One glance at a list of the big hitters on the App Store will reveal a notable omission. One franchise that sells millions worldwide on any platform it graces - and it graces them all - is missing. Strange as it may sound, there is no FIFA on iPhone.
That’s about to change.
We had the opportunity to play a fairly complete build of the game during a recent visit to EA. The one thing that’s instantly apparent is that the time spent out of the Apple spotlight has been spent pondering, observing the design decisions of rivals such as Real Football and trying to hone a more complete iPhone footy experience.
EA hasn’t cut any corners with FIFA 10. It features loads of teams across all the major leagues, plus a good few smaller ones (stretching right down to English League 2). It’s got full commentary, licensed tracks (though you can personalise these, so there’ll be no more instances of growing to hate a once-loved anthem after hearing it for the 200th time) and all the slick presentation you’d expect from an EA Sports title.
That’s the checklist of minor details done. What you want to know is how it plays.
EA has maintained the use of a virtual analogue stick and buttons - what other way is there? - but it’s taken a few wise steps to minimise some of the fumbling inherent with such a system. For starters, it’s opted to provide only two command buttons (ostensibly pass and shoot).
It’s a feature shared with Real Football, but FIFA has always prided itself on being a deeper, more sim-like representation of the sport.
The developers have maintained this by adding some clever combination commands. Through balls and one-twos are activated by touching and sliding either way between the two buttons, while skills are activated by touching and sliding up towards the action.
Long balls and finesse shots are activated by double taps of the respective buttons (with the second touch being held for the appropriate length during a lofted pass). Sprinting is merely a case of pushing further in the appropriate direction.
Perhaps the most subtly revolutionary aspect appears to be the ability to select a player by touching them. It promises to be the best solution yet to the classic “no, not him, him!” rage experienced by all footy game fans.
Other notable features include the implementation of 'Be a Pro' mode from the recent console versions. This tasks you with creating a player and seeing them through a full career. During games, you control only him (leading to a 90 degree switch in perspective), following an indicator to ensure you’re in the correct area of the pitch and making the right decision when you receive the ball.
A full appraisal of the game will reveal how effective the AI is at providing a believable game, but the early signs are that FIFA 10 will deliver a flowing, technical passing game for those willing to learn its intricacies.
Stay tuned for our final verdict when the game’s released next month. In the meantime keep an eye out for some screen shots, which should be coming our way shortly.
(Update: They're up now).