Soccer isn’t the easiest sport to adapt to a fun video game experience, especially for American gamers. Oftentimes developers have to make a choice. They can either try to create the definitive soccer experience for real-life fans of the sport, thus focusing on realistic physics, fewer engine options to tweak, and a game of soccer played entirely by the book.
The other choice? Opting for the arcade experience of less realism, greater emphasis on player freedom, and an at times loose interpretation on the sport. Naturally this depends entirely on the demographics the developer is looking for, but fewer and fewer these days seem to be trying for the latter category.
Falling in line with this trend is 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa. Although less than a year ago Fifa 10 was released, this release is meant to coincide with the real-world event- both in time and essence. This certainly isn’t bad for those looking forward to the World Cup, but for most gamers this is hardly worthy of a second glance.
Gameplay-wise, it’s pretty obvious that 2010 Fifa World Cup is just a slightly retooled version of the original Fifa 10. It plays the same with few differences- other than the engine itself being cleaned up a bit. Injuries are more commonplace, the fatigue system is put to better use, and expressions are better defined- which is all nice, though the greater likelihood of injury will annoy some players. You can also import created characters from the original- so kudos there. There’s polish here and there were it needed it last time around, but this comes at a price.
In terms of content, it’s missing several modes and teams which is pretty disappointing. The missing teams will upset some die-hard soccer fans, but the missing game modes are the real crime here. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but it might make you glance over at the now-cheaper original Fifa 10.
The controls and game features have been tuned up nicely- a handful of improvements have been made due to fan criticisms. The controls are more responsive- well, aside from the lag online. However not every ‘improvement’ has necessarily made the game better. Some fans felt that the team AI in Fifa 10 was cheap, often stealing the show and showing up the player. In response, EA seems to have made the CPU less aggressive.
Passive teammates will sometimes stall or make minor mistakes seemingly to give you the chance to shine. It’s an odd design choice which some will appreciate while others will be frustrated by. The exception is the goalie- while they seemed to block everything last time, they’re more likely to miss.
Graphically the game is a slight bump up from last year’s game, though nothing too striking. The online modes are pretty entertaining- ranked matches especially for serious players. However it comes as somewhat disappointing as the online modes are somewhat low in numbers. For those loving everything about the real-life World Cup, this is probably a must-buy. However, for those more interested in an arcade-style soccer game, Mario Super Strikers for the Nintendo Wii is what you should go with.