2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Review
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Available on : Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii and PSP (reviewed on the Xbox 360)
People used to scoff at the FIFA series, commenting how it was all bluster with little substance and whilst nobody ever questioned the graphical fidelity on offer from Electronic Arts, many used to complain about the actual mechanics of the game. The FIFA series offers us an annual update of the title, and these interim titles (the World Cup and UEFA European Championship games) used to be a simple cash-in to show features that would eventually be in the next major annual update, only with full development.
Something changed in 2008 though, and with the UEFA Euro 2008 game, EA did something different. Sure, they still showed us new features that would be more fleshed out in FIFA 09 and FIFA 10, but they also fundamentally changed how a FIFA game played. For the first time, the elitism that raged against EA and it’s FIFA games started to fade, replaced with a confused feeling. What had happened? Had FIFA actually become good? All of those feelings would be laid to rest by the time FIFA 10 came out whereby all but the most staunch fanboy had to lay down their arms in the PES vs FIFA wars and had to admit, there wasn’t really a question of which was the better title anymore.
So here we are, another interim title from EA, does this one achieve something similar to UEFA Euro 2008, or does it give the fanboys one final thing to cling to, is it a cash-in? Read on for the full review.
GRAPHICS: One thing that an EA sports title could never been accused of is poor looking visuals. The presentation for FIFA World Cup 2010 is exceptional. They are clearly going for a televised feel and there’s a strong arguement to say that they’ve achieved it. Player likenesses are getting closer and closer and whilst some of them aren’t perfect they are on the whole a lot better, but given that there is a huge difference in the volume of players, this might be an expected improvement. There are several nice touches like when you score a goal the camera sometimes zooms right in on the player and it gives a very effective feel to it, especially after penalties as you run toward the screaming crowd. There really is very little to fault apart from the one glaring graphical issue when the game cuts to the fans and it’s always a generic shot but with a different texture depending on the country you are playing as. You’ll grow tired of the cut-aways to the managers as well, but they are skippable.
The in-game menus have been given an overhaul from FIFA 10, more colourful now and easier on the eye and gone are the layers and layers of menus, but that might be simply because there is less depth to it in comparison to a “full” FIFA game.
SOUND: Given the aforementioned efforts to give the entire game a televised feel, out go Andy Gray and Martin Tyler and in come Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend. It’s much of a muchness really but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Andy Gray can be an acquired taste, though this commentary is no better or worse than previous games. Some of it is a little ropey though, and with a few friends round you’ll more than likely snigger childishly at “John Terry can’t find a man”.
The crowd sound immense at times, playing away from home in a hostile environment they will boo every touch, every pass, but playing at home and scoring the crowd go crazy, and it’s a wonderful feeling. Impressive sound indeed, you can tell great care and effort has been taken to give the full feeling of the extravaganza of a World Cup.
GAMEPLAY; First and foremost, the major annoyance from FIFA 10 is gone, you won’t find a goalkeeper rushing out the second he notices you encroaching into his area, only for you to chip him. Sorry cheap FIFA players, that’s gone, find another exploit!
Right, with that out of the way we come to the tricky task of describing how and why the actual gameplay has been improved upon. It’s very difficult to tie it down to a simple “X is better, Y is fixed” because, quite simply, the game is improved over FIFA 10 in an incremental manner, yet it is definitely noticable. Everything feels more responsive, if you are the type of player who is planning passes before they happen, that is actually possible now. There seems a lot less button lag this time around, which is a huge positive and one of the main reasons it feels more responsive.
Whether or not there being less players in the game factors here I’m not sure, but the players feel more unique this time around. Lampard makes his trademark late arrival in the box, you square it and he’s there, you put the ball left footed into the top left corner and you feel elated because you meant that one, it’s exactly what you wanted to do and it was executed perfectly.
Jostling is greatly improved, as is bringing the ball down. Previously you could be guaranteed that if the ball was hit high and you chose not to head it immediately, you’d lose the ball. Not so in 2010 FIFA World Cup! You can bring the ball down via your chest, control it and if using a skilled player, turn on a sixpence and disappear, leaving the defender looking a fool. As mentioned, the jostling is better too, it really does feel as though you are fighting over the ball, like everything matters. Getting away from that defender is the difference between that killer ball or them breaking on the counter attack. Free kicks feel more unique to they players taking them, Beckham will be almost side on for his, Ronaldo does that strange run up he does, it’s yet another example of how the game show more personality, more realism.
Something that has been revamped entirely is the penalty system. Now you have a bar going from left to right (composure level) and you have to hit the sweet spot, as you do so you are also choosing how hard to hit it and on top of that you have to pick the position you are aiming for as well! A little fiddly at first, once you understand it you’ll find it a welcome addition, creating realistic tension, again ramping up the drama in a “televised” manner. Luckily you can practice penalties directly from the main menu though, where it even includes a handy position indicator so you can get a feel for how hard you need to drag the left stick into position.
They’ve created an intense experience here, and having your striker chopped down in a last ditch effort from the poor helpless defender, only for him to get a red card, well, it’s simply fantastic to behold.
Personally, I encountered several odd stat problems, in the finals as England I scored 6+ goals with Wayne Rooney, only for him not to appear on the “top scorers” table, Rooney scored another 2 and made the top, joint with Pirlo on 3 goals, then Rooney scored another 3 goals and the top scorer table didn’t even include him whatsoever. Be prepared to have players injured in training randomly as well, usually ones you’ve used heavily.
As for game modes, you can play through the entire qualification campaign from start to finish (including friendlies if you choose) even playing the “real” fixtures if you choose. Story of the World Cup is similar to previous outing, great World Cup moments relived, you need to finish the current match as it was actually finished, which is fun but can be very difficult as well. Captain your Country is exactly the same as the be a pro modes from previous games where you take your created pro and take him from zero to hero and hopefully bring home the glory. You can import your FIFA 10 pro though, which is a welcome addition, however, his stats will be reset to a more “average” level, meaning you have to build him up again. Sadly, the one thing they haven’t fixed is the be a pro mode scoring in general, the mode still isn’t programmed to understand the very nature of football, marking you down for being out of position on the left wing (when playing right wing) because you took the corner and cannot make it back into position (literally cannot get there quick enough) in the arbitrary time limit they deem fit for such an action. That said, it does seem a lot less intrusive this time around. Captain your Country (be a pro mode) also has four player co-op (offline only), so instead of competing with AI controlled players, you can play against three friends.
There is also an Online World Cup mode in which you choose a country to represent and are paired into groups of four with other random users to play the group stages and try to achieve glory online. Sadly the online aspects seem to be just as unbalanced as ever, you’ll feel cheated when, despite playing as a five star team, you can’t even keep up with your opponent (more than likely they are Spain) and when you do find an opponent where you are one on top, they will quit out. The trouble with games like this online is that no matter what the developers do to attempt to improve it, you still have to put up with the people playing on the other side of the world.
Online modes are a little barebones this time though, no be a pro online, no team matches, just head to head.
Rather disappointingly, EA have still included an achievement/trophy for quitting out of matches when losing. It’s a zero scoring achievement, but even it’s inclusion means that completionists will be quitting out the world over. It’s always sad to see this sort of negative online behaviour rewarded in any way and whilst it could be argued that it’s a badge of disgrace when you get it, that probably won’t be the case (it’s not a hidden achivement/trophy this time around) and it’ll just be for the “achievement whores” out there and yet another way of ruining the fun of others.
LONGEVITY: Given that it’s a sports title you could play this for as long a period as you choose to. However, it is a World Cup game and it might not last you as long as a normal FIFA game. With most of the EA sports games you’ll play them for a year whereby the next one comes out, but with this…well, it’s unlikely you’ll be playing it in six months, and it’ll be superceded by FIFA 11 in less time than that!
There’s perhaps a niche market out there that will be happy that you can play as the Asian teams for the first time in a long while which is a reasonbly big coup for the series, but there’s no telling whether they will be in FIFA 11, so fans of the Asian teams may well find they end up playing this a bit longer.
It would seem unreasonable to mark a game down that is so obviously aimed at a set moment in time though and fans will know what they are getting into when they buy the title.
VERDICT: Despite obvious deficiencies in the longevity area, it’s difficult not to recommend this title to any football fan. Gameplay impovements will shine to anyone who has played a lot of FIFA 10 (or any earlier FIFA game) and will leave fans foaming at the mouth for FIFA 11, however, a few minor niggles leave it short of the highest praise.