Xbox 360 Review

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

Back of the net?

A World Cup tournament without an accompanying FIFA game would just be plain wrong, wouldn't it? It's a firm tradition now, albeit a much-maligned one with past iterations exploiting the established FIFA engine by merely slapping a few international licenses into the game and hey, presto one quickly re-heated football game ready to extract the cash of gullible punters all over again.

FIFA 10 was such an accomplished football game, EA could have quite easily shoved a World Cup-flavoured interface into the existing game, maybe crow-barred in a gimmick or two and watched the millions roll in, but its sidestepped the lazy cash-in option and actually produced something that almost feels like an entirely new FIFA game.

Right from the off, it's quite apparent that some real effort has been sunk into making 2010 FIFA World Cup, from the 199 international teams to the 10 authentic stadia and super-slick presentation inherent throughout. The real crux of what makes this FIFA worthwhile though, is the 100+ gameplay enhancements and the overhauled visuals, which while mostly subtle, combine to make the game feel like a fresher update than previous inessential World Cup titles.

Pitch textures have been completely redone, player likenesses have been addressed with added lighting subtleties and the gameplay mechanics have been tightened up and given a nice spit polish. Seemingly minor aspects like being able to chest the ball and loft driven aerial passes maintain the momentum during a match, while passing and movement feels more smooth, sensitive and immediate than before. More than ever, this instalment of FIFA plays like a proper game of football, building upon the solid foundations laid down by FIFA 10 and simply improving upon what was already there.

2010 FIFA World Cup also excels in the sheer wealth of new game modes on offer, again avoiding the easy route of re-purposing old game types with a few token World Cup features. EA Canada has gone one better, introducing a range of completely new international events to sink your teeth into.

Besides the obvious inclusion of the full World Cup tournament itself both on and offline, there's also the new Virtual Pro mode: Captain Your Country (also playable in four-player co-op) into which you can import your Virtual Pro from FIFA 10 and compete for the captaincy in the team of your choice. Battle of the Nations, Story of Qualifying and the World League Ladder also provide hours upon hours of potential gameplay that'll last way beyond the duration of the televised event, especially given that the game will be updated with real-world scenarios once the actual matches have been played.

Battle of the Nations and World League Ladder are online modes that have you consistently competing to best your rivals. But where Battle of the Nations is an ongoing competition to see which nation is home to the most superior FIFA players, World League Ladder is a fight for supremacy in ranking tables where relegation and promotion are considerations to be taken into account. Story of Qualifying meanwhile, presents you with a number of situations cherry-picked from the most memorable moments during the qualifying stages of the World Cup, including that fateful 'hand of god' Henry goal against the Republic of Ireland that put the Emerald Isle team out of the running for the Finals.

And once you've finished with that lot, there's an array of stand-out scenarios from the 2006 World Cup to unlock, including the latter part of the Italy vs. France match in which Zidane headbutted Materazzi square in the chest. Longevity clearly isn't an issue in 2010 FIFA World Cup then, and there's certainly the same amount of game options and modes as you'd find in FIFA 10.

Every one of the game's modes has the same detailed treatment and crisp presentation lavished upon them, with a website-style interface that lays out all of the information in an attractive, intuitive and well-organised way. We've said it once already, but it's this kind of evident care and attention to detail that illustrates the extra effort that's gone into making 2010 FIFA World Cup so much more than the usual cynical cash cow we've been given before to coincide with past World Cup years.

2010 FIFA World Cup encapsulates the pageantry and sense of occasion that comes with the tournament. Emotion and passion is what the World Cup is all about, and seemingly no one knows that more than EA Canada, since capturing the carnival atmosphere has been top of the developer's agenda in creating their game. It goes far beyond simply chucking a load of colourful streamers, confetti and fireworks into its stadia, although that does help. But it's the roar of the crowd, the banners, the national pride all of the integral components that make the World Cup so special that make the game more than the sum of its parts. That 2010 FIFA World Cup is as pleasurable to play as FIFA 10 if not more so, given all of the refinements and added subtleties is the icing on the cake. It might not be quite as all-encompassing as FIFA 10, but 2010 FIFA World Cup is unmatched in replicating the goosebump-inducing atmosphere that comes but once every four years.

Is it worth buying though? Yes, it is - especially if you don't already own FIFA 10. 2010 FIFA World Cup is a brilliant football game and a perfect example of how to build a proper game around a one-off tournament. It's hands-down the best football game out there at the moment until FIFA 11 at least.

E3 Trailer