If it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.
The question of whether or not EA should release games based on major international tournaments separately from their main FIFA titles is now moot. Two years ago when Euro 2008 landed, it was obvious the game was a step up from the latest release at the time, as we were introduced to many new gameplay mechanics that are now staples for the series. FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa is much the same in this aspect, as EA have justified their second FIFA title in six months with a host of new features and tweaks that make this the best football game on the market.
[image1]Being a World Cup title, EA have spent a lot of time working on creating a party atmosphere. From qualifying matches in obscure countries like Mongolia or the Cook Islands, to the World Cup itself, the presentation is superb. Walking out onto the big stage, with fireworks bursting overhead and ticker tape flying through the air, the grand scale of the tournament shines through. Commentators do their best to compliment South Africa as the perfect host, and kick off arrives under the buzzing influence of the vuvuzela.
Many improvements are far more subtle than the added visual prowess though. This is the most free-flowing FIFA we’ve ever seen, with passing and ball retention being the key to success. As players now time their runs and positioning to perfection, holding onto the ball until that extra yard of space opens up will separate the good players from the great. While the physical element of the game remains intact, greater emphasis has been put on evading defenders with skill. If you’re struggling under the might of lumbering centre backs such as Lucio and Rio Ferdinand, a change of direction or sharp dash could put you in a favourable position.
Getting into the opponents area is now also far more exciting than before. Crosses can be whipped in with added pace and zest, meaning the ball can take a nasty deflection off of an unsuspecting defender, or can be slickly guided into the back of the net by an able striker. Shooting has also been refined to ensure the finesse shot can’t be overused. In FIFA 10, this side foot technique is the most reliable way of scoring goals from all over the pitch, but luckily in this update, EA has grounded its power. Now players will have to approach the goal from an angle to have a chance of beating the goalkeeper with the deft touch, as opting to blast one from 30 yards is now far more effective. In fact, this title forces attacking players to make decisions that weren’t previously apparent in the series. Picking the right shot for the right situation is now more vital than ever.
[image2]Alongside the obligatory World Cup and Captain Your Country modes, you can now relive famous moments from the real-life qualifying section. Players are tasked with changing the fate of key moments across the last two years in a mode that adds longevity to the title. Want to send Ireland through to the World Cup after Thierry Henry’s blatant double handball sent them packing? You can do so right here. EA has promised to update the scenarios as the World Cup unfolds, so there’ll be plenty of fresh content deep into the tournament.
The most experimental addition to the series is by far the penalty kick system. Before, players would simply pick a side and aim towards it, while the goalkeeper does exactly the same. Things here are a little bit different and far more in-depth. When stepping up to the spot, you’ll now have to keep composed by stopping a meter at the correct time. There’s also the ability to stutter when running up to the ball, in hope that the goalkeeper shows his intentions by shifting his weight to one side. The direction of your penalty can be changed at the last second, as there’s far more variety than hitting the five spots of the net that FIFA 10 allows. If you want to be caressing the ball into the side of the goal, you’re going to have to practice, as holding a direction for too long will send it wide, and not long enough will mean the goalkeeper may be able to adjust if they dive the right way. Similarly, when trying to stop a kick crossing the line, you’ve got to make the decision to commit early and cover more of the goal, or react to the striker’s shot and not reach all the way to the post.
And while the penalty system is a welcome addition to the series, it’s during each match that goalkeepers show themselves to have evolved from the rigid shot-stoppers they are in FIFA 10. The whole game feels tailored towards recreating the drama of the World Cup, as goalkeepers’ reactions are far more instinctive than before, often meaning they pull off some mighty saves.
[image3]Every painstaking miss, last minute winner and outrageous tackle is recreated on the most realistic player models we’ve seen from the series. Landon Donovan’s huge forehead begs to be licked, and David Beckham’s pretty boy image is recreated right down to the last tattoo- all in greater detail than before. That is, if you’re playing as one of the top nations. Unfortunately, any of the smaller countries are still recreated with the gormless looking faces that are seemingly built out of clay.
As an update to the FIFA franchise, this title signals a lot to look forward to for FIFA 11. The online World Cup section continues the trend of putting many players in a tournament together, and we want to see it further explored next time round. This is by far the most appealing football game this generation, as EA finally hit the nail on the head. Attack minded, dramatic, and a hell of a lot of fun, this title is the perfect warm-up for the summer’s festival.