FIFA 10 for IPhone

FIFA 10 is a beautiful, slick, challenging, and ultimately engrossing soccer game by Electronic Arts that should satisfy fans of the pitch from Brazil to Italy.

Not only are international squads represented, but leagues from the world get to see their teams and players lovingly recreated. Play as Real Madrid and take on the Brazilian national team. Or see how the MLS teams do against Italy's finest club teams. Impressively, FIFA 10 has even more teams and players than the stellar soccer sim Real Soccer 2010.

FIFA 10 also offers superior graphics that bests its closest competition. The shadows and models are brilliant and the animation is simply beautiful. From the replay sequences (where you can manipulate the cameras and save your replays for later viewing) to the different stadium conditions--the amount of realism is simply staggering.

Fans new and old will appreciate the varied modes: Manager, Tournament, Be A Pro, Training, and Penalty Shootout. The Manager and Player modes provide depth that dedicated fans will enjoy, but may prove too tedious for casual players. The Manager Mode allows you the ability to trade players and set your roster according to your master strategy. Bench your least liked player on your favorite team and replace him with one of your clever acquisitions.

The Be A Pro function is a promising if time-consuming feature that allows you to play as any player available in the game and customize them to your liking. Through matches, you'll gain experience points and eventually build the ultimate player. The camera zooms in on your character throughout the match and you get a more intimate look at the world of professional soccer. That said, it takes a lot of matches to earn enough points to actually start leveling up your character--a likely deterrent to casual players or those who just want to pick up the game and go.

FIFA 10 has a great commentary system and soundtrack, really getting the player into the game. It's the best commentary system I've heard on the iPhone and completely puts EA's own Madden NFL 10 to shame with its authenticity and accuracy.

There are some divots on the pitch, however. The defensive control system and AI can be infuriating. I couldn't count the number of times the opposing player would have the ball and decide to dribble it toward the sideline or back toward his own goal while my own player could do nothing to tackle him. The controls specify how to tackle a player, but the action itself is usually ineffective. Slide-tackling is a difficult two-button maneuver and largely useless--I always drew a yellow or red card.

The opposing AI is stout on defense, making scoring difficult. There is always a defender to trip you up and your games will largely be low scoring. But on offense, the opposing AI is an idiot savant. The opposing players will sporadically dribble the ball harmlessly away from your goal and at other times cut through your defense with laser-like passes and score in seconds. The inability to tackle consistently makes you completely at the mercy of the AI's whimsical tactics.

The wonky controls and inconsistent AI lead to a lot of low scoring games and therefore a lot of penalty shootouts. I almost wonder if EA had planned for such outcomes, quietly throwing elements that would lead to penalty shootouts because the penalty shooting system is fantastic. The shootout controls are easy to use on the iPhone, the graphics are terrific, and it's sufficiently challenging enough to be an asset to the game.

Hopefully a future update will address the control and AI problems and offer the player more save slots. Currently, you only have one save slot and thus can't have a manager, a pro, and a tournament game in progress at the same time.

Still, despite some minor technical flaws, FIFA's aesthetics, authenticity, and overall fun factor should keep players coming back time and time again to this iPhone title.

[At the rate he racks up yellow cards, assistant editor Chris Holt is facing a lengthy disciplinary ban.]

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