2010 FIFA World Cup Review (Xbox 360)
Every four years, the best soccer players on the globe come together to compete on perhaps the biggest stage sports has to offer. For fans of the game, the FIFA World Cup is an out of this world extravaganza. For some players, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. And for EA Sports, it’s an opportunity to improve on the annual FIFA series and bring the excitement of the World Cup onto your gaming consoles. Does 2010 FIFA World Cup hoist the soccer gaming trophy or is it just FIFA 10 dressed up in all the glitz and the glamor of the World Cup?
A main draw to the World Cup event is the circus and fan fair that comes with it. 2010 FIFA World Cup focuses a lot on this aspect of tournament and they succeed in flying colors. From the menu screen, where you can roam the globe and play each team’s authentic national anthem, to the streamers on the pitch during the pre-game introductions, 2010 FIFA World Cup makes you feel the grandeur of the moment before you even kick-off. When you do get the match underway, the fans' cheers and live instruments keep the atmosphere as live as it would be in South Africa this June. The commentary has also been given an improvement.
Although I prefer Martin Tyler and Andy Gray during a real life broadcast, the new tandem of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend provide a new sound for the FIFA series. The two British play-by-play analysts compliment each other well while staying relevant to the events on the pitch. It’s the excitement in their voices that make this couple a better fit for 2010 FIFA World Cup than the much more methodically speaking Tyler and Gray.
Visually, 2010 FIFA World Cup is noticeably better than FIFA 10. The wrinkles on David Beckham’s face are enough to prove that the photo-realistic facial structures are the best in any FIFA game to date. The stadium lighting is remarkably done and fans and coaches are for the most part represented accurately. However, there are way too many cut scenes of fans and coaches that pop-up during a game. Couple that with the fact it takes time to load up the cut scenes and this aspect of the presentation loses its novelty quicker than Cristiano Ronaldo’s feet. Luckily the celebration and commentary after you win the World Cup more than make up for such little issues. The trophy ceremony is by far the best in any sports video game, but before we get into winning the whole tournament, let’s talk about playing 2010 FIFA World Cup.
On the Pitch
The gameplay was one aspect of the game I didn’t expect too many changes and after playing through it a couple times that is mostly true. This is not a bad thing however, as the few tweaks and refinements improve on the already stellar FIFA gameplay. Goalies react much better to what’s happening on the field, so no more can you rely solely on the chip shot in one-on-one situations as they guide their goal lines longer. Fluid animations such as between the legs saves and goalies titling their necks to watch a high shot float over their goal post make you have more confidence in your last line of defense. Sadly, not all erratic goalkeeper behavior is eradicated as they frequently allow high back passes just roll out of play in a reachable distance. This lack of awareness can be noticed in other areas of the pitch as well.
The AI at times seems disconnected from passes not played to them even though they are in the vicinity of the ball. It can prove to be very frustrating on through balls played into space and also after a tackle. The ball hardly ricochets out of reach, but yet players don’t pursuit it aggressively which results in the tackled player regaining possession of the ball. Despite such head-scratching moments, the core gameplay of the FIFA series is at it’s finest.
There’s better off ball movement on both offense and defense which leaves a much more spacious pitch to be creative with. A few completed one-two’s, dribble moves and half volley shots on target and you would start believing you’re Eric Cantona back in those Joga Bonito commercials – orchestrating beautiful soccer. I do however think the game plays a lot more realistic on the slow speed setting. The ball moves a bit too quickly and defensive players close down pretty fast regardless of their ratings when on the default setting.
One big addition to the gameplay is the great new penalty-shootout system. As opposed to just shooting and directing your shot like in all previous soccer games, in 2010 FIFA World Cup there are now three phases of spot-kick taking. The composure meter which you must time right to ensure the best result, your shot power and then an invisible bubble you control for direction. Also at your disposal is a stutter step button before you kick the ball, and then it's your decision to go for power, placement or just be flat out cheeky with a Zidane-like chip to deceive the goalie.
Add it all up and you get a very realistic representation of the agonizing pressure and exhilaration of penalty shoot-outs during the World Cup.
Considering 2010 FIFA World Cup is centered around a single event, there aren’t as many game modes as one would like. The major tournament allows you to start from either early qualifying stages, World Cup group stages or even the knock-out rounds. However your customization options pretty much stop there. You can’t change gameplay sliders other than difficulty, and there is no option to simulate through any of the games. Plus, be prepared to deal with the absence of some of your key stars, as your players frequently get hurt in training sessions you don't assign or partake in. All this makes the World Cup experience a lot longer and less interesting than it should be.
The excess games though, do come in handy when playing the Captain Your Country mode. Similar to Be A Pro, CYC allows you to take control of one player as you work up the ranks to be named captain of your team during the World Cup. There’s an on screen scale that lets you know how your player is performing depending on the position you are playing. The camera works better than in past FIFA games, but the mode overall doesn’t have the depth of FIFA 10 Be A Pro. Your time as captain can also be erratic as the coaches can't seem to make up their mind on who wears the armband. One game you're captain, the next you're John Terry -- bummer.
Similar to Madden Moments from the Madden football series, the mode tagged "Story of Qualifying" lets you relive key moments in the World Cup, dating back to the 2006 competition, qualifying stages of this year's event and all the way through to the finals this summer. So if your team doesn’t perform like you hope come June, or they didn’t even make the tournament in the first place, then 2010 FIFA World Cup lets you take matters into your own hands…literally. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the tourney gets underway to see if this addition hits the target.
The Online FIFA World Cup is a neat new game mode and one I hope becomes a staple in the series. You select a nation to represent (you can’t change this selection after you made it) and the goal is to earn points for your nation by winning online World Cup games. It’s a make believe tournament, but it gives gamers a realm in which to compete for their countries. However, only this mode and basic head-to-head matches are available online. The servers seem to hold up pretty well, but a little lag can totally mess up your timing, and that can be crucial when taking penalties. Luckily, this rarely happens as long as the users playing have good enough connections.
Even though it’s pretty familiar, 2010 FIFA World Cup is still unique in it’s own way. The presentation, new penalty system and Online FIFA World Cup bring the excitement from South Africa straight into your living room. Although it would have been better priced at $40, 2010 FIFA World Cup does enough to keep you immersed in the World Cup experience until the next footy season kicks off. It has a relatively short life span, but 2010 FIFA World Cup is a must have for soccer gamers looking to be swept up by World Cup fever.
On the pitch - Despite a general lack of awareness by players for some loose balls, the better goalkeeper AI, off the ball movement and crisp animations make 2010 FIFA World Cup play like a finely tuned version of the already great FIFA 10. The new penalty system is a great gameplay innovation.
Graphics - Player models are nicely done with the highlight being the photo-realistic facial structures. Fans and coaches are also created in detail and the stadiums are a thing of beauty.
Sound - The exchanges between the all-new commentary team of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend are both interesting and fit the excitement of the atmosphere.
Entertainment Value -Centered around one tournament, 2010 FIFA World Cup doesn’t boast the variety that other FIFA games in recent memory possess. There’s really nothing new in Captain Your Country and the World Cup tournament mode isn't deep enough. Story of Qualifying can’t be judged yet until the real tournament kicks off in South Africa. The presentation and Online FIFA World Cup definitely add up to a sweet experience, but just like the World Cup, it will be short lived.
Online - Although lacking Captain Your Country online, the Online FIFA World Cup gives you an idea of what it feels like to compete for your nation against the rest of the world. Online lag could be damaging when it occurs, but it rarely ever does.
Score: 8.0 (Very Good)