2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

The whiff of tears and lager is beginning to hang on the air. The football World Cup is imminent.

EA Sports have continued their strategy of releasing a full title to coincide with the major summer tournaments; this time we have 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. The most recent tournament tie-in before this one, UEFA Euro 2008, was seen as an important step forward from developer EA Canada. Bridging the gap between the authenticity of FIFA 08 and the more exciting and instantly gratifying balancing of FIFA 09, that opportunity for refinement arguably set the studio up perfectly to assert the critical and popular dominance they established with FIFA 09 and then solidified with FIFA 10. This lends the development of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa an interesting context. The engine behind FIFA 10 has been acclaimed. There is no apparent requirement to advance or change it in any profound way, beyond natural and reasonable progression.

So we see a shift in focus for this release. Not just in the expected, secondary features like the selection of available teams (almost every nation registered with FIFA), the presentation and the game modes available. The shift in focus is also evident in the primary feel of the game engine itself.

Defenders feel more responsive in this title than in FIFA 10. Changes in direction and pace from skilful attackers like Robinho, of Brazil, can be matched more easily by even relatively lumbering players like John Terry, and so possession seems to change from one team to the other more often than in FIFA 10. Adding to this sense is the reduced reliability of passing. Midfielders like Xavi Hernandez, of Spain, were almost metronomic in their reliability in FIFA 10 yet will regularly be seen misplacing passes of medium distance upwards in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Throw in the greater intensity of the crowd sound effects, added excitement to the commentary and a general increase in the speed of gameplay and you’re presented with matches that often end up feeling genuinely stretched. Player nerves can appear fraught at times. Even the AI loses itself on occasion and goes flying into challenges recklessly. This frantic nature is entirely fitting with a World Cup focus. It is the grandest and most exciting stage of football, and the big ties at these tournaments are rarely sumptuous treats for the purist. Rather, the feel is more often of two teams of athletes battering each other both physically and mentally until one makes the telling mistake. This is captured ably here.

However, this shift simplifies things in relation to FIFA 10. Players with pace and a little balance tend to rise to the fore in this title. FIFA 10 allows for encounters to hinge on a moment of genius from a technically gifted player with good close control who doesn’t necessarily offer pace, like Wesley Sneijder of Holland. Those sorts of players tend to get lost in the fulcrum in this offering.

Shots can now sear goalwards with considerably improved ferocity, yet seem to cannon back off the posts with eyebrow-raising frequency. Penalties have been revamped to include an account of composure. They take some getting used to, but add relevant depth. Qualification campaigns are included for extra longevity. Virtual Pros from FIFA 10 can be imported into Captain Your Country, which can be played by up to four players on the same console, each vying for captaincy of the same nation, if you like. Battle of Nations asks you to select a national side to tie yourself to. From thenceforth your online results and performance in the Online FIFA World Cup mode are tracked alongside the performances of those tied to other nations to provide a running ranking of players worldwide. Presently Holland are on top, tailed by Mexico.

Perhaps most interesting is the Story of Qualifying mode. Over 40 scenarios of varying difficulty are provided initially. The player is generally charged with changing the history of qualification for the 2010 World Cup, by taking control of teams mid-match, often after they’ve just conceded or had a man sent off. The most notable example is taking control of an exhausted Ireland side away to France, having just conceded a goal as a result of Thierry Henry’s infamous handball. It’s more than diverting and adds fresh challenge and life to the title, with extra scenarios from the 2006 World Cup finals unlocked as you progress, and the promise of scenarios to be added from the 2010 World Cup finals as the real-life drama unfolds.

In the central FIFA World Cup mode, fatigue appears to play little role. Players didn’t need to be rested during the finals on my playthroughs. Injuries do occasionally pop up between matches, which mixes things up a little. Likenesses are improved throughout the major nations but they are not complete. However, thankfully Peter Crouch no longer looks like the singer from La Roux. During matches the action will often cut to players or managers, showing the graphics to be slightly improved over FIFA 10. Once you reach the end of the finals’ group stage, the commentator pops up with the current scoreline from the other final group match, which is “played” at the same time. This can lead to changes in situations and tactics in your match and is a nice touch.

Looking forward, an enrichment of the more measured gameplay of FIFA 10 would be preferable to a continuation in this direction for FIFA 11, albeit with some of the smarter touches and aesthetics seen here retained.







2 responses to “2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa”

  1. John.B avatar

    Hmm, I see what they are doing with the stretched game style but I sincerely hope this doesn’t translate to Fifa 11 as one of the strengths of “new” Fifa is the fact that you can put your foot on the ball and pass it about as slowly as you please. That variety is down to the player and if the game becomes stretched it’s because the game styles on show and the incidents occurring have led to that and not simply because it’s programmed that players are more agile and lose the ball more.

    Good review.

  2. Conners avatar

    You forgot to mention it’s damn near impossible to chip the keeper anymore. That was the only thing I mastered in Fifa 10 and they’ve taken it anyway from me! Bastards!

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