 8 way directional controls in football games. Honestly though, going hands on with the title, I couldn’t tell what difference it made... not even slightly. Maybe I didn’t have a skilful enough dribbler at my disposal to take advantage of the new controls? We’re not sure, either way it’ll be interesting to see how it translates into the final version with players who have high dribbling attributes.
EA maybe touting the 360 degree dribbling as being their major feature this year, but for me, the real major improvements have come with things like improved player urgency, positioning, more realistic and intense jostling for the ball and improved trapping. It gives the game a more physical feel, and if you’re a fan of the Premiership’s heavy style of play, you can’t help but be impressed. The first time it will really strike home is when you last defender throws himself in front of the ball in a last gasp attempt to stop a goal. Or even better, when your keeper makes a sublime triple save, but that doesn’t mean that the game has had to sacrifice realism for these new additions. On the contrary.
Let’s talk modes for a second. Major new additions to the game in terms of modes this year come in the form of Virtual Pro and the Pro Club Championship, which are essentially major extensions of existing FIFA modes.
The Virtual Pro mode allows gamers to put themselves in the game for the first time, making use of the Photo Game Face that has proved popular for EA. Your Virtual Pro can then be used across any game mode, but it essentially feels designed for FIFA’s “Be a Pro” mode. After importing your face, you can change the appearance of your Virtual Pro and such, which affects the attributes you’re born with; so smaller players are likely to be more stable but have less strength. Throw in over 200 unlockables which are unlocked by performing certain tasks that affect either your attributes or your aesthetical appearance, and the ability to perform certain accomplishments to unlock traits like the long throw; and Virtual Pro mode is shaping up to be a fine addition to the franchise.
The other major addition, Pro Club Championship, takes the 10-on-10 action from FIFA 09 to an entirely new level. The Pro Club Championship takes the online Clubs from last year and turns it into a virtual league for your Virtual Pro and other Virtual Pros around the world – wow, that’s a lot of virtual! Not got enough friends to start a team? Fear not, the addition of public teams means it’s now easier for players to drop into a team without waiting for a manager’s approval. You can even just drop into a match without committing to a team, so it’s also a good way to build your Pro from there. Thanks to leaderboards tied to the mode, if you perform well, you could get your Pro noticed as well and maybe earn an invitation to play for one of the best clubs.
You’ll also see improvements in the practice arena (allowing players the chance to play 5-on-5 now, which according to Rutter is great after you’ve come home from a night out), over 50 major improvements in the managerial mode to improve realism, and of course, the new customisable set piece feature.
From a personal standpoint, the customisable set piece feature is one of my favourite additions to the franchise this year, and it’s a mode that fans of the beautiful game could literally lose themselves in. Players can create a variety of set-pieces including everything from making players dart into the box, peel off, or even act as a distraction if you so wish. You can create 4 set pieces per zone – selected using the d-pad when taking them – and there are 8 zones to create them for, so you can create 32 separate set pieces in all. So if in the past you’ve been frustrated by the lack of movement in the box or wondering why there wasn’t someone sat on the edge of the box for set pieces waiting to strike a volley; those days of frustration are now over. A huge selling point for FIFA 10 if you ask us.
EA Canada’s mantra on FIFA according to Rutter is simply, “refine, respond, innovate” and it’s safe to say that they’ve achieved that with FIFA 10. The additions are more subtle this year and feels like more of a general progression over last year’s title, with the majority of the work being done to expand the experience, rather than revamp it. It feels very much like FIFA 09 from a gameplay standpoint with noticeable improvements in the game’s physicality and realism, and it seems the emphasis was put on giving you more option, and more importantly, more bang for your buck. With the new set piece editor, Virtual Pro mode, Pro Club Championship and well implemented gameplay improvements, FIFA 10 seems to be keeping EA Canada’s good run of form going. Is it enough to hold off PES for another year though? We’ll have to wait to find out the answer to that one, but it certainly seems like a fairer fight this year. All we need now is a more football season friendly release date? We look forward to putting the final version through its paces in October.
FIFA 10 is coming to Europe October 2nd and North America October 20th.