Football is quite simply the most popular sport in the world and the World Cup, which happens every four years, is the most watched single sporting event. So, it stands to reason that EA would release a game to tie-in with the occasion as they have done for many iterations now. However, FIFA is already a yearly brand and with there only being around six months since the last game, there will no doubt be question marks raised about what this game can really offer. Can it genuinely improve over the last title, or is it simply just a cash-in?
As expected, the game is focused purely on international football as every single FIFA registered nation is present within the game. There's the option to play a quick match, for those who want to just jump in to some action, but most of the game's value comes elsewhere and EA actually deserve credit for tailoring the game towards the World Cup. The expected modes are there, like the ability to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament, but it's the additions that make the game feel like a full title, and not simply a title that's been released for the sake of it.
Captain Your Country essentially replaces the Be A Pro mode from FIFA 10, but it's possible to actually import any Pros made in FIFA 10 into this iteration - a nice feature. From here, the mode has actually been refined quite a bit. Players are now given a ranking chart so they can see their status amongst other international players vying for that crucial starting place in the First XI. It's a great addition because player ratings actually affect something visually now. If an AI player performs badly in a match, they will fall down the rankings. In each match, players also now have four rivals and their performance in the match is also visible in real-time.
However, the new changes do still have flaws. Even if players perform terribly and fall down the rankings in a big way, the manager will still select them. It really defeats the whole purpose of the ranking system if the AI isn't affected by bad performances. It also proposes a slightly strange system, whereby the player that holds the top position becomes the captain for the next game - a scenario that would never actually happen in real football. A further flaw is that during matches, players can actually make their rivals perform badly, by forcing them to make incomplete passes, or giving them the ball in difficult situations.
Even if Captain Your Country isn't a perfect mode, what this game does offer is some great innovation with regards to making people want to play online. The Online FIFAWORLDCUP mode, also known as Battle of the Nations, is perfect for this. It challenges national pride, something which is very prevalent in the world of football. The system is in essence, very simple, but its execution is almost flawless. Players must choose a country they wish to support, and after this, they can then choose which country they wish to play as. By winning matches, they earn points for their supported country and the weaker the nation they play as, the more points they earn for a victory.
It actually helps to create a real tournament feel and definitely adds more drama to the gameplay. Players play three matches in the group stage, against opponents from around the world and if they manage to progress, they know that they'll be playing someone who also managed to progress. It instantly means there's a jump in the level of the competition. As the tournament progresses further, games will get harder, so actually winning the cup feels like a huge accomplishment. The fact that players are earning bragging rights for their country just makes it even more satisfying.
A game is nothing without solid gameplay though and 2010 FIFA World Cup attempts to further improve on the leaps made with FIFA 10. A new 'two-button' control scheme has been introduced to make the game feel more accessible, and refinements have been made to the penalty shooting system, as it's a much more important feature in this type of game. Instead of simply picking a spot and shooting, it's now been made much more difficult to score. A player's composure is taken into considerable and it's now much less forgiving when it comes to aiming.
Standard gameplay feels like it's taken a bit of a step backwards though. Far too many goals come about as a result of passes randomly hitting a team's own players, or tackles which result in the ball just bobbling around until it randomly goes off somewhere. It's nice that the element of luck has been put into the game, as it's a big part of football, but it feels like it's been emphasised far too much. It means that more goals are scored through dumb luck, then through actual skill - something which is a bit disappointing.
To compliment the diverse nature of the competing nations, the game's soundtrack is comprised of an eclectic mix of music. With the decrease in players featured in the game, the developers have also been able to model many of them much more accurately too. So fringe players, and those from slightly smaller nations actually look as they do in the real world, as opposed to just looking like Generic Joe Blogs.
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is much more than a simple tie-in. It actually adds real value and Battle of the Nations is a great feature that shouldn't be understated. However, while improvements have been made to Be A Pro, in the form of Captain Your Country, more flaws have equally been exposed and the refinements to the gameplay haven't all worked out in a positive fashion. If you're pumped for the World Cup and want to bring pride back to your nation, then it might be worth checking out 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.