2010 FIFA World Cup: South Africa (Xbox 360)

An Impressive, If Not Expensive, Effort

by 00.19

The FIFA World Cup is likely the most celebrated championship on the planet. With nearly 200 countries vying for a chance to hoist that beautiful gold trophy, there’s hardly any one population that wouldn’t be proud of their countrymen for achieving that which only comes once every four years – becoming the greatest soccer team on Earth. Knowing how special a moment the World Cup is, EA releases its own World Cup game every four years as well. In years past, the game has been nothing more than carbon copy of the annual FIFA video game, albeit with less features and teams. This year however, EA’s taken past criticisms to heart, and tried to create a stand-alone title packed with unique features and slightly tweaked gameplay. Though it’s hardly a replacement for FIFA Soccer 10, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa makes a compelling case to be added to your gaming library.

Much of the action on the pitch remains intact from FIFA Soccer 10, so those of you familiar with the way the game is played should have no trouble getting right into the action. There have been some noticeable tweaks to player animations, and the collision detection seems to be even tighter than it was just a few months ago. A new simplified control scheme has been added as well that breaks down the core of soccer to pass and shoot. Using this control setting doesn’t really even the playing field (pun not intended) between a vet and a newcomer, but it does provide the ability to jump in and contend against the computer if you’ve never played a FIFA title before. I can see this style going a long way for people that picked up the game because they were excited by the spectacle of the World Cup, but had never dabbled in the hardcore sports sim before. The only other major new addition to the way the game is played is how penalty kicks are taken. A much more user-friendly interface appears when awarded a PK, giving players an idea of how to control both the goalie and the striker. A new stutter step option has been included, which adds a bit more strategy to the experience. The kicker has also been given a single-press meter that makes power and accuracy easier to understand on these difficult shots.

2010 FWCSA comes complete with the standard cup qualifying game mode, with the option to jump straight to the round of sixteen or to earn your spot in the actual 199 country qualifier matches. Though there are complete rosters built into the game, you can download the most up to date rosters via an online update. For more causal fans this won’t be a big deal, but fanatics will be thrilled that as their country’s team changes its lineup, it will be reflected in the game. There’s also a World Cup-centric Be a Pro mode called Captain Your Country. You can play as a real player, import your FIFA 10 created character, or create an entirely new player. It’s just as much fun as it was before, though this time around there isn’t nearly as much time to level up your character. Though, that’s more because there aren’t nearly as many games in the World Cup tournament as there are games to play in say the Bundesliga or the Premiership than any other reason. It’s fun to try and build your player up from a B-squad member to the man shouldering the weight of an entire country, but it’s even more fun to try with three other friends. My favorite new offline mode, though, is the Coke Zero Story of Qualifying/Finals where you have a chance to either recreate some of the more memorable qualifying matches of this year’s tournament (finals matches will be updated for free once they actually start occurring), like both of the amazing Mexico vs. USA bouts. If you complete enough of them, you’ll even unlock great moments from the 2006 World Cup, including Germany’s heart-breaking loss to Italy in the semi-finals, or get the chance to reverse the outcome of the France vs. Italy championship game. None of these are easy to do, but all of them are a blast to play.

The game’s online offerings are pretty interesting as well. Battle of the Nations takes a cue from NCAA Football 10’s Season Showdown mode, and tasks players with representing their favorite national team against all comers to prove once and for all whose country has the best football team. Performing well earns your team points, which go towards a grand total, which is then used to rank all the countries. To help keep things even, playing as more established teams like England or Germany will net you less points than if you were winning with a team like Cote D’Ivoire. Be warned though; the team you pick at the onset of the BotN mode is the one you’re stuck with. You can also take part in a regular World Cup tournament online, or play a friendly match, should you not want to be limited to just one team during online play. The online servers weren’t up and running prior to the game’s release, so I didn’t get a chance to try any of these game modes other than picking a team.

From a presentation standpoint, 2010 FIFA World Cup ups the ante quite a bit, but it’s not always for the better. All of the stadiums used in the actual tournament are wonderfully rendered, and packed with fans in ridiculous team-specific gear. Coaches also appear on the sidelines, and often the game cuts to close-ups of the managers after fouls or close shots. In fact, the game cuts to these shots so often that it’s kind of distracting, and pulls a bit of momentum away from the actual game. I’m all for unique and new ways to bring a television-like broadcast to a sports video game, but soccer’s pace is such that these frequent cutaways detract from the experience a bit. However, if you manage to win the World Cup, the celebration is simply breathtaking. If you have a surround sound system, prepare to be absolutely blown away by the sound mix. Cheers, chants, horns, as well as the sound effects of what’s occurring on the pitch have never sounded better. What’s more, the commentary has been taken up a notch as well, with both commentators regaling in the spectacle of the World Cup. The booth crew also keeps up to date with the tournament at large, and will often make mention of teams having great tournaments, or players that are performing well or poorly over the course of the Cup. The game’s front-end design is also terrific, with a unique, yet easy to understand menu that implements design aspects used in actual World Cup promotions and advertisements.

Surprisingly, there are very few things I don’t like about this game, though that’s in large part to how much 2010 FIFA World Cup shares in common with FIFA Soccer 10. Some little issues, like players getting hurt during training, which you have no control over, and slight frame drops during the occasional replay, crop up from time to time, but don’t really ruin the overall experience. If you already own FIFA 10, it’s tough to recommend this title as a must buy simply for how little it actually offers that’s different. Recommending a game that doesn’t give gamers nearly as many options as a virtually identical game that came out less than eight months ago is tough, but people who missed out on EA’s yearly title, or those of you who only dabble in soccer titles every few years, will find plenty of charm and great gameplay in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

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