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Well, they kept us waiting, but for my money the release of the long awaited FIFA 10 on the iPhone/Pod demonstrates merited confidence and a commitment to entering a market with a polished product. Despite its late arrival at the party, FIFA 10 does exactly what we were all expecting - it oozes class and delivers unrivalled depth. While it's by no means a perfect game, it muscles the competition off the ball with some ease.
Aesthetically, FIFA 10 on iPhone/iPod Touch is wrapped in an impressive skin of simple, quick-loading menus and is generally bright and pleasant to load up. The sound is good, with the commentary in particular standing head and shoulders above the attempts of its rivals. The in-game graphics are smooth, if a little lacking in wow-factor, especially when it comes to the player' faces, but at only a little over 60mb, it appears EA has gone for a sleek, bloat-free approach, which I feel is to be welcomed.
Although, as regular readers will know, I'm a fan of the way the iPhone/Pod gaming revolution has fed small publishers and first-time developers, when it comes to something like FIFA 10, it really is hard to beat the infrastructural advantage that EA bring with them. Not only do we get three excellent main game modes (Manager, Tournament and Be A Pro), but, of course, it comes replete with more licensed clubs, players and kit than you could shake a referee's assistant's flag at.
I found that the combinations all make good sense and while their mastery is a challenge, it wasn't long before I was using them confidently and productively.
What is more, in addition to the main modes, there is also a Training Mode and a Penalty Shootout competition, the first of which suggesting that FIFA 10 doesn't only offer depth in terms of its options, but that the gameplay has a fair amount to offer too. A read through the instruction screens and a few minutes of pitch time and, for me, that indication was indeed borne out. While they have opted for a fairly simple looking two button control scheme, EA have gone the route of assigning FIFA's more complex controls (lob control, one-two's, through-balls, skills, etc.) to a series of combinations which produce differing results depending on the order in which the buttons are pressed and the length for which they're held.
Now all that might sound a bit complex, but I found that the combinations all make good sense and while their mastery is a challenge, it wasn't long before I was using them confidently and productively. The far simpler matter of the directional controls, however, is a slightly different story.
I realise that there is precisely zero point in moaning on about virtual d-pads in games on a platform that has no physical buttons. They are not good, but if we want to have versions of major console titles, then there is in most cases going to be no other option. However, I couldn't help feeling that FIFA 10's default d-pad is a step backwards from what its two main rivals, Real Football 2010 and especially X2 Football 2009, offer.
I have big thumbs; I'm a big guy - uncompressed, my thumb is almost exactly an inch across, which is generally a pretty useful feature, but not so here. Not only is FIFA 10's d-pad fixed in one position, but it also has a pretty loose feel to it, both of which mean that while I'm trying to get a guy to run with the ball, my giant thumb is basically marauding all over the left hand side of screen covering stuff up.
Despite some quirks, FIFA is a really enjoyable game, which given some time and practice will yield an experience approaching the kind of thing I'm used to on a console.
Given this, and my fondness for bespoke control schemes, I was pleased to see an option for accelerometer control which allows you to tilt for movement and gives you a third button for sprinting. The pleasure of learning of its existence, however, was fairly short-lived as the scheme's lack of precision pretty quickly proved itself unviable.
So, I was back to thumb-blindness. Playing on, I found that my physical deformity combined with a noticeable drop in game speed from the standard console tempo, forced me to play in a different way. I struggled with anything approaching a running game and thus whipped-in crosses (one of my favourite FIFA weapons) had to give way to rapid passing and through-balls.
In addition, I find that the lack of precision in the controls, my thumb issue and a frustrating imbalance between the speed of players with and without the ball (something I also criticised X2 for) means that when defending, especially when kicking from left to right, it's easier to run out passed an approaching opposition striker and then turn and tackle him whilst coming back towards goal; which is weird.
However, despite some quirks, FIFA is a really enjoyable game, which given some time and practice will yield an experience approaching the kind of thing I'm used to on a console, at least in terms of intensity and immersion, if not panache and visual impact. There is as of yet no online mode, although one is apparently in the update pipeline. Given the quality of its rivals' multiplayer efforts, this is perhaps another example of a ‘wise wait'.
All in all, FIFA 10 is a solid release and definitely delivers the best available football experience on the platform, even if it does bring with it a few small frustrations. It is well worth getting now, but it's also clear there will be better to come.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: