I originally wrote this article for a now defunct blog called PlusXP under the title “Be a pro with FIFA Soccer 10 (X360)”. I was granted written permission by the copyright holder at the time to republish it on my own blog. Ed.

Unless you’ve been living on Saturn for the past sixteen years you’ve probably seen, tried and even enjoyed the long-running FIFA Soccer series developed by Electronic Arts. Though there have been some fairly humdrum releases in the past decade, FIFA 10 is a landmark release that does not disappoint.

At long last the developers are starting to fully utilize the full high-definition graphics capabilities of both the XBOX 360 and PS3 with the result that player, pitch and stadium detail is truly awesome. Also, we finally get to enjoy the support of a 3D crowd! In previous versions the attending fans were represented by a tiled background animation, but this glaring omission has finally been put right. There are no streakers, hooligans or pitch invasions yet, but a man can dream.

Improved Gameplay

There are, of course, the usual improvements in skill moves, speed of play and realism but there are several more subtle changes which may have initially escaped your notice, and they take this game into a whole new dimension. The shooting metrics have been adjusted to take your player attributes far more into account when deciding whether you hit or miss, and you need to actually direct your kicks with the analogue controls and time your headers to perfection to avoid being jostled by a defender. The free kicks can either be taken quickly (a completely new feature) or taken as an on-the-spot kick. As with corners you point your kick-taker in a direction, specify how much power you need and then rely on the player stats to finish the work for you, meaning that for the first time your player attributes will play a much more important role in real-time gameplay.

Generally, it seems like FIFA 10 removes a lot of the hand-holding provided during matches that we have seen in previous titles. That doesn’t mean to say there are not any visual indicators at all, but a lot more control has been handed to us as gamers to play in our own particular style. Of course we still have a few of traditional quirks of the series such as commentary which becomes quite repetitive after a while due to a lack of samples, but you can download additional commentary packs to hear the dulcet tones of John Motson and Mark Lawrenson and add a little variety to the experience.

Manager Mode

If the traditional gameplay aspect of FIFA 10 does not appeal to you then there is always the “manager mode” that’s normally bundled with FIFA titles these days. Up until FIFA 10, I considered FIFA 2005 to have the best manager mode of the series as it provided long-term player development, had a ridiculously easy interface that even a five year old could use, and was very realistic when it came to manager renown and player form.

This seemed to have been taken down a peg or do in the years following, possibly because EA were concerned about sales of TCM: Total Club Manager. But with FIFA 10 we finally see a new, more realistic manager mode which focuses on your trying to impress the club board of directors and balance your budget. In previous titles you earned money by winning games and wound up buying the best players in the game, but in FIFA 10 buying players from big clubs will result in a sizable premium on their sale price. The only realities they have not emulated are Russian oil tycoons buying up a club and giving a blank cheque to buy talent, or players requesting transfers.

Key Selling Points

But the real selling point of FIFA 10 is “Be a Pro”. You can either choose an existing player or create your own, join a club, and then play for several seasons working your way up through club football and ultimately to international glory. You are set goals each game, that you need to achieve, to increase your reputation. You will need to do this to ensure that you are picked for more competitive matches and bought by more prestigious clubs.

What really sets FIFA 10 apart from previous titles though is the online support. You can play in teams of 10 other people, all controlling the customized pros you have been training up offline, in vast net-based competitions, with sizeable prizes up for grabs if you join the “official” tournaments. There are also the traditional team versus team competitions that we have all grown to love, but for those who want to truly immerse themselves in the action, you will not be disappointed.

The Verdict

FIFA 10 is still the de facto choice of footballing game for any of your friends to pick up, play and join in with you. Though Pro Evolution Soccer provides more in terms of player development, FIFA 10 is an excellent all-rounder with plenty to keep the die-hard fan happy, while still catering excellently for the casual gamer.

This is a real landmark in the series, and well worth the cash for the number of hours that you will inevitably spend glued to your seat trying desperately to injure a player that’s wronged you in some way, or coaching the England team to actually win something for a change. If you have been put off buying recent versions until EA produced a more distinctive release, then your wait is well and truly over.