FIFA 10 Hands-On

EA Sports invited us for a very early hands-on with FIFA 10, as the game approaches the 50 percent complete mark.

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As EA's biggest-selling game of last year, FIFA 09 is a tough act for the company to follow. But that's exactly what EA Sports President Peter Moore wants to do with FIFA 10. Specifically, the Liverpudlian wants FIFA 10 to be the first game in the series to hit the 90+ mark on aggregate reviews site Metacritic. No pressure for producer David Rutter, then, whose job it was to formally introduce the game, as well as offer us a first hands-on with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. He seemed surprisingly calm, perhaps because the game's already very playable at the 45% complete mark, but we probed further to find out what to expect come Q3 2009.

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The biggest change to the series in FIFA 10 is the new 360-degree control, which offers much greater finesse than ever before. Whereas in FIFA 09 your player would move in only eight different directions, the players in FIFA 10 have much finer degrees of movement. This means that you no longer have to zigzag your players around when making a run, given that you can move them much more accurately and fluidly than before. It's immediately noticeable when you play the game, and we can't wait to discover how it impacts the rest of the game when we get to play more.

In terms of the workload, Rutter says that the split is 70/30 between refining the core fundamentals and implementing new features. This means that the team is focused on improving what's already there, and specifically addressing the few niggles that annoy the development team and the community. Specifically, the trapping and positioning of the players have been made much more realistic, while also adding to the gameplay. We were shown a video demonstration to highlight this. Last year's players would jump up and chest the ball no matter what position they were in, but this year they'll automatically receive the ball in the easiest way possible. For example, if you cross the ball and the receiving player is unmarked, he'll move back and receive the ball at his feet instead.

The only specific mode that EA Sports is currently talking about is Manager Mode, which it says is the big focus for this year's FIFA. The company promises that this mode will be expanded, with bidding wars from rival clubs affecting player prices, whereas behind-the-scenes calculations will change the flow of each match on a minute-by-minute basis. Although EA Sports isn't talking specifics, it's clear that online play will be another focus for the developer, especially given the huge growth in the number of people playing the series over the Internet. The popular Be a Pro online mode will definitely be making a comeback, and Rutter raised a wry smile when asked if the recently released Ultimate Team downloadable content will become a core part of FIFA 10.

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EA is keeping a lot of info on FIFA 10 close to its chest, but there were many little tidbits of info to take away from our preview. The practise arena in the main menu will be expanded and will now offer full 11-versus-11 play, as well as letting you try out set pieces and practise matches. The team is also removing a lot of the interrupting animations, such as when you get booked by the referee. Along the same lines, and keeping the pace of the game going, you'll be able to take quick free kicks--so expect to have to pay close attention in online games. And finally, Rutter joked about the improved net physics that they've implemented on the goals. They're a small detail, but they did look quite impressive.

The huge number of tweaks and improvements will keep Rutter and his team in Vancouver busy for a while yet, but it's clear that there's still plenty for them to reveal. April is the earliest that EA Sports has ever shown its annual franchise, and the company promised that more details will be revealed over the coming months. It's a good sign that EA Sports is ready to show off FIFA 10 at this relatively early stage, and given how much we enjoyed last year's game, we can't wait to see all of the tweaks come together. If our play was anything to go by, FIFA 10 will offer an even smoother and more seamless experience than before. We'll be keeping our scouts assigned to track the game as it progresses toward its Q3 09 release date, so expect more info very shortly.

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