According to our review last year, Fifa 10 was pretty good. It’s true, what a spectacular game; rich, diverse and so utterly thrilling that when buying a FIFA game you can be assured that you’ll be kept sufficiently entertained through until the next instalment.
However, every four years something strange occurs in the office of Electronic Arts. They get handed to them a unique opportunity to really cement themselves as the current front runners in providing the ultimate in football simulation, they get the World Cup. An event watched by millions, praised by millions and worth a couple of million or two to anyone who can successfully cash in on the brand.
It is a grand stage all right. A stage that for many years some may say has been far too grand and unique for EA to really be pushing a new release at full retail price, especially with the competition ending so close to the next release in the FIFA franchise. This year though, things have taken a strange turn. 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is pretty much all I need to say about what EA is hoping to bring into your home. It is in part both a scaled down and scaled up version of certain elements already familiar to you if you’ve been an avid FIFA player for the past few years, even more so if you have been slugging away at the previous incarnation FIFA 10.
As covered in Xero’s review, FIFA 10 set the stage in the recent development of football sims and lots of what FIFA 10 brought in terms of game play and design remains in FWCSA. Capturing the feeling of any event in a computer game is no mean feat and the World Cup could well be one of the most challenging events to recreate; it’s one month in four years when a glut of people will be watching their country representatives flout and flaunt about on the pitch in a bid to make us cheer, whoop, or give us an excuse to burn some flags from a minority nation. It’s a big task to undertake to capture all this, but FWCSA starts on this path well.
As I mentioned earlier some things have been scaled down in FWCSA and taken to the shredder for reasonable cause. For instance this time we don’t get the access to any club football teams, instead it is just international teams that can be selected, though with 199 to choose from there is little to complain about when it comes to variety. And considering the wealth of international talent inherent in the most popular leagues of football today, it’s a move that should not leave you thinking that you have been cheated out of controlling your favourite players.
The presentation as well has been at the health club, shedding a few pounds, which to me is a welcome virtue to the cluttered, unorganised mess which was FIFA 10′s front-end. Whereas before I wouldn’t dare venture forth into the menu options without leaving breadcrumbs, FWCSA is welcoming and more easy going, utilising a more measured approach in its design. The bright and colourful palette of the colour scheme sets the scene to replicate the sunny and bright vistas of the African plains and is suitably reflected in the menu music options which (again) EA have got spot on!
Whilst the presentation is top notch the thing to remember is that this is the World Cup: which is essentially not just a football competition but also a franchise that aims to attract all people. It’s not just for those who celebrate the skin of a pig being rolled around but also for the people who believe that leopards go about fully dressed with styled manes gelled across their eyebrows and some of this ‘everyman’ (everyfan?) mentality does seep through to FWCSA, as you are often enough patronised into being told how to Press X, or what a penalty is. Also for the first time FIFA gives the option of taking away the brilliant control scheme and brings in the so called ‘Dad Pad’ which reverts the player to only need to press two buttons to play the game, with the A.I doing all of the work for you. This is all of course fine, however, because in terms of advertising the World Cup is a contest for mums and dads as well as grannies and grandads, so they should be just as welcome to the party as the die-hard fans.
So even with a bit of blurring when it comes to its audience FWCSA is still possibly the best football title I have ever played. What EA have done is a staggering amount of work considering the efforts already made with FIFA 10, especially with another title just around the corner. The overhaul is so extensive, that if you were to go back from here and play last year’s outing, it begins to look less like the smooth football game it was and instead just a set of Neolithic paintings depicting two teams of beleaguering Neanderthals kicking a dead carcass about…
Competing in the World Cup of course is going to be your main stay in FWCSA and you can either choose to go straight into the group stages or play a full qualifying campaign with your chosen country. This may be the only main element of the title but it is a lengthy campaign of up to 21 games (should you make the final). In addition, you’ll also find the Captain Your Country mode which replicates the Be A Pro mode on FIFA 10, and a Penalty Shootout mode which uses the new ‘composure’ meter implemented this year, and believe me, you’ll need the practice. This is all teamed up with a brilliant Online section which has the usual, head to head options and an online World Cup, which I can really see attracting a great community and providing the true challenge to hardcore FIFA players.
The issue still remains though that this is billed as a full title release from EA and of course the price is reflected in that. With FIFA 11 so close round the corner it is hard to imagine such a game can be worth some of your cash, however this time around I think it very much is well deserved, not only for first timers, but also very much for those gasping for the next step in the football sim evolution.
It is tough, rewarding and so oh-so-satisfying, so much so that even the few elements of the slightly unbalanced approach to its target audience and the trimming down of certain key features, can be forgiven. The emotion, passion and potency of the tournament is so well conceived and channelled by all aspects of the game it could almost be criticised for producing a virtual World Cup that will make the real one work much harder to live up to the expectations that this title goes to offer.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Playstation 3 (Xbox 360, Wii, Playstation Portable, iPhone) Release Date: 30/04/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.