FIFA 10 has been highly regarded throughout the gaming world.  How does one of its portable iterations match up?  In today’s review, we cover the Nintendo DS version.

I’ll be up front about something: I don’t really dig sports games.  I haven’t picked up a sports game in earnest since the NHL/NFL/NBA 2K series’ debuted on the Dreamcast.  Even prior to that, I hadn’t put much time into sports games…NHL ’94 on Sega CD, Madden ’95 and Ken Griffy Junior Baseball on SNES, NHL ’98 on PC, and the aforementioned first releases from the 2K series on the Dreamcast are the only sports games I’ve ever played with any kind of regularity (unless you include the Fight Night series, which I have collectively put more hours into than all other sports game franchises combined.)  So, it came as a surprise that FIFA 10 on the DS is a lot of fun, even for a non-sports gamer like myself. 

EA did a fantastic job of really capturing the feel of Football (or Soccer, as we yanks like to call it).  Utilizing real-world Soccer tactics bears fruit, helping you to obliterate your opponents.  This is a relatively unforgiving game, however; unless you play on the easiest difficulty level, you aren’t going to get very far without having at least some knowledge of the game.  Opposing teams aren’t difficult to defeat necessarily…you just need to know how to properly react to the way they are playing the ball.

Animations of all the players are incredibly smooth, and even though the character models are fairly pixelated (due to screen size and computational power limitations), it is always quite clear what is going on down there on the field.  Not only are the animations smooth, but they are quite detailed; whether it’s just players running, goalies scooping up shots that have rebounded off them, or players quickly changing direction and leaving their opponents standing around looking stupid, the animations are very well done, especially for a game on the DS.

Speaking of standing around looking stupid, the biggest weakness I noticed in FIFA 10 is the AI of your teammates.  Players on your team that you aren’t currently in control of are dumber than a bag of rocks.  They will watch the ball roll right past them, they almost never even attempt to execute a take away, and sometimes they will literally stand still while the other team runs past them.  You really have to be on your toes and ready to switch control to a different player at a moment’s notice, because they are entirely useless otherwise.  They’re great at getting themselves in position based on the layout you currently have selected…but once there, they don’t do anything.

AI gripes aside, the overall design of this port is really great.  The utilization of the bottom touch-screen on the DS is fantastic, allowing you to change the positioning and play style of your team on the fly, while also serving to aim penalty kicks and to help defend against them.  There is also a mini-map that is displayed on the bottom screen, which shows where everyone from both teams is currently located.  This is vital in avoiding being called offsides, as it makes it easy to tell at a glance where the back defender is currently located.

The depth in this game is impressive.  I haven’t personally delved into some of the more advanced team-building options, but there is a ton of content here for Soccer fans to really sink their teeth into.  Whether you are a die-hard sports game fan, or someone who hasn’t picked one up in years, FIFA 10 on the DS is a great addition to your on-the-go gaming library.  Recommended.