Welcome to a special edition of iPhone Gems, focusing on two soccer simulation games. The first, FIFA 10 ($10), is the first iPhone and iPod touch release of Electronic Arts’ perennial multi-million unit selling FIFA franchise, while the latter, Gameloft‘s Real Soccer 2010 ($5), is the sequel to the company’s well-received Real Soccer 2009, which was the first real soccer sim on the iPhone OS platform.
Before we delve into gameplay details, it’s important to understand the similarities between the two titles. Both use a combination of a virtual joystick and two buttons—B and A, their positions reversed in the two titles—to control the play on the field.
Both boast official licenses to offer an large number of real-life teams with complete, accurate rosters—245 teams for Real Soccer, and a staggering 570 for FIFA—with an equally impressive lineup of 3D stadiums in which to play. In many ways, Real Soccer is built on the FIFA formula of realistic gameplay matched to a lineup of real world teams and players, but can it best the game which provides so much of its inspiration?
Since the two games are so similar, let’s start by comparing arguably the most important ingredient: the controls. Although both games use a similar button layout, FIFA’s virtual joystick is more responsive than Gameloft’s, and also more forgiving of fingers that find themselves wandering off the graphic boundary of the pad. EA has also done a better job of mapping different through passes, one-two passes, lobs, and shots to the B-A buttons on offense, and various tackles and defensive options when the player’s team doesn’t have possession. Also noteworthy is the fact that Real Soccer 2010 continues the prior version’s precedent of automatically switching the player that is being controlled without giving the player a way to select their own—at least, by default, an option that can be turned off in settings. FIFA also automatically switches at times, but provides the user with a one-tap, top-level control for switching between players by default, a more reasonable setup.
Both games offer a multitude of game modes, including tournament mode, quick play, and multiplayer, but only Real Soccer offers an online multiplayer mode, while FIFA offers a semi-interesting “Be a Pro” mode instead. It may sound great, but Real Soccer’s online multiplayer mode turns out to be a disappointment due to the lag we experienced during testing. Players would move in large bursts, sometimes losing the ball along the way, and on defense, the ball often already moved past a player by the time the game caught up to the new selected defender. The title does offer Push Notifications for online invite alerts, however. EA’s Be a Pro mode is by comparison technically sound but also somewhat bland, and involves users creating their own virtual players. These virtual players can, says the company, be carried over from year to year, gaining experience and eventually improving; the mode also offers its own unique camera view, which we found to be more gimmicky than truly novel.
Features, game modes, available teams, and rosters aside, the real meat of either game is the gameplay, and in this category, FIFA simply has the upper hand. The choices EA made when mapping various actions to B, A, and slide-between controls prove to be better than those made by their contemporaries, and feel more intuitive than those of Real Soccer. The game also flows better in FIFA, as animations are smoother, CPU-controlled players make more reasonable decisions, and the in-game commentary—another small difference between the two titles—is more authentic-sounding and timely. When all of the minor improvements to be found in FIFA are taken into consideration, the quality of its experience relative to Real Soccer 2010 is more than the sum of its parts; however, as of the date of this review, Real Soccer 2010 now sells for half of FIFA’s price.
Ultimately, FIFA 10 is a Nintendo- or Sony handheld-quality title that eclipses the proficient yet unsurprising Real Soccer 2010. Gameloft’s second shot at a soccer simulation on the iPhone and iPod touch is an improvement over the original and is not a bad game in and of itself, but when compared directly to FIFA, it’s less appealing, relying on price as a selling point. On the flip side, FIFA 10 is exactly what we’ve come to expect from EA Mobile’s Sports team: a quality title with a polished experience that is consistent with the company’s and series’ style, while unfortunately making some small omission—this time online multiplayer support—that leaves it short of our flat-A recommendation. Real Soccer 2009 players who don’t want to switch from Gameloft’s controls, and those demanding online multiplayer may want to check out Real Soccer 2010, but for those simply looking for the best soccer simulation on the iPhone platform, FIFA 10 is now your best bet. Real Soccer gets a ratings boost from its lower pricing, but if both were priced the same, FIFA would be more than a half letter grade better. iLounge Ratings: Real Soccer 2010: B+. FIFA 10: A-.