November 13, 2009

Editors' note: FIFA Soccer 10 is also available on the Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP and Nintendo DS.

Real Simple: By now there's not a Wii owner who doesn't know that, if you're looking for state-of-the-art graphics and cutting-edge realism, you're on the wrong system. Where FIFA 09 pushed the limits of the Nintendo console in trying to port the most realistic experience possible, this year's edition seems to have brought a more relaxed approach to the table. In trying to broaden the appeal of the FIFA franchise to more casual fans, EA Sports has stripped FIFA Soccer 10 of many of the more realistic elements. Translation: More goals, more excitement. It's almost an arcade-style take of the FIFA games you know -- think Mario Strikers Lite. Yes, the graphics a little more cartoony and simplistic, from the players' exaggerated jawlines to superhero physiques -- but stylistically it's a smart fit with the game's arcade-style tone.

Players, teams and league galore: You can choose from more than 570 club teams from 30 different domestic leagues -- everything from the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga to the Polish Ekstraklasa and Korea's K-League -- in addition to 41 international sides. That's over 12,500 real-life players, many of whom bear more than a passing resemblance to their real-life counterparts.

Downloadable rosters done right: Two emphatic thumbs up to EA Sports for nailing it. When you sign on to play an online game, a prompt asks if you want to download the latest rosters to your Wii. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. It should have always been that easy.

Booster shots: One of the few innovations to FIFA Soccer 10 is the game booster feature. At the start of each game in Road to Glory -- the game's stripped-down franchise mode -- you can choose from three different Manager Moment challenges (e.g. keep a clean sheet, attempt 15 shots on goal, score twice on set pieces, etc.). If you pass the challenge, you can select a pair of game booster cards at random. When played, these give your entire team attribute boosts -- like improved heath, shot accuracy or team speed -- that you can apply for the very next game or pocket for a showdown with a big rival or any other time when you want your players at their very best.

Online shines: The ability to play online matches against real-life opponents through the EA Nation network continues to make strides with each EA Sports title. FIFA Soccer 10 enables the user to play both one-on-one and, for the first time, two-on-two contests against players from around the globe. The world leaderboards are another cool add-on.

Check out FIFA 10 in action:

Where's the meat?: EA Sports scaled back the much-lauded Manager Mode from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, giving Wii players a diminished career mode known as Road to Glory. There's a transfer market, cumulative stats and ability to play a full league campaign -- in addition to the aforementioned game booster system -- but that's just about it. Very shallow, very disappointing and a very serious compromise of FIFA Soccer 10's replay value. Fact is, I know plenty of Wii owners who will be firing up FIFA 09 long after giving up on this year's game.

Uneven gameplay: Last year's game provided a more free-flowing, creative experience for players. Your Nunchuk directed your player while your Wiimote controlled a cursor that pointed anywhere on the pitch. It seemed like a perfectly intuitive use of the Wii's innovative control system and made for a gameplay experience unlike any other. This year's arcade-inspired offering is much more rigid by comparison. Through balls -- a critical point any truly great soccer game must get right -- are very difficult to control and direct. And why can I only move my players in eight directions?

No Motion Plus:FIFA Soccer 10 is not compatible with the Wii MotionPlus accessory. Why exactly did I buy that again?

Play the hits: EA Sports always came through with impressive pop soundtracks in previous FIFA offerings for the Wii, with artists in recent installments ranging from Peter Bjorn and John to Simian Mobile Disco to MGMT to !!!. This year, they've replaced the hot tracks with generic and disappointing techno soundtrack. Yet another casualty of the recession?

EA Sports has clearly embraced the Wii's pick-up-and-play philosophy with arms wide open. FIFA Soccer 10 will have a broader appeal among less demanding gamers. If you're looking for a more realistic experience, there's nothing wrong with sticking with FIFA 09 -- still the gold standard of soccer sims for the Wii -- for another 12 months. But if you're looking for a soccer-inspired game that's easy for players of all skill levels to have fun with, the latest installment in Electronic Arts' long-running footie franchise is worth the coin.

Gameplay: 8

Graphics: 7

Audio: 6

Online: 8

Overall: 7.5

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