There are many possible reasons that the sport of soccer hasn't taken off in this country the way that it has in the rest of the world. It's not as conducive to television viewing as other sports – there's no easy way to break for a commercial. It can often be a low scoring affair and as a nation we tend to like to see points/goals/runs rack up. Oh, every few years, people in this country get excited about the sport, but usually that's a momentary world cup thing. Maybe if the game was as fast-paced in real-life as it is in FIFA Soccer 10 it would be more popular in this country.
The latest version of the franchise features numerable updates to a game that was already solid. There is a completely revamped Manager Mode, which is roughly equivalent to the Franchise Mode that exists in Madden, the player gets to choose a team and manage it (both behind the scenes and in-game) through several years so as to both win and make money. It is here where the depth of the game really comes through and where most people will probably spend the majority of their time.
Of course, as much fun as it is to set things behind the scenes, the essential question in any sports game is how well it performs on the field. FIFA Soccer 10 is as smooth as the arc of a perfectly bananaed corner kick and a huge amount of fun to play.
The big on-field innovation this year is something EA calls 360? Dribbling. Essentially, this new dribbling style means is that no longer is the user restricted to moving up, down, left, right, and at the exact middle points to those (up and right equally, up and left equally, etc.), the game can now handle a movement that is mostly up but just a hint to the right and little bit less up and a little bit more to the right, and so on and so forth – the user now has full 360-degree control over where the on-field player goes. There does however, appear to be some real physics involved – if a player is sprinting while dribbling, it does take more time to make course corrections.
Opponent AI can be set at various skill levels, which will help many users get the hang of how exactly the game plays out, but unfortunately the AI doesn't learn over the course of a game or a season. Set on the easy level, should one choose to be Manchester United (and why would anyone want to be any other team, even though there are a truly staggering number of leagues and teams available), every time one gets the ball starting a half or following an opposition goal, the ball gets tapped to Wayne Rooney who can sprint all the way down the field, past all defenders with ease, and end up with a one-on-one with the goalie. It shouldn't be that easy, and it definitely shouldn't be that easy again and again and again… Rooney isn't allowed to dominate the field like that on higher difficulty settings, but as great as Rooney and Man. U. are, such a move should never be allowed. In these instances one can't help but be reminded of Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, and that is something of a disappointment.
The Virtual Pro mode is also new this year (or is at least a new title with vast changes over the old version). The most impressive – and most fun – feature included in Virtual Pro is the ability to log onto a website, upload a couple of photos of one's self, and then have EA's computers turn the pictures into a semi-realistic rendering which can then be downloaded into the game. It is, in brief, very cool to see oneself on the pitch wearing a jersey. Virtual pros can be drafted onto teams in Manager Mode, although this reviewer couldn’t figure out how to do it in an already existing franchise, forcing him to start again from the top. Virtual pros can be trained both in the Arena (a fun little area that pops up as one heads from one portion of the game to the next and lets one try out various moves) and gameplay situations, and receive points for performing various feats (over 200 exist).
The on-field graphics are pretty stellar, featuring different appearances for the myriad of players, as well as very smooth on-field play. The crowds are something of a let down graphically, but if one is looking at them, they're going to wind up in trouble on the field, but perhaps not huge trouble as AI defenders tend to match up very well against AI opponents.
As with virtually every sports game ever made, while the announcers initially seem cheery and great and wonderful, they begin to repeat their insightful comments all too soon. Perhaps one day a sports game will figure out exactly how to incorporate play-by-play in a way that remotely resembles what one might actually hearing during a match. That day, though, is not today.
Without a doubt, the biggest disappointment in the game is EA's relatively new desire to charge for various downloadable content. It is one thing to have downloadable content available for a fee via the PlayStation Store or the Xbox Marketplace, it is, however, an entirely different thing to have various items available in the game's menu ask the player to pop another quarter into the machine. The main place (though not the only place) this issue crops up in FIFA Soccer 10 is with Live Season 2.0. Here, one can "purchase a league" and receive regular updates (depending on the league) about team and player performances, transfers, injuries, suspensions, etc. It feels rather cheap to have someone plunk down $60 for a game and then ask for more money to have all the features of the made available.
Actual online play against others can be done for free, both in ranked and unranked matches. Play here is just as smooth as in the regular game, and can certainly help teach users just how good they are – Rooney is most definitely not allowed to streak past opponents untouched over and over again when playing against another human being.
The game actually slows down far more post matches in Manager Mode than it ever does in online play. In fact, the post-game moments, where one sees scores and transfers, has background screens that pause and stutter on a regular basis. There are certainly lots of teams and players, but the stuttering background is disconcerting, even if the game is doing lots of work behind the scenes.
Minor complaints and criticisms aside, FIFA Soccer 10 is a great game. It features depth on-field and off, and several great addendums/alterations to its predecessor.
FIFA Soccer 10 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PS2, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360.