FIFA 10 – First Shake

The demo for EA Sports’ FIFA Soccer 10 came out last week, so we’re on the spot with some early impressions after a stint of play-testing.  Apparently, the game drops in Europe tomorrow, but on this side of the Atlantic we have to wait until October 20.  That gives all those Euros nearly three weeks to refine their skills before I open up the whip-ass on them.

I’ve played FIFA 09 into oblivion so I definitely have some opinions about the next version.  First off, based on the demo, the  general physics are more lifelike and accurate.  This not only improves player movement and the way the ball flies around, but nuances such as passing, defensive challenges, and shooting position.  Most of the familiar online features will make a return, and you can always count on a few new tweaks.  The graphics have some subtle improvements, the soundtrack will be updated, and most importantly, the rosters will be current and (hopefully) adjusted to reflect the world of football.  For me it will be interesting to see if the USA team has improved in the eyes of the EA Sports developers – particularly in light of the Confederations Cup showing; I thought our players were given short shrift last time, but then again I’m biased.

Notable Improvements

  • Less ping-pong passing – FIFA 09 was marred by too much pinging the ball around midfield on one-touch.  It was basically too easy.  You could one-touch flawlessly to the next guy off a 50 yard ball.  Not realistic and annoying.  It also made give-and-go way too easy, and some players seemed to live off this tactic.  Lame.  FIFA 10 seems to eliminate this passing flaw.
  • No more automatic through-ball – FIFA 09 also made it way too easy to hit perfect through-balls.  If you were in trouble, just hold down that button.  If you had a really fast forward, you guaranteed a couple of break-aways per game.  Again, lame.  FIFA 10 makes through-balls tougher.
  • High balls needed – In FIFA 10 you will need to be able to hit long balls and high passes.  Yes, another passing improvement.  In FIFA 09 it was too easy to short pass your way out of nearly any tight spot.  With FIFA 10, due to improved physics, this is not the case.
  • More realistic shooting Less likely to blast an off-balance laser, more likely to hit an accurate shot past the keeper.  At least on first impression.  Two improvements to the FIFA 09 shooting model.
  • More emphasis on defensive positioning and angles – The new system seems to reward your ability to read the game rather than your ability to hit the switch and tackle buttons quickly.  It also seems to reward the angles you take on challenges.  Good stuff.

Possible Problems

  • Tacking still too easy As in FIFA 09, it’s too easy to close on the ball using the ‘press’ button’  You can basically hold down that button when your defender is 10 yards away and he hones in on the ball with android-like precision.  It would be better if you actually had to hit the tackle button at the right time (like in earlier versions of PES Soccer).
  • Custom Set Pieces ripe for abuseAny time you allow for designing your own custom set-pieces, you know someone will find a way to abuse it.  Someone will figure out the model for scoring 90% of the time from certain areas, and that will ruin the online game unless EA Sports addresses it.
  • Penalties needed for weak-ass quittersI don’t know how many online games of FIFA 09 I played in which my opponent yanked their connection after going down a goal or two, thus ending the game.  I believe those games usually counted as a win for me, depending on whether I was Home or Away, but I don’t care.  Quitting is lame.  Make it count for two losses on their online profile or something.
  • Rewards needed for diverse choices – Somehow, EA needs to figure out a way to reward players who use teams other than Man U, Chelsea, Barca, Real Madrid, Inter, etc., etc.  It’s pretty lame when you have to keep playing the same 5-6 teams over and over again.

But all in all the demo looks promising.  And I’ll surely be online soon after the 20th to represent the mighty mighty US, Chicago Fire, and MLS in general in the FIFA 10 arena.

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