EA FIFA 10
After many years of playing catch-up, EA's FIFA series finally overtook Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer last year to claim the crown for best football game.
FIFA has always had excellent presentation, glitzy visuals and all the official licences, but Pro Evolution Soccer simply played a better game of football. EA, however, injected a real fluidity to the action in FIFA 09, and has built on it with this latest release.
FIFA 10 isn't a drastic update to FIFA 09, but it features some key improvements. Tighter defences, more intelligent goalkeeping and the closing up of easy goal scoring loopholes are the most welcome, and make for some fiercely competitive matches.
Standing tackles have been neatly tuned (and their effectiveness means that attackers must employ more guile to earn their chances on goal), and EA has thankfully relaxed the difficulty when making accurate long passes. The keepers are available, too, coming up for corners in the last minute where appropriate, and pulling off saves that don't always leave the ball in the path of an attacker seeking a rebound.
There's also true 360° dribbling for the first time - previous football games limited you to eight-directional movement. The change isn't as huge as you'd think, and it requires more concentration when running down the touchline, but you can fine-tune the angle of your runs in a way that was previously impossible.
Despite these improvements, FIFA 10 still takes two steps forward and one step back. Just because EA has blocked some scoring sweet spots, that doesn't mean a new one hasn't sprung up. In this case, the tendency for keepers to charge out during one-on-ones makes the lob shot easy to abuse. Practice it, and those hat tricks will quickly come your way. There's also a strong feeling that EA has opted not to rock the boat with FIFA 10 after making substantial improvements to the franchise in recent years. While there have been tweaks, there's nothing to really shake up your approach to the game.
This is still a very good football game, though. Backed up by time-sapping game options such as the substantive management mode, the ever-developing Be A Pro (where you play as a single player on the park) and assorted online options, there are many ways for you to demonstrate your virtual footy prowess.
FIFA 10 effortlessly reclaims the crown it won last year, and continues its reign as the football game of choice, but it does it without breaking much of a sweat. The flowing action was present a year ago, and while EA hasn't completely been resting on its laurels, there's little determination to break new ground. FIFA 10 is a recommended buy, but it's hardly crucial if you already own FIFA 09.