Well hereâ€™s a thing. I always thought EAâ€™s yearly recycling of their sports titles was over the top, yet now theyâ€™ve sandwiched another FIFA game in between 10 and and 11! Granted, thereâ€™s some kind of World Cup happening in a few months, but stillâ€¦
Iâ€™ll return to that later on. For now, football fans, you get another game to buy! FIFA World Cup 2010 is here very soon, and youâ€™re probably wondering just what enhancements it contains over boring old FIFA 10. After all, the dev team has only had about half a year to turn this one around â€“ can they pull off any wonderful new features? Or is this simply a re-skinning?
After playing around with the game for a while, Iâ€™d say it rests somewhere in the middle. There isnâ€™t anything truly groundbreaking here that makes you need to snatch it up ahead of FIFA 11, but there are enough differences to warrant a few curious looks.
Letâ€™s start with all the stuff on the surface. World Cup 2010 simply looks happy to be in your consoleâ€™s disc drive, themed as it is in the style of the upcoming South Africa-hosted tournament. Every menu screen, every ounce of interface, and every cartoon-like font has been reworked to remind you of that tournament. And thankfully, it mostly works â€“ while EA could have slapped on a different coat of paint and called it a day, the changes are actually aesthetically coherent.
So yes, while playing this game you wonâ€™t be allowed to forget for a single moment that youâ€™re at the World Cup. But whatâ€™s actually underneath this candy-coated outer layer? Well for starters, 199 of the teams that participated in the qualifying round are here; the All Whites are represented, and now (finally) so is Bahrain. There are also some unimportant nations such as Brazil, Argentina, England, etc etc.
Every team, big and small, seems to have benefitted from a facelift â€“ sometimes literally. Itâ€™s hard to tell with the teams Iâ€™m not familiar with, but the All Whites and other fringe sides seem to have a greater degree of player likeness. The commentary team can also now say their names! In fact, the commentary is subtly improved across the board â€“ at least, I didnâ€™t hear too many repeated comments from FIFA 10 while I was playing.
One â€˜majorâ€™ feature touted by EA is altitude-based fatigue. Essentially, if players from low-level places play a game well above sea level, theyâ€™re going to get tired faster. Itâ€™s an interesting idea, but in practice I had to deliberately look out for it. It wonâ€™t change how you play when youâ€™re kicking back with a quick match, but over the course of a tournament it might affect things in a minor way.
Another new change is the rejigged penalty shootout. This oneâ€™s more noticeably different â€“ gone is the â€˜shoot left/right/straightâ€™ simplicity of the previous system. Instead, the shooter can place a targeting reticule over any area of the goal, then must tap a button as a slider bar goes from red to green. Tap at the wrong time, and the targeting area suddenly balloons in size, all but guaranteeing youâ€™ll miss the goal completely. Tap it when itâ€™s in the green, however, and youâ€™re more likely to kick the ball in just the right position. On top of that, you can even psych out the goalie by pretending to kick, pausing, then actually kicking the ball elsewhere.
Overall itâ€™s a good system, but I do feel for the goalies â€“ their job seems to have been made harder, although itâ€™s certainly arguable that this is just as it should be. Donâ€™t slide tackle the opposition in front of your own goal, kids!
Really, those are the most major gameplay tweaks. If youâ€™re a FIFA fan, however, you will notice a series of minor differences on the pitch. It took me a long time to pinpoint them, but so far as I can tell, goalkeepers are smarter, and passing is not so superhumanly awesome â€“ there was a hell of a lot more turnover than we were used to seeing. It also all feels faster and more flowing, which I count as a good thing.
All these tweaks and changes are nice, but itâ€™s the new modes that provide most of the value here. Naturally, the World Cup mode is the star of the show, allowing you to play as any number of teams right from the qualifying rounds to the finals. As with the general interface, EA has spent a lot of time really making you feel like youâ€™re at the World Cup â€“ ticker tape pollutes the air (and the pitch), newly-rendered managers scream at their players, and key moments are interspersed with close-ups of squalling fans. Thankfully, this stuff doesnâ€™t generally interfere with the gameplay flow.
The World Cup mode is, of course, fraught with peril. Players can get injured, sometimes seriously, forcing you to change your lineup a lot. In an interesting twist, players can even get injured during practice between games. Some people will hate receiving messages such as â€˜Wayne Rooney injured himself warming upâ€™, but it reflects what actually happens and adds a further element of surprise.
The Captain Your Country mode, meanwhile, is similar to the old Be a Pro mode from previous games, allowing you to focus on a single player and following him through various matches. This is most fun when teaming up with a few mates and all working together to guide your team to victory.
EA has also included a swathe of scenarios pulled from the recent qualifying matches. These place you in charge of either a full team or a single player, and often start partway through a match. The second New Zealand vs. Bahrain match, for example, is here, and has NZ up 1-0 with about 20 minutes to play. If Bahrain score an away goal, they go through to the Finals. It was great seeing this one in hereâ€¦except you can only play as Bahrain.
And that is pretty much that. You know what youâ€™re getting here â€“ this is a more polished FIFA 10 with some World Cup-themed gameplay modes. Considering how this game appears in the no-man's-land between FIFA 10 and 11, it could have turned out much, much worse. Even so, you should ask yourself: how much do you really need to play a World Cup tournament when you could wait another five or six months for FIFA 11? If you really want to get into the spirit of the World Cup in the lead-up to the real event, then this game is a great way to do that. If you feel paying $100+ is a small price for mostly positive (if minor) gameplay tweaks, then be my guest. More casual fans, however, can probably remain quite happy with FIFA 10 and wait for the proper sequel. At least I can say that if you do purchase FIFA World Cup 2010, you wonâ€™t be getting an inferior title in any way.