Review by Kyle Anderson
Football is the most-played sport in the world. And it's not the kind that Peyton Manning plays, either — rather, it's the one played by mono-monikered Brazilians and uncomfortably good-looking Brits. For devotees of Manchester United or the MLS, EA Sports' annual "FIFA" entry is the completist's standard by which all other soccer games are judged. "FIFA Soccer 10" has a bunch of new features and a handful of gameplay improvements, but some of the annoying details that have plagued the series are still there.
Strap on a pair of cleats and hit the pitch with one of over 500 officially-licensed international teams in seasons, makeshift tournaments or legacy modes, along with fantastically in-depth (and super-nerdy) manager and "Be a Pro" modes. But if you really want to get down to basics, then it's about kicking a ball into a goal. Don't use your hands, keep up your cardio and protect your balls on free kicks. That's soccer in a nutshell. (And if you're a spectator, there's a lot of drinking and chanting involved, to.)
The HighsStaggering Depth
As noted above, there are 500 teams in the game. That's not a misprint. The result is an incredibly customized experience. Most EA Sports games try to be everything to everyone, but the hundreds of team options in "FIFA Soccer 10" allow you to live in any corner of the soccer world you like. For instance, I'm partial to the teams in the Scottish Premier League (because I'm weird, you see), so if I wanted to, I could never leave the SPL and still have an incredibly nuanced and deep gaming experience.
Best. Be A Pro. Ever.
The "Be a Pro" mode exists in just about every sports game going nowadays, so it's easy to take it for granted. But the idea of experiencing entire seasons and careers from the perspective of one player (they call it "Virtual Pro" here) actually works better in soccer than in any other sports game I've played. The perspective is incredible, and since there is no such thing as loyalty in top-tier international soccer, your player will be traded, sold and bribed by a number of other organizations throughout the course of your career. It makes for a wonderfully dynamic, thrilling gaming experience.
In previous installments, it was much easier to go rogue and score dozens of goals just because your player is especially skilled at juking and doing ball tricks. "FIFA Soccer 10" focuses more on passing to set up potential scores, which is simultaneously more realistic and way more fun.
I've played EA's "FIFA" titles for years, and every time a new one comes around, I think, "This will be the year they fundamentally repair the AI." This year is no different. While some of the computer's strategy has tightened, it remains frustratingly stupid. Even when its striker is three feet from the goal, the AI still won't take a shot. Your off-ball players (especially on defense) tend to run directly into traffic, and the less said about the AI-controlled goalie, the better. And there are still hitches in very simple aspects of the game. For example: If you can actually convert on a free kick, you're a better player than I.
Clods On The Mic
Though the soundtrack to the "FIFA" games are always my favorite (mostly because they're usually a super-weird combination of pub rock, spastic dance remixes and grimey British hip-hop), the play-by-play (handled by Brits Andy Gray and Martin Tyler) is some of the worst in gaming. The phrases are limited and there is a ton of disconnect between what's happening on the field and what they're actually saying. Luckily, there's an alternative here: Turn on the Spanish commentary and enjoy the call of "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL" whenever somebody scores.
I'm not going to lie: As somebody who really loves soccer, I'm completely addicted to "FIFA Soccer 10." But it's not for everybody — in fact, if this is your first foray into the world of virtual corner kicks, I can't imagine you'd tune in again next year. Still too buggy to be called definitive, "FIFA Soccer 10" does do a nice job with depth and options. The fundamental game play remains a mixed bag, but if you just want to get lost in the nuances of the Liga Do Brasil, you need look no further.