I think a legitimate question to ask of the new 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is whether it is worthy of being sold as a full game or is it just a fund raising, rebadged FIFA 10 with a few game play tweaks?
My first impressions lead me to believe that this is an exciting new instalment to the long running FIFA series. There has been a menu overhaul and reskin to include the 2010 World Cup South Africa colours. The new menu has the layout of a website which makes it highly accessible and user friendly and the loading screen has been changed to include facts about countries that compete for World Cup slots which include population, number of times qualified for previous World Cups and notable wins and defeats.
Another notable aspect of this new addition is an easy quick start option, which sees you start a game with your country of choice against their greatest international rival. There is also country specific commentary and shots of the crowd in country colours and the coach. The crowd shots during game breaks make it feel more realistic and more like you are playing on the world stage, not in front of a few thousand cardboard cut-outs.
Game play is much the same as FIFA 10. Notable differences include referees awarding more red and yellow cards to computer controlled players who seem to cause more fouls than avatars. Additionally, during a full World Cup qualifying campaign you are exposed to one of the major selling points of the game which is playing away from home in high altitude effects the players overall skills and fitness and makes it difficult to take points away from crucial qualifying away games.
Another change is that in FIFA 10, one of the easiest and most powerful ways to score a goal was to chip the keeper when he charged out in a one on one situation. Now the keeper barely comes off his line and the chip has been modified to be random and lacking power. This is a strange change as it just makes it easier to slot a shot to the left or right of the goal. However, free kicks from just outside the box now have a much greater random aspect to them. A free kick from one spot with the same power and direction done over and over again will yield different and random results.
Coke Zero presents: The Story of Qualifying:
When selecting the Story of Qualifying from the main menu, be prepared to be subjected to a Coke Zero splash screen every single time you play a game. While some people may not mind paying $80.00 to be advertised to, I found this incredibly frustrating, mainly due to its repetitive nature and the lack of a skip option.
This gripe aside, this type of game play is highly enjoyable due to the fact it is a return of the challenge mode that was absent from FIFA 10. There is a wide diversity to the challenges and I found myself attempting most of them, managing to achieve 100% completion on several continents. The Story of Qualifying consists of, well, World Cup qualifying challenges broken into continents. Successful completion of a challenge earns you points that can be used to unlock goal celebrations and Germany 2006 World Cup content. In addition to this, this section includes free World Cup content that will be downloadable during this year's competition, a secret I am keeping from my wife as our V2.0 plans to make her debut at this time, an event which really can't compete with the World Cup AND new FIFA content.
A challenge begins during a crucial moment in an important qualifying game. The player may be asked to win the game, retain a lead, score a free kick or obtain a certain number of goals. Difficulty is not custom and often the easiest setting isn’t available and you can be forced to play on legendary difficulty. I found this to be one of the enjoyable key differences from the other game modes.
While at first I was turned off this game mode by the excessive branding, once I got over this, it was definitely enjoyable.
Captain Your Country:
Captain your Country is referred to as CYC throughout the game. It is FIFA10's Virtual Pro equivalent, allowing you to control one character within the team throughout the whole World Cup campaign.
An exciting feature of this game mode is that you are able to import your Virtual Pro from FIFA 10. Unfortunately, this import only applies to the aesthetics of the character, all stats are reset to that of an 'average fringe international'. I found this to be a terrible shame because I spent more time with my virtual pro than my RL soccer team, which is saying something with two training sessions per week and a game.
You start playing in 'B' international friendlies, working your way up the ranks into the qualifiers to eventually become top ranked player on the team and captain of your country at the World Cup. Your skill and overall stats increase based on how you perform in each game and where you play. For example, if you're a striker performance is ranked by how many goals you score and how often you assist other team mates to score goals. If you're a defender, the number of tackles you make and your field position is how your performance is calculated and a mixture of the other two if you play in the midfield.
CYC offers a game type I have been craving in a football game, being able to play local multiplayer as individual players on the same team. A friend and I played as English international strikers competing for number one spot on the team and the captaincy. It took 6+ hours to play our way through the full qualifying campaign and although it was tedious at times, playing some of the useless and seemingly endless friendlies, it was a very solid and enjoyable multiplayer experience.
My only grievance with the game type is how fickle the Captain's arm band is. You can score a hat-trick every game and maintain captaincy for 5+ games, then a defender has a better game than you, and you are dropped as captain, loosing captain's privilege's, which include selecting who takes free kicks and team tactics. This was especially frustrating for us as we were dropped back to second and third place for the World Cup final.
The FIFA 10 World Cup penalty system has had a complete overhaul, which is excellent as this was one of the weak points in FIFA 10 and many games in the knock out stage of the World Cup go down to penalty shootouts.
You now have more ability to place shots in the net with different shooting techniques. A stutter run up is also included to enable you to make last minute adjustments to the positioning of your shot depending on the movement of the keeper. This is a much welcome change as penalties have always been a dull part of virtual football games. The tutorial video
, as well as a few minutes on the training pitch make the new system easy to master.
Two Button Controls:
In FIFA 10 World Cup they've introduced what I have heard referred to as the 'wife mode'. 'Wife mode' is a simplification of the control system down to two buttons (although it's actually four with the control stick and an option sprint button), where the game will determine what function the user intended depending on the situation. I'm not sure why they call it the 'wife mode' as when I tried to explain it to my wife she looked at me incredulously and said nothing would convince her to encourage me talk more about soccer than I already do.
Before playing FIFA 10 World Cup, I was a little doubtful as to it's worthiness as a stand alone game, believing there would be little enough new content that it would be better off as a downloadable add-on to FIFA 10. However, I was mistaken, there is plenty of new content and improvements from its forerunner and it is an excellent stepping stone for FIFA 11. Risking hyperbole, I would say it is the best virtual football game currently on the market.