FIFA Soccer 09 effectively knocked PES 2009 off its perch and gained the title of best football, or soccer as us Yanks call it, game. With FIFA Soccer 10, EA Sports has managed to hold onto the title and actually pull ahead a little. EA Canada made a number of refinements that addressed almost all of last years complaints, the result is a game that feels faster and more fluid.

Right off the bat you’ll notice how the ball physics remain realistic, with passes and shots moving around with believable speed. You’ll also find that the better ranked the player, the more they’re able to use the skill moves and liven up the game. Lower ranked players are unable to use the majority of the skill moves, giving a little realism to the game. You can take your player into the Arena to practice their skill moves, or head on into one of the Exhibition games to get it on in a match between teams of your choice.

A new feature is the Virtual Pro, which is different then Be A Pro. For Virtual Pro you design a player, and for PC users you can download your “Game Face” for use (Mac users are left out in the cold), as you would in Be A Pro, but rather than limiting him to one area of the game he’s available in any offline mode, Pro Club and ranked matches online. You can level up your player skill wise by receiving Accomplishments, whether in the Arena or during games. These accomplishments give your player better stamina, skills, control and sense of the game. It’s a great way to rise up the ranks.

The online mode, is just as robust as it was last year with Ranked and Un-ranked games that can be played against anyone in the world. There are leagues that you can join, or create and invite friends to participate in as well. Nothing new was introduced from last years game with regards to the online, but the Manager Mode has been completely revamped.

FIFA’s new Manager Mode is head and shoulders above last years version. The transfer system is more authentic so you don’t have players like Wayne Rooney moving to Birmingham. The AI has also been improved with opposing clubs rotating players more often based on factors such as fatigue, player form, and even the importance of a match. They’ve also added the “Total Football Experience”, which news around the Manager Mode world will be visible, including player transfers, fixtures and results from other leagues. Then there’s the Set-Piece Creator, available in Manager Mode and for other game modes.

The Set-Piece Creator, which you can access through the menu in Arena, allows you to create set pieces for different areas of the pitch. You can decide who takes the kick, who moves to what spot and even the manner in which they make the move. It’s a robust feature that works well for the most part, but has a couple quirks that will hopefully get updated.

Some other improvements include the the change of a players name to yellow to help identify carded players and refs getting out of the way of the ball. Another great feature is the new quick free kicks that help keep games flowing as much as possible. FIFA Soccer 10 has also gotten smarter in dealing with the run of play. You’ll find that free kicks are awarded less frequently because the referee plays the advantage more. If a free kick is awarded you can now have the option to change the kicker on dead balls using a drop down menu. It’s the little things that help make the game more complete, and help it run away from the pack.

While there have been a number of improvements, the game isn’t without a few minor problems. The AI players can still be a bit lazy, at times making no attempt to get to a ball when passing to them. Too often a back player would attempt a pass up field, only to have it go straight out for a throw in. When trying to tackle you need to make sure you don’t press the button too often otherwise once you gain possession you’ll quickly boot it down field. Lastly, I’m still waiting for EA to allow you to pre-set team formations and rosters for going on-line. If I want to use the same team when I play on-line I shouldn’t have to continually set my roster and formation to the way I want it to play, I should be able to save it and bring it into multiplayer without any issues. Other than that, there’s not really much to complain about.

Visually, FIFA Soccer 10’s a bit less of an upgrade than we’re used to, but you’ll notice the player faces are more lifelike and realistic. There’s not much to comment on because not much was done, but otherwise the production values have remained high. The English commentary of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray continues to impress, although there is a bit of repetition after playing the game for so long. I’ve also been using the Italian commentary with Giuseppe Bergomi and Fabio Caressa and have been enjoying that immensely as well.

Overall, FIFA Soccer 10 improves upon a working formula. It’s made up for FIFA Soccer 09’s mistakes and gives players what they want from a soccer game. It’s clear that EA has decided to take their biggest and best selling franchise more seriously and it’s paid off for gamers. FIFA Soccer 10 is a must have for soccer fans.