With demos for both titles available on XBLA and PSN, it’s time to evaluate the latest onslaught from EA Sports and Konami in their long-running duel to the death, or football supremacy—whichever comes first.
We’ll begin with the latest version of last year’s clear winner, even if victory was sealed in extra time:
FIFA 10 – EA Sports Canada
At first glance, FIFA 10 shows a few pronounced alterations to its predecessors, and a few tweaks that feel downright odd. 360 degree dribbling makes for a very unwelcome first impression, as old habits see players running out of touch or drifting into the defensive line with regularity. It’s a system that breaks entirely from tradition, demolishing the previous attacking gameplay structure and providing a floaty, almost surreal fluidity to player movement.
After a few games however, it all clicks, and quite frankly, it’s magic. The freedom to nip in-between defenders with angled sprints is coupled with revamped AI that provides curved runs and strikers that look for space rather than simply sprinting forward. As a counter to this, the physical attributes of play have been accentuated, with the likes of John Terry able to knock smaller players off the ball with ease. The Messi’s of the world are still lethal however, with skilful players displaying an increased ability to ride tackles and recover balance quickly.
Coupled with these new dynamics is an increase in ball movement speed which finally allows for the sort of long-range shooting and quick attacking play that the series had lacked in its new simulation guise. The knock-on effect of this is a game with much more variety, as goalkeepers parry the ball in different positions, players dive and scramble to block shots, and you’re never really sure where each encounter will end up.
In short, FIFA 10 looks to have increased the stimulatory aspects of the game whilst also boosting playability with shaper handling and vastly increase attacking variety. If that was the goal that EA Canada set themselves, at this early stage it looks to be mission accomplished.
PES 2010 – Konami
Loading up the PES 2010 demo shows off the stark contrast in styles between Konami’s former glory and the resurrected EA franchise. It’s a considerably more lethargic and tactical outing than FIFA, and crucially it’s far, far slower than last year’s PES 2009 – which makes for a much better game overall.
Judging from the gameplay demo, PES 2010 looks to be the most well-rounded edition for some time. Build-up play is satisfying and tactical, movement is intuitive, and the tendency for players to simply stop on the ball and refuse to budge seems to have been eliminated – thank christ.
Dribbling has been improved too, with a hybrid system falling in-between the eight-way run of previous versions and the 360-degree movement of the competition. Whilst not quite as satisfying as the alternative, it nevertheless provides for increased variety in attacking situations, whilst animation has been boosted to cater for the resultant play. Ball movement looks to have been tweaked a little, with less ballooned shots and pinball deflections.
A vast improvement then, and PES 2010 plays as well as the series ever has done.
The road to victory:
So which looks to be better? It seems as if Konami is finally finding a sense of identity again, with a well-rounded football simulation that nevertheless clings to its last-generation engine for dear life. But that isn’t to say it’s left behind entirely.
FIFA is undoubtedly the flashier, more satisfying title to play in the short-term, but that increased player reactivity and ball speed may come at a price in the long run. The series has always been home to cheap exploits, and it remains to be seen if these have been eliminated with the new feature set.
But either way you choose, it’s going to be a vintage year.