Better But Not Good Enough
I want you to note first that I wrote this in 2 parts. First I wrote about it after a week and then again after playing it for around 4 months.
The new ball physics and Be A Pro mode are great new additions to the veteran franchise. Game-play is smooth and polished with the new trick system actually be worth trying in the game. The currency in manager mode is finally realistic in terms of sponsors and ticket sales revenue. The Graphics are impressive and the lighting in the stadiums is, for lack of a better term, amazing. The Arena, where you can practice your tricks is innovative and great idea. The create a player section has been polished up with the addition of being able to select brand name cleats like Nike, ADIDAS, Puma .. etc. However with all the positives, there are also negatives. For one, it seems like your teammates run away from the ball half the time when you aren't controlling them.
Another huge irritation is the aftermath of cleared corner kicks; the game won't allow you to change your player because it thinks you're still in possession until someone else, usually an opposing player, gets possession. This can be a huge pain when bundled with the before mentioned fact your AI teammates like to run away from loose balls. Another negative is that the difficulties don't transition as smoothly as last year's edition. While you may dominate your current level, go up one and find that it is almost impossible to score while the opponent doesn't do enough to score against you either.
But overall, I would have to say this game is the best the series has seen to date thanks to its great reworked game-play and top-notch physics and graphics but there are definitely things that need to be worked on and they should have included some of the features that are in the "current gen" versions of the game like Be a Pro Co-op season where you play a whole season as one player.
After spending a lot more time with the game, I feel the biggest flaw is the AI. Unfortunately the AI of this game is so bad, especially when playing against the computer opponents, that it is just infuriating playing the game sometimes. You have to hold down a freaking button so that your defenders actually go and attack the ball handler, and they don't go after loose balls like they should.
While goalie actions are wonderfully modeled and recreated, I feel as though sometimes their reactions are just too slow. I'm not saying the goalies should stop more shots, far from that, just more them react a little more quickly to the impending goal instead of having him jump AFTER the ball goes by him. There is other quirky stuff that just makes some of the play frustrating. One other small thing is that the game menus are super slow and it tends to get annoying.
I will say however that the patch that allows you to play Be A Pro mode with 9 other players online is that coolest thing ever. I think they should let you play as one player in Manager mode also. Another thing I would ask for next year is more official arenas, maybe an indoor arena like FIFA 98 Road to the World Cup, and more of a International impact, maybe with International Caps and competitions as a part of Manager mode.