The World Cup has finished, Spain has declared supremacy for the next four years and if you are anything like me you are going through some serious international soccer withdrawal. Fortunately there is a cure for the twitches and it is in the form of EA Sports’ 2010 FIFA World Cup: South Africa.
Offering nearly everything that FIFA 10 did but instead of focusing on club soccer and the world’s best leagues, World Cup: South Africa shifts to the international qualification process and the grand tournament itself. This is the best soccer game available at the moment for those looking to play with their favorite international side.
The last few years have been very successful for EA Sports as they have transformed the FIFA series from a good soccer game into a great one. The primary reason for this is because of the realistic physics of the ball. In past FIFA games the ball always felt a little off but they really nailed the feel of the pitch with FIFA 10 and by relation World Cup: South Africa. Whereas in past titles the ball kind of felt like a fast moving rock, through balls have a zip to them, touch passes have actual touch to them and shots can be fine tuned to either float or drive towards the net.
With the ball being as good as it is the rest of the game flows right in line. Making runs is as easy as finding a lane and putting the ball where you want it. Of course actually doing so against the improved AI is another matter entirely. With nearly 200 international sides to play as or against there is a wealth of strategies that can be employed both by the player or against the player. Depending upon which country is chosen to be played the game can be ultra fast or deliberately paced. It will certainly keep players on their toes.
The primary game mode is the World Cup and players can jump right in guiding their side of choice to international glory or failure either through a rigorous qualifying process or jumping directly into the tournament itself. It is a deep mode that offers plenty of gameplay but for those looking for a more personalized take, the Captain Your Country mode offers up the chance to start as an entry level player on your international squad and guide him through the qualifying process to the World Cup.
Captain Your Country is a fantastically realized mode that offers a lengthy “career” for the created player. As great as it is though the seemingly arbitrary grading process seems mildly broken and in my experience rewarded AI players more generously for their efforts and graded my player far more harshly despite my player doing more both offensively and defensively. It also over-accentuates offensive contributions and playing as a midfielder or defender is somewhat less rewarding despite those positions being very vital to the framework of a match.
The game also has the requisite online modes and while it offers a quick play option for matches there is a fully realized online World Cup mode where opponents are determined by the online matchmaking system but standings are held locally on the users machine. This system eliminates the need to organize elaborate setups to hold a tournament and there is never a fear of having to make a match at a certain time because there is no schedule to uphold. The game also has the requisite penalty shot mode, which takes a little getting used to control wise but can offer some great fun once players get the hang of it.
Graphically World Cup: South Africa looks excellent and while a lot assets from the game are re-purposed from FIFA 10, there are just enough fresh touches, including all 10 South African soccer stadiums, that make this the best looking FIFA title to date. If there were to be a complaint about the presentation of the title though it would have to fall on the announcers and overall sound design. The team of Clive Tilsley and Andy Townsend are serviceable but like many sports games suffer from the same issues that every television style commentary system in a sports game runs into, that being they eventually get tiresome with their canned responses and horrid attempts at humor. The match itself sounds fine, with crowd noise appropriately filling the background but being as it was such a stalwart of the tournament, the angry swarm of bees sounding vuvuzela is noticeably absent or at least underused in the game. But as a criticism, that is truly picking at nits.
Yes, World Cup: South Africa came out before the tournament began but for those looking to stay in the World Cup mood a little longer and to impatient to wait until FIFA 11, now is the perfect time to jump in and play. On release the game retailed for the standard $60 but now that the tournament is over many retail outlets are discounting the game and it can be easily had for $40 or less at this point. Its a great sports title that will keep fans of the sport entertained for quite some time.
4 out of 5.