For soccer fans, there’s nothing more, shall we say magical, than the World Cup tournament. It’s a time when the world dukes it out, players take off their regular team’s uniform and replace it with their home nation’s jersey, and fans come alive with glowing support. It only happens once every four years, and as we approach the latest tournament, it should go without saying that fans of soccer games are eagerly awaiting the release of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is a tribute to the world’s largest sporting event, featuring the quintessential FIFA gameplay we have grown to enjoy over the past several years. On the surface, some would believe it is simply FIFA 10 with an added World Cup Tournament mode. That is completely inaccurate. Yes, the game plays pretty much like FIFA 10, but there are subtle changes to the core mechanics that make it all easier to play, yet challenging at the same time. It is everything you’d expect EA Sports to put into its World Cup games, but with so much more detail than any past soccer simulator.
Those subtle changes to the gameplay we mentioned earlier will obviously not be that noticeable to rookie FIFA gamers, but to veterans, you’ll get a sense that the very same players from FIFA 10 are actually excited about their World Cup participation, and they play that much harder. The athletes in 2010 FIFA World Cup are on a mission to win the cup. They run faster, contend passes, stifle crosses, and even the goalies stand proud, rarely giving up a goal. This is not a result of more difficult settings; rather, the players are more sturdy and aggressive than previous entries.
All of that additional talent is even more varied depending on the team. For instance, we played as The United States of America, England, and St. Vincent. England was clearly the superior squad, but the U.S. held its own. Playing St. Vincent vs. Mexico proved to be tough. The players just couldn’t keep up and would tire a lot faster than Mexico’s team. This was obviously present in previous FIFA games, but as mentioned above, it all feels more intensified because it’s tournament play.
All 199 national teams that took part in the qualifiers are available to play in 2010 FIFA World Cup, meaning your country is most likely represented in game. In addition, EA has replicated all 10 official stadiums from South Africa. There are also a dozen new user-controller goal celebrations, enhanced crowds, and new announcers Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend.
Starting out, you’ll likely want to jump into a World Cup tournament, which allows you to pick your nation and squad, and compete in the cup. Between games you’ll find a new interface that acts as your hub. Here you’ll find all the stats you could want, plus news articles after each match, as if the tournament was real. This is especially useful and well done in the Captain Your Country mode.
In Captain Your Country, you get to create a new character, use an existing top player, or import your FIFA 10 Virtual Pro and compete along with up to three friends. You and your friends (if you choose to play together) will play individual positions, competing to win games and rise through the ranks from a B-team to earn a spot as a captain of your squad. You’ll score points on how well you played your position. For instance, we created a left wing forward. We received points for scoring goals, of course, but also for sending in accurate crosses, or assisting other forwards. There’s even an arrow near your character indicating where you should be, so if you are too far up field, you’ll be prompted to move back on defense, thus helping you earn points. Captain Your Country was one of our favorite modes because it helps extend the otherwise short tournament. Indeed, there’s nothing better in sports games than leading your low ranked team/player to a world championship, and in Captain Your Country, that’s just what you are supposed to do.
The online modes are a bit hit or miss. The most interesting aspect is a full-on FIFA World Cup Tournament online, meaning you’ll compete in the group stages with players from around the world. In most cases, you are advised at the launch of the game of the nations’ global ranking. In the few weeks we had to play, we saw Canada at top (likely because the game was developed by EA Canada) followed by Mexico. The point is, the rankings change frequently depending on which nation is winning the most points online.
We ran into some serious lag problems on several occasions. Unfortunately, one game was so lag filled that it was virtually unplayable. On other occasions, we only noticed a split second lag – which is still bothersome when you are trying to time a perfect lob through ball. Lag is hard in any respect, and it’s not always the game’s fault. Still, the lag we experienced online was troublesome.
Other single player modes include some 50 scenarios from the 2010 qualifying campaign and the 2006 FIFA World Cup. This allows you to play out history, which today seems like a requirement of sports games (we’re looking at you Tiger Woods PGA Golf).
However, one thing we felt missing from 2010 FIFA World Cup was that historical moment. We find nearly every sports game lacks a certain human and historical impression. We want surprises in our sports games that can only be caused by humans – just look at the 2006 World Cup when French soccer player Zinedine Zidane headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Don’t misunderstand, we’re not in the business of promoting such violent antics; we just want our soccer and sports games to somehow incorporate the human quality. Someday.
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa’s presentation is excellent. The interface has been revamped, the player animations are cleaner, and we even see more heated reactions from coaches and celebrations from adoring fans. There’s a great emphasis on shadowing within the stadium, so the time of day you play truly has an impact on the field. The start of each game usually features a ton of fireworks (literally), streamers, and a loud crowd bellowing at the top of its lungs. As the game plays out, the streamers and confetti remains on the field while the crowd gets louder and louder. In the championship game, the crowd gets so excited and noisy that it’s hard to hear the announcers.
All of this excitement is clearly included to add some drama to the gaming experience. Nowhere else in the game is that drama more prevalent than in the new penalty shot feature. If you are anything like us, you’ll probably hate it the first few times you try it, but end up loving it once you’ve given it enough tries to learn the subtleties. You now have greater control as shooter and goalie. You’ll definitely want to practice a bit to learn how to master the new stutter shot and composure meter. This is where 2010 FIFA World Cup starts to show its attention towards the more experienced FIFA fan. Still, EA hasn’t forgotten about all the new people the actual World Cup will turn on to the videogame. As such, a new two-button control allows you to compete throughout the entire game with simple pass and shot controls, using just two buttons. Obviously you do not need t play this way, but it’s a great feature to have if you are playing with someone new to the franchise.
The problem we have with 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is that we know we’ll have another FIFA game coming out relatively soon. Does World Cup offer enough new content and enhanced features to warrant a full price tag? Well, in many ways it’s superior to FIFA 10, but in many other ways, it’s hard to recommend purchasing a game that is getting another installment in less than a year. Yes, the game offers some great new features, better gameplay than its predecessors, and that overwhelming excitement of the World Cup, but if you are not interested in South Africa, you probably could care less about 2010 FIFA World Cup. If you are a soccer/football fan, and you are excited about the World Cup, however, then you’ll definitely want to pick this up, especially as EA have promised a substantial chunk of content due for release around the time of the actual tournament.