2010 FIFA World Cup

Here’s the dilemma most FIFA fans find themselves in. FIFA 10 came out six months ago, FIFA 11 comes out six months from now, and bang in-between we have another FIFA release – 2010 FIFA World Cup. Based on the demo, there’s little doubt that this game plays well, but the question is, does it offer enough to warrant a purchase with a beefier release only a few months away?

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In structure, content, and game modes, 2010 FIFA World Cup is very similar to EA Sports’ last mid-year footie release – UEFA Euro 2008. You have the main tournament mode, where you can either play through the qualifying stages and then onto the main tournament, or simply begin your World Cup campaign directly in South Africa. The second game mode, which is largely unchanged since Euro 2008, is Captain Your Country. Here, you play as one player from the national team squad (this can be a real player, a created player, or your imported FIFA 10 Virtual Pro), who must complete performance objectives to move up through the ranks from the B team, to the first team, into the starting 11, and finally, become the captain.

Other than those two, the only other game mode (if you can call it that) is Story of Qualifying. It puts you in real match situations that occurred in the qualifying stages. You are thrust into the action mid-game and handed a certain objective to achieve. Story of Qualifying is a bit like multi-player in GTA4; after a few stabs at it, no one is going to give a crap. Then of course, there is the online side of things, which by FIFA game standards, is quite scarce. The biggest omission is the absence of online Be A Pro or CYC. Battle of the Nations, which was also first introduced in Euro 2008, also returns. As with every FIFA game, the first time you fire it up, you’re asked to choose your team of allegiance. If you happen to choose India, which by the way, is licensed, complete with real player names, then each time you win an online match (regardless of which team you play as), you add to India’s tally in the overall online Battle of the Nations leaderboard.

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When a game has limited game modes, it would be nice to have a custom tournament option, where you could recreate, say, the European Championships or the Asia Cup once the World Cup is over. There’s no such option in this game, which is a huge disappointment, especially since throwing in that feature wouldn’t really have used up too much time or too many resources. And naturally, since this is the World Cup game, there are no clubs, so all you get is 150 national teams to choose from.

While, compared to EA’s annual releases, this game is quite short on game modes, in terms of core gameplay, 2010 FIFA World Cup trumps FIFA 10. Many of the AI-related issues, mainly the suicidal goalkeeping, have been resolved. Keepers now sit deep, and when they do advance, they do a fairly good job of closing down angles. The 360-degree player movement has also been toned down a bit, so players feel more under your control now. The one-touch gameplay and the animations associated with it is very cool, and it adds an increased sense of urgency to the action.

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The Captain Your Country mode uses the Be A Pro mechanic, and sadly, the stat-tracking and player rating system has received no updates since FIFA 09. The way you’re scored for position play, passing, and shooting still feels a little unfair, and it discourages creative play. But still, there’s more good than bad, and while the lack of updates is disappointing, it’s still a lot of fun. On the whole, 2010 FIFA World Cup plays a whole lot better than FIFA 10, but it’s more of an incremental upgrade than the sort of massive leap we saw from FIFA 08 to Euro 2008.

The only really big change in this game is the new penalty kick system, which will have FIFA fans divided. The system now relies less on chance and more on composure and precision. Some will appreciate it since it makes penalty kicks less unpredictable, while others will feel it takes the excitement and tension out of a penalty shootout. Both are valid points, and while I don’t hate the new system, if EA do decide to drop it from FIFA 11, I won’t really be too disappointed either.

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What did disappointment though was the game’s presentation, an area where FIFA games usually impress. While you’re in a game from the Tele view, night or day, rain or shine, the game looks great. It’s also nice to see confetti from the pre-match ceremonies staying on once the match gets underway. But pre-match cutscenes are extremely choppy and everything from the player models to the fans in the stands lack detail. The most annoying part of it, however, is the small cutscenes that they keep shoving in every time there’s a break in play. Each time the ball goes into touch, behind for a corner/goal kick, or when there’s a stoppage for free kicks, there is an annoying cutscene that either shows players, coaches, or fans in the stands. It does absolutely nothing to enhance the experience, but rather breaks the flow of the game. At a time when the focus should be to make gameplay more seamless, these jarring cutscenes just feel regressive.

Commentary too is second best to the Tyler-Gray pairing of the annual titles. They lack enthusiasm, the commentary feels vague, and often the comments are just wrong e.g.: saying a team is winning when the score is actually tied. That almost never happens in FIFA games. The soundtrack is a subjective matter, but I’ve always liked FIFA soundtracks. However, this eclectic mix just didn’t do it for me, and I ended up disabling 80% of the tracks from the menu options.

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2010 FIFA World Cup feels like a case of one step forward and three steps back. In terms of game modes and content, online features, and presentation, it is clearly deficient by FIFA standards. But the most important factor is gameplay, and that’s where it claws its way back. But even so, it’s clear that there isn’t enough on offer to hold your attention once the World Cup is over and once all the excitement around it has died down. So paying full price for fewer features in a game you won’t play for more than three months just doesn’t make sense. You’d be better off postponing your next football game purchase to October.

(+) Improved core gameplay
(+) Fun game modes

(-) No custom tournaments
(-) Poor presentation by FIFA standards
(-) Scarce online features

How we score games

Title: 2010 FIFA World Cup
Developer/Publisher: EA Canada/EA Sports
Genre: Sports
Rating: 3
Platforms: PS3 (Rs 2,499), Xbox 360 (Rs 2,499), Wii (Rs 1,999), PSP (Rs 1,599)
Reviewed on: PS3

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