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Review: 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
by Tom Acres

By this time, we've all become pretty used to seeing EA Sports release a UEFA Euro Championships or FIFA World Cup game every two summers to complement their annual FIFA offering. We're also pretty used to them being pretty much identical to the previous FIFA, just with touched up presentation and perhaps some new commentary. Whilst there are no considerable jumps forward with 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, the gameplay refinements, the new modes and the absolutely top-draw presentation make it an improvement over FIFA 10 (and let's not forget that FIFA 10 was the best footy game ever). Are the improvements worth existing FIFA 10 owners laying down an extra £40 for, though?

The biggest change is obvious - no club teams. Instead, there are 199 international teams to play as - yes, I said 199, which is a huge range compared to the mere 40 or so nations you could play as in FIFA 10. Obviously, you've got all the teams involved in the World Cup Finals this summer, but you are also able to play as any of the other teams that were involved in the qualification rounds. You can play out the most unlikely games in the history of the world, from Israel vs. Palestine to Iraq vs. USA. All of the teams are fully available to play as in any of the modes, unless you decide to jump right into the World Cup Finals mode which only features the 32 teams actually going to South Africa. However, you can play a full qualification campaign with any team you like and all the fixtures, squads, dates and managers are authentic and take place in the same stadiums and on the same dates as they did in real life. So far I've taken Morocco and the Solomon Islands to the finals and, most unlikely of all, won the World Cup with England.

Captain your Country returns from Euro 2008, but is only a beefed-up version of FIFA 10's Be A Pro mode.

Other modes include the Story of Qualifying mode which allows you to take control of matches from the qualification phase at key points during the match. The best example is taking control of Ireland just after Thierry Henry's infamous handball gave France the lead in their qualifying play-off game. There are over 60 of these scenarios to play as well as scenarios from the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. EA Sports are also promising scenarios from this year's finals which will be free to download and play throughout the tournament. Obviously I couldn't test this out because the finals don't kick off until June 11th but it sounds like a great initiative from EA and something that I don't think has been done before.

Captain Your Country returns from the Euro 2008 game and is basically a beefed up version of Be A Pro from FIFA 10. In fact, you can even import your Pro direct from FIFA 10, but it falls a bit flat - only your appearance is carried over, not your stats, records or attributes. If you used EA Photo Gameface to import your photographed mug onto your player in FIFA 10, then that too can be imported into the World Cup. My guy looks rather uncanny, in a zombie-ish kinda way. One improvement upon the mode is the ability to play with 3 friends locally in 4 player co-op, similar to the Become A Legend mode in Pro Evolution Soccer 2010.

Subtle improvements to the on-pitch gameplay make 2010 FIFA World Cup a better gameplay experience than FIFA 10.

Online is relatively uninspired with the usual bunch of modes, although the one new and interesting one is the 2010 Online FIFA World Cup. It works just as you'd expect it to and is a bit of a glorified attempt at covering up a plain old online tournament that we've seen hundreds of times before.

On the pitch, EA Sports have made some subtle but vital improvements to the FIFA 10 game engine to make this the best playing game of virtual footy around. Players are even more physical than their FIFA 10 counterparts, and it's not uncommon to see them tussling for control of the ball or just getting in each other's way. Never has having an opponent run at your defence with Didier Drogba or Wayne Rooney been more terrifying; they can just knock defenders out of the way. Dribbling has become more responsive and refined, making it a real joy to skip past fullbacks with Lionel Messi or Theo Walcott. The shooting also has a lot more power and weight behind it which is more realistic and makes scoring speculative screamers with Gerrard a more realistic opportunity. Goalkeepers are vastly improved; they don't come charging off their lines stupidly to be chipped as they always do in FIFA 10, they're better at recovering from initial saves and readjusting themselves after deflections and rebounds.

Custom controls and new touches make the game better and more accessible than ever.

A cool gameplay element that affects the way the ball moves is altitude levels. The idea is that after the famous 6-1 defeat of Argentina by Bolivia on a stadium thousands of metres above sea level, gamers will now have to contend with these difficult situations too. Players will fatigue quicker and the ball will move slower through the air. It's a bit gimmicky, but a nice touch all the same.

The controls are extremely responsive, and customisation options include different button layouts, assistance settings for specific actions (passes, shots, crosses), and a simple two-button setup for newcomers to the series. This new two-button setup allows newcomers to control the play using just the left analogue stick to move and then two buttons to pass and shoot. Holding them down longer will affect whether a long ball or a through pass will be played and if shots will be hit higher or lower. It's simple and, being a FIFA veteran, I haven't used it other than as a test, but it's a nice addition if you want to play with your dad.

Presentation has been improved with a real sense of atmosphere.

EA Sports have also made massive strides forward when it comes to the games presentation. The sense of atmosphere during a match is unbelievably realistic with 3D crowds and managers, authentic chants, drums and vuvuzelas playing, full stadium announcers and more brilliant little touches like that. It's a massive leap from FIFA 10. Players also look better than ever, but likenesses up close are still leagues behind Pro Evolution Soccer; from the zoomed-out view during gameplay though, the game looks stunning. Commentary is also top notch with Clive Tyldsley and Andy Townsend replacing Martin Tyler and Andy Gray for what I assume is a one-off. Their commentary is especially impressive during the Story Of Qualification mode where they will make references to what has happened so far during the game.

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is not a huge step up from FIFA 10. Casual fans of the series are unlikely to notice the gameplay tweaks as much as the hardcore fan but they certainly make this a much better gameplay experience than FIFA 10. There is a tonne that can be built on here for FIFA 11, and it would make sense to wait for that if you're not keen on dropping any more cash on a game that will be irrelevant quite soon. However, if you're a hardcore FIFA fan or a casual gamer wrapped up in the hype of the tournament, then 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is certainly worth a look.



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- Tom Acres

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