Appropriately enough, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is to football games what the World Cup is to football. Not only is it a finely polished and upgraded series iteration (that fans of FIFA 10 surely pre-ordered on the day of its announcement) but the small host of nifty new additions (including one particular standout) have been included purely to bring new players not only to EA’s incomparable franchise, but to football games in general. This is a title that attempts to please just about everyone, and close inspection has revealed that it fully deserves to be regarded as something of a classic.
Clearly of paramount importance to the game’s development team was the desire to replicate the joyous, heady carnival atmosphere of the World Cup itself. This has been attempted before but never really accurately conveyed, but here the momentous sense of occasion is obvious from the opening menu screens. The in-game visuals have been scrubbed up, there are some fluid new animations (including sideline manager appearances) and during the finals, there are fireworks and energised, dramatic squad entrances. If there is anything that definitely needs to be said about this version of FIFA, it’s that it resolutely does not display the same courteous, it’s-only-a-game reserve of FIFA 10.
And this ends up working massively in the game’s favour. The use of licensed music, an aspect that often seems completely superfluous in titles like this, is unusually thrilling. Although resigned to the menu screens as they always are, this set of songs have been chosen with real intelligence and tact. EA have said that the soundtrack is intended to “celebrate the cultural vibrancy” of the tournament, and not only have they delivered on that score, but the whip-smart usage of a predominantly upbeat and almost wistful selection of tunes elevates the level of excitement by another few large notches.
The gameplay is as close to perfect as it was in FIFA 10, with some minor but fundamental changes that all aid in creating arguably FIFA’s most realistic and fluent game of football yet. Apparently over 100 minor tweaks have been made here but they’re added so deftly that only hardened addicts will notice all of them. The two most pleasing refinements that we saw first-hand were to the referees (who, probably because of the impassioned weight of the tournament, are far less eager to get their red and yellow cards out) and to the goalkeepers, who never once ran themselves way out of position as they occasionally did in FIFA 10.
The best attempt that EA have yet made to encourage new players to get involved is embodied by the implementation of a ridiculously simple two-button control method. Frequently referred to as the “Dad Pad”, this scheme does an extraordinary job of condensing the daunting FIFA control-set into something that anyone can get their heads (and hands) around. Those who warm to the joys of the game via this method are also quietly encouraged to raise their game slowly, and add other commands into the mix as they progress: a kind of snail-paced tutorial designed to get everyone hooked on the hideously compulsive and rewarding game of FIFA proper.
Penalties have also been completely re-worked (they now demand a far greater body of skill than they did before) and altitude effects have now been introduced, meaning that the location of your matches (particularly when you’re country’s team aren’t accustomed to the shift) have a real bearing on the stamina of your players. And the fully online World Cup tournament mode, which surely represents the biggest sell for anyone who isn’t yet sure whether or not to pick this up, is every bit as authentic and compelling as you would presume.
So anyone that was expecting 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa to be a scornful cash-in should put those fears to bed for good. In addition to being easily the best-looking FIFA game to date, it also feels like an exceptionally comprehensive proposition for anyone who doesn’t involve themselves in football outside of the World Cup. FIFA fans should get involved purely to see their dearly beloved operating on peak form, and everyone else has never had a better chance to see what all the fuss is about. And when the World Cup finally rolls around this June, there will truly be nothing better than this to fill those between-match dead spots.
Watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup trailer here…