Version tested: Wii
Over the past couple of months we've been banging on about how FIFA 10 is the undisputed king of footy games on PS3 and Xbox 360, how it's the most realistic and complete virtual rendition of the beautiful game your cash can buy. Pro Evo has remained the more forgiving, free-flowing choice for those with a penchant for pitch-long dribbles and 40-yard scorchers into the top corner, though the series' lack of innovation in recent years has been a concern. But that's the story on PS3 and 360. What we have on Wii is an almost complete role reversal for the two franchises.
So let's kick off with Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, a game that siphons all that was best from last year's version and sadly does precious little to build on the series' innovative core. For those of you yet to experience PES on Wii, the key selling point is the ability to direct play by pointing the Wii remote where you want to pass the ball and your team-mates to run. This results in an immersive action experience married with a top-notch strategic centre that allows you to simultaneously control the player in possession while orchestrating the movements of your team. It takes some getting used to, but once you've mastered it you'll soon find yourself enjoying console-based footy action in a completely new way.
PES 2010 kicks off with the series' usual collection of veteran and newcomer tutorials, the latter of which introduces you to the game's smattering of nuances. These include the ability to bend a free-kick like a Brazilian maestro. With a little practice you're soon firing shots over the opposition wall with enough curl to make a boomerang feel inadequate. You're also given control of positioning your goalkeeper before set plays, usually resulting in a smug I-told-you-so sense of self satisfaction as he palms away a scorcher or red-cheeked shame as he flaps impotently at a ball. In general, net minders are slightly more dependable than their somewhat butter-fingered counterparts from PES 2009, while pulling off skill moves also feels a little easier. However, a few irritants do rear their heads, such as passes going to the wrong player (again) and defenders going AWOL during key moments.
Presentation has never been PES's forte and that's once again the case here, with ugly, blocky, hard-to-navigate menus assaulting your corneas at every turn. The on-pitch visuals are a tad blurry, and only the top players bear any kind of resemblance to their real-life counterparts. The ability to dribble from box to box has been toned down by a new stamina mechanic that regulates how long players can run before bursting a lung. Off the pitch there's the usual Master League, league and cup competitions to take part in while there's also an option to build a team from scratch and improve it and your facilities in a bid for greatness.
FIFA 10 proves to be the antithesis of its great rival. Where FIFA 10 on PS3 and 360 is without question the most realistic rendition of the beautiful game to date, its Wii cousin couldn't take itself less seriously if it tried. Forget marshalling your team, FIFA10 is all about end-to-end action. More an arcade game than a simulation, it's an experience that allows you to dribble the length of the pitch, ping the ball around with ease and shoot from just about anywhere. FIFA's crisp, bold visuals perfectly complement the game's more casual vibe, though players bear little resemblance to their real-life counterparts. However, the commentary is certainly superior to PES's, and at times even surprises you with a genuine flash of humour.
On the pitch it's all about Momentum, which is represented by a bar situated at the bottom of the screen. The Momentum bar tracks your team's dominance or lack of it. The higher you ramp it up, the more accurately your players shoot and the sharper their stats become. This works well in tandem with FIFA's comically exaggerated shooting mechanic. Using an auto-aim feature, FIFA tasks you with little more than waving the Wii remote when in sight of goal. Once you've finished flapping you can sit back and watch as the player in possession unleashes the kind of shot usually reserved for Superman's right boot. This approach to shooting sits extremely well with the game's tongue-in-cheek approach, and watching shots slam into the net at light speed never gets dull, though the preceding slow-mo effect does.
Executing and defending corners and free-kicks is also easy. When a shot or cross comes in you must simply wave the Wii remote at the allotted time to clear or save the ball. Passing is also intuitive thanks to a bar beneath each player that displays the weight of their next pass. It's simple, thrilling fun that should hit the spot for anyone looking for a footy game they can dip in and out of for quick, unsophisticated, but extremely entertaining matches. There's also the usual collection of game modes here, with the highlight proving to be Battle for Glory, which adds some light management features and the ability to earn points in each game (for completing certain tasks), that can then be spent on Booster Cards, which in turn are traded in for bonuses to give your team the edge.
Thanks to their divergent approaches to the beautiful game, deciding which of these leviathan franchises is for you should be a fairly simple process. Want a challenging, tactical experience with long-term rewards? Then PES 2010 is the game for you, though if you bought last year's version you may want to give the outlay some serious thought as this year's nuances are few and far between. Want instant pick-up-and-play entertainment from a game that doesn't take itself too seriously? Then FIFA 10's Wii waggling action is the way to go, so long as you're prepared for the novelty to wane fairly quickly.
PES 2010: 8/10
FIFA 10: 7/10