World Cup glory or penalty shootout agony?
FIFA’s World Cup and European Cup games have received a deservedly bad reputation throughout the years. They’re usually rushed out to coincide with the big event not long after the latest annual outing, often skimming over substantial features and adding nothing new to the gameplay despite their full pricing. 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa looks to break up this disappointing formula, featuring a plethora of new and unique features whilst improving upon the already fantastic FIFA 10 engine. It’s an impressive package, but whether it’s worth it for owners of FIFA 10 remains to be seen.
Of course, with any World Cup game, one of the most important aspects to fulfil is the presentation. It has to encompass everything that’s majestic and remarkable about the biggest sporting event in the world, fully capturing the massive scale, unflinching tension and unimaginable delirium of seeing your country lift that magnificent golden gong. 2010 FIFA World Cup succeeds in all areas. National anthems blare from the crowd and speakers as the famous players step over the white line, air-horns are unleashed ad nauseum as fireworks and confetti rains down from all angles and the commentary team of Andy Townsend and Clive Tyldesley get the hype train rolling. It’s an impressive spectacle, more so than anything seen in a FIFA game before.
And the improved visuals go some way to complementing that World Cup magic. With much improved lighting and grass textures bringing each of South Africa’s superb stadiums to life, 2010 FIFA World Cup is a considerably more impressive looking game than its immediate predecessor. Even the player likenesses have seen a revamp from FIFA 10 with players like Peter Crouch and Carlos Tevez looking eerily accurate. The only downside is that while the larger nations receive the make-over treatment, most of the smaller nations and less well-known players are left with the unconvincing and bland default faces. Though this is only a minor mishap when you navigate the bright, colourful, South African-oriented menus, see big-name managers like Fabio Cappello and Vincente del Bosque patrolling the sidelines and laugh at the close-up images of the fans enjoying the atmosphere or moping in despair as their team falls to defeat.
If you’ve played a fair amount of FIFA 10 you’ll probably be quite adept at avoiding defeat by now, though 2010 FIFA World Cup has made some refinements to this sublime engine that you’ll need to adapt to. There are over 100 new improvements but most are so small it’s hard to even notice them. However, they all affect the gameplay in positive ways, making for one of the best football experiences we’ve ever seen. General movement and passing has a much smoother flow to it, allowing quicker, more attractive football, and players are a lot better at hooking onto the improved through balls and crosses. Even headers are now easier to pull off so you won’t be missing sitters left, right and centre, and there’s an abundance of new shooting and goalkeeping animations to allow for a larger variety of different goals. Keepers will pull off some amazing, instinctive saves, and they’re now less prone to bundling in some of the sloppy goals seen in FIFA 10. They’ll even stick to their line and make themselves big when a striker is bearing down on goal, making chip shots sufficiently more difficult.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the FIFA formula is the penalty kicks. They’re normally such a huge part of any World Cup – particularly if you’re England – so 2010 FIFA World Cup has made some deliberate changes to create as tense a situation as possible. Now there’s a composure bar for every penalty, and the speed of the needle varies depending on the situation. If it’s a meaningless group game – it’s three nil, you’ve already qualified – it will be quite easy to hit the needle in the green zone. But if you’re facing a penalty in a semi-final, it’s understandable for your player to be fairly flustered, thus ramping up the speed and making it harder to hit. The closer to the green the needle is, the easier it is to hit your spot and score, providing the keeper doesn’t guess the right way. Then you also need to factor in the placement, shot power and whether you want to do a finesse shot to allow for slightly more accuracy or go for more power. If you choose the latter the keeper might not be able to save it even if he gets a hand to it, but then there’s also the chance you’ll balloon it high over the bar and into the stands. There are plenty of elements like this to factor in, and while penalties might not show up too often during your playtime, the changes are still a welcome, and enjoyable, addition.
2010 FIFA World Cup may not showcase the big changes we might expect from a FIFA 11, but it certainly displays promise for the next iteration. It’s disappointing that some of the issues such as players taking extra touches before clearing and the inconsistent advantage rule haven’t been fixed, but it’d be more so if they weren’t improved in time for FIFA 11.
On the game mode sides of things you’ll find the obligatory 2010 FIFA World Cup where you can play through the finals with any of the 32 qualified teams, customise your own tournament, or take a team through the qualifiers and into the finals. There’s also Captain Your Country, an offshoot of Be A Pro that can be played as co-op with another three people, and the new Story of Qualifying. Here you’re given a plethora of different scenarios from the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and some from the 2006 World Cup finals. You can essentially rewrite or relive history, going as far as overturning the infamous and controversial Thierry Henry handball from the Republic of Ireland and France game, or guiding England past a Croatian team unbeaten in their last 30 competitive home matches. Each match features its own contextual commentary, which is especially entertaining during the aforementioned Henry handball, and going through each match adds a degree of longevity to the game even if some only last around two to three minutes. However, the best could still be yet to come. This mode will also be updated, free of charge, throughout the World Cup finals this summer with games from each round of matches. Just think, you could be rewriting history by overturning England’s shock defeat at the hands of the USA on June 12th. There’s still more to come from this mode.
But for FIFA 10 owners, will more be enough? 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is an impressive package, refining what was so fantastic about the FIFA 10 engine and building a comprehensive World Cup experience around it. With 199 nations to choose from there are numerous teams to guide through the qualifying campaign and into the finals. The Story of Qualifying is an enjoyable new addition that still has more to offer and the online game modes are still significant, especially with the addition of online World Cups. However, the changes aren’t a considerable enough distance away from what FIFA 10 had to offer, and with the next instalment mere months away, it’s doubtful 2010 FIFA World Cup will get much playtime once the tournament is done and dusted. A quality game, but one lacking in longevity and incentive for those already invested. It would be difficult to justify a purchase for existing FIFA 10 owners.