EA's franchise has now gone beyond being the glamorous alternative to Konami's PES, taking the role as the industry leader right from under Pro Evo's nose. EA can't be lazy though. If it's going to remain at the top and not slide into the trap of releasing barely improved yearly rehashes (we're looking at you Konami), FIFA needs to continue to evolve.
FIFA 10 is righting the wrongs of 09 and adding a few new ideas of its own. EA Canada has taken on board the feedback given by FIFA 09 players and is ramming 10 full to the brim with refinements and improvements. A passer by, taking a subtle glance at the game, might assume it's simply FIFA 09 with updated players rosters, but look closer and the finer details start to shine through. FIFA 09 was lauded by many as the best football sim ever, so EA had no need to start from scratch with FIFA 10.
Refinements have been made to all areas of the game. FIFA 10 has brand-new urgency logic, meaning the players on the pitch react to what's going on in a more realistic way. Your defenders aren't going to be running around like headless chickens at the back when the ball's down the other end of the pitch, preserving their energy for situations that need it. Players can now detect if there's a dangerous hole that the opposition can exploit, moving into a position to neutralise the threat - or at least that's the idea. For example, if John Terry is up to attack a corner for Chelsea, Essien will spot that there's a gap in the defence and move into the space Terry has vacated - remaining there until Terry has returned to his natural position.
In offence players show increased smarts too. Space is analysed more effectively, they curve their runs to try and stay onside, attempt to create passing lanes and generally try to give more attacking options. Part of this comes from the new trapping system, which enables players to more intelligently take control of the ball. For example, if the ball is coming towards them in the air, they won't simply charge at it and risk miss-controlling it, stepping back in order to get more time. Overall, in FIFA 10 players will get the ball under control in a more realistic fashion, in theory leading to less frustration.
FIFA 09 allowed for some brilliant shooting, but it's been refined here to make shots seem more realistic. The position of the ball when you shoot, the spin on the ball as it comes towards the attacker, and all manner of other things have been taken into account to ensure the timing and position of each shot has a realistic effect on the outcome. Attackers can make use of their individual skills too, so players like Henry and Ronaldo can momentarily stop the ball and then trick their way past the defender - the kind of thing we see in real football all the time. This skilled dribbling combined with brand-new 360 degree analogue control means you can find spaces that simply weren't possible in previous FIFA titles.
Defending has seen improvements over and above positioning AI. Slide tackles are now more dependent on each player's skills (good players have longer reach and are less likely to take out the oncoming attacker). Standing tackles are less forgiving too, so you won't simply be able to hold down the 'press' button to see off attackers. In an effort to mimic the kind of last ditch blocks that the best defenders make on a regular basis (even if they often use their hands - Mr Terry being the biggest offender) there's new clearance logic. The best players will be able to slide in to block shots and crosses, or perform overhead clearances.