This time last year, a poll on FHM.com asked readers which footy sim behemoth they preferred; FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer. The response, a resounding 70% approval for FIFA, heralded a significant coup for Electronic Arts. It’d taken control of the biggest football-themed rivalry in the world. How big? FIFA 09 sold nearly 8 million copies. In short, it’s a market worth dominating. And with this month’s release of FIFA 10, it’s time to find out just how much it cares about retaining its title.
Those well versed with the annual battle will testify that FIFA 09 ’s gameplay matched its polished officialdom – a fanboy’s delight of up-to-date kits, boots, player names, league licences and digitally rendered stadia. And FIFA 10 is no different, but with the added clout of 360º dribbling (meaning you don’t have to run at 45º angles) and a revamped collision system as the headline attractions for gameplay buffs. Game producer David Rutter, told FHM: “There’s stuff that’s brand-spanking new and there are incremental improvements all over the place. It’s four years in the making… the game speaks for itself.”
And then there’s the huge effort that’s gone into pleasing the spirited voices of FIFA’s online community. For example, it’s now possible to take a quick direct free kick as your opponent shuffles his wall. The Manager Mode match results are more realistic, with each game being calculated on a per-minute basis. And the Practice Arena (the short-hand version of the game that lets you work on passing, shooting and dribbling skills while the main event loads) is now two-player. The forums have spoken.
But for all the tweaking and tinkering, it’s the customisable free kick feature that’s the big marketing coup. Having chosen a quadrant in front of goal, you can select players and pre-record the runs you want them to make. When you’ve organised your little men into a satisfactory defence-muddling symphony, you then save it to your D-Pad to call upon when the moment comes. You can save four free-kicks for each of the eight quadrants. Potentially, it’s geek Nirvana.
All of which leaves Konami’s October 23 release of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 with much to do to claw back a burgeoning number of defectors. But what about the myth that real footballers – those who know the game best – play Pro? Rutter’s heard it all before: “I’m not going to make a big deal over who plays what, but what I will say is that if there are footballers out there who play Pro Evo, then perhaps they should give our game a go, because it’s very different to how FIFA used to be. “ Game on.
FIFA 10: from £40, is out on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii from October 2