Every year, around the start of the football season I have the same discussion with my brothers: ?When is the new FIFA
going to be released?? By this point I?ve reached a point of intolerance with the current leading title (currently FIFA
) ? because that?s what football games are like. You love them, and they?re great, but if you play them long and hard enough there are always a number of failings that you?ve grown a little too tired of.
In the current era of virtual football ? whereby EA Sports' FIFA
series has not only reached a level of being playable for any football fanatic, but has surpassed that level in a way unimaginable to many ? I find myself as impressed with the changes and additions to FIFA 10
as I was last year.
Passing, dribbling, shooting, keeping and long balls are all much improved. Lofted up-field clearances; grass-cutting, midfield switches, and angled cross-field through-balls are now all possible.
Dribbling is quicker and easier to use, and virtual footballers with very little skill don?t quite feel like fat, useless, hand-egg playing behemoths trying to control a football for the first time. Whilst they still can?t perform nifty tricks, which is a good thing, they can at least function as a member of my team when on the ball. Tricks are finally fluid and natural, and not a bolted on extra. Dribbling with Ronaldo or Messi is beautiful, and whilst I?ll never dedicate the time to become a master of all the available skills, I can perform lollipops, flicks and feints in a fashion that feels instinctive and unpretentious. I no longer feel like an arthritic fool, waggling my stick in a horribly mistimed fashion. The 360 dribbling is very subtle, but and anyone who?s played FIFA 09
will certainly notice a difference.
Keepers are still pretty bad at chasing out to meet any through ball or cross that isn?t coming at them from front on or sideways, but they are brilliantly realistic in other areas. It was impossible to take on the keeper last year, and they had a habit of making ridiculously good saves in unlikely scenarios. The superhuman diving and reactions to any faked shot or jink have been toned down, allowing some nice goals. Beware though; they?re still a bugger when it comes to instant reactions from close range tap-ins.
A big gameplay feature that seems to be leaving a lot of fans split is the physical side of the game. I love it. Players jostle for the ball with a feel of physics, momentum and strength, opposed to two blokes linking arms and bickering over who?s going to come out on top. You will push and pull, lean and clamber. It?s brilliant to look at, and none of it is pre-animated, ?it?s live and it?s happening? as Martin Tyler would say. You?ll come out of a few challenges feeling hard done by when the whistle does or does not blow, others thinking ?Wow, the ref actually gave a free kick for that?!?.
There is a certain level of intelligence to the referees that hasn?t quite been seen before. Usually a foul in any game would only ever be given if you pressed either of the two tackle buttons and got it wrong. Now, exerting a little too much of yourself onto your opponent, or simply obstructing them as they pass it round you will result in a free kick. A big step forward.
It?s still horribly frustrating to find your player two millimetres offside, though.