The official game of the World Cup is here and to a certain degree I think I knew well in advance just what I would write about it. If you have played FIFA 10 to death, you're not going to find the action on the pitch all that exciting. There are of course fine tunings and little changes, but not to the extent where you feel that it's a whole new gaming experience. Not even close. This is the World Cup expansion of FIFA 10 if you will.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not a full price game (maybe it should have been a bit cheaper still, but nevermind), and it features one of the best, if not the best, football simulation engines to date. The world cup atmosphere is there by the bucket load, and the game modes provide surprising amounts of content for this kind of release.
One of the areas that sees a complete revamp is the penalty shot. Given the crucial importance of penalties in International tournaments it's an area where I'm pleased to see a bit of extra effort. The new system allows for more accurate aiming, and more variation. It's actually a lot of fun chipping penalties like Totti or mistiming the composure bar having to make do with a larger aiming reticule adding some pressure to the situation. It may be seen as a bit overcomplicated, and perhaps it's not right for a full FIFA release, but given that this is a World Cup title I find it very fitting.
The Captain your country mode from UEFA Euro 2008 makes a return and you can even import your "pro" from FIFA 10. A nice feature, but the drawback is that it makes the game feel like even more of an expansion rather than a brand new game.
As was the case with UEFA Euro 2008 EA have managed to nail the presentation and the sense of the tournament really well. The crowd, the arenas, the menus ooze of World Cup atmosphere. Personally, I'm not quite into the spirit of the World Cup yet as Sweden failed to qualify (damn Danes!), but the good thing is that I get a chance to redeem the team on the virtual stage. There is a mode that recreates key moments of the qualifying stage and you earn points by how well you manage to turn a situation around. Some of these challenges are quite tough, like turning a 0-1 deficit to a win from the 79th minute and onwards (Sweden vs. Denmark), and you have to get quite good a the game before you will be able to complete all of them at the hardest difficulty. Personally I don't find that much enjoyment in these kind of set pieces, but I found myself playing the scenario with Sweden over and over again until history was changed.
Overall, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, is a neat package. It features a new simplified two button control akin to the classic controls of the NHL series, that should make the game more accessible to the most casual of players. For the rest of us we will continue to hone our skills with the deep and rewarding control system we know from the last few FIFA titles. It is, however, surprising to find that the commentaries lack accuracy, and I hope that this is an area where EA will put some effort in the future. It feels as though the commentary is made up on the same fundamentals as five years ago while the quality and variation of the football simulation has increased a lot.
I would have liked for the game to offer more content, as it is hard to recommend this over FIFA 10 in terms of value. Still, if you're a die hard football fan you will no doubt find tons of entertainment in this title and it is likely to last you all the way up until the final is played in Johannesburg on July 11.