Wednesday, 16 September 2009
The annual coming of a new edition of the iconic Fifa series of video games is about as inevitable as flu season and Mike Dean fucking up. I approached this year's demo build warily after last year, where long term readers of mine will recall that I was blown away by the Fifa 09 demo, but then underwhelmed by the final product which, in many ways, seemed to take a step back somehow. Nonetheless, here are my impressions.
From the off, there's not a whole lot that stands out as different. Indeed this is the entire 'theme' for this year, "refinement" rathe than "revolution". This of course is usually just something lazy developers say when they can't come up with anything to do, and it's no different this time.
Much has been said about the new 360 degree player movement, but frankly it's barely noticeable. Players still fall into the same clunky 'on rails' animations when on the ball, which makes the whole concept somewhat redundant. Speaking of which, this was a major problem with both of the last two Fifa games which now still hasn't been fixed, so you can look forward to another year of the 'first touch' button, about as useful as a dancing monkey, knocking balls hopelessly out for a throw in when you really just want to move in a straight line.
This is my major gripe with the whole demo in fact, that many of the issues with past games have not been remedied. The teammate AI is still atrocious as well, with defenders moving into absolutely absurd positions and attackers perpetually in unnecessary offside positions.
Another concern is that the opponent AI (on the hardest difficulty anyway) seem unusually negative. Even when I'm playing against Barcelona they basically just pack their penalty area full of players and pass it around the back. In this respect PES remains lightyears ahead of Fifa.
So what is good? The physics seems to be handled a bit better this year, which allows for a much better passing game, as well as the scoring of more unique and interesting goals.
And of course the game really looks the business, with full licenses and likenesses as usual. Player ratings and team tactics seemed a little more up to date than is customary for Fifa games.
The game also seems to actually make use of player stats more than in previous games. Quick and strong players can actually run through defences now if timed right. Similarly I can actually feel a difference in playing against Barcelona as opposed to Chicago Fire, whereas last year playing against Man United or Wigan seemed pretty much the same.
Among the things I have not been able to try out yet, the new manager mode looks good, as do the adjustments they've made to be a pro. Hopefully they've ironed out a few of the absurdities of last year's be a pro mode. Why we're still limited to 5 seasons, however, is still a complete mystery.
Absurd referee decisions occasionally (ie frequently) the ref seems to get flummoxed by complex rules like offside and advantage. For example picture this: I pass the ball, just afterwards I get fouled, but the ref plays advantage, the player I've passed to is offside as it turns out, but instead of pulling back play to give me the free kick, the free kick is awarded against me for the offside. Sigh.