2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Xbox 360 Review

June 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher: EA Sports  Developer: EA Canada  Genre: Sports  Players: 1-20  Age Rating: 3+

Other console/handheld formats: PS3, Wii, PSP

The trademarks, advertising hoardings and colourful presentation promise an accurate recreation of this summer’s international tournament – but how well does the action hold up, compared to the recent high point of FIFA 10?

Commentary helps you through the menu system, updated to include a globe showing the 199 different countries available to play. To start with a favourite country is chosen (which will automatically appear in Quick Start games) and your level of skill determined (in part by looking for other FIFA game saves on your hard drive). Diving into a quick match is fun, but you can instead go to the practice pitch, take penalties or try one of the new modes.

Most of the time will be spent in World Cup mode. The teams and squads from the real tournament are of course included, along with online updates to synchronise the game with real life changes. The calendar and tournament hub guide you through, with the option to train and change your squad, read the news on what’s happening and more. It’s possible to have several human-controlled teams in the same tournament, or get the console to simulate games for you. Injuries in training and suspensions play a critical role in managing your squad through the month-long event.

EA’s games still have the best goalmouth action.

Story of Qualifying presents over fifty different scenarios to play. These allow you to see what was happening in the various regional qualifying groups and attempt to change history – can you help Vanuatu hang on for a famous win against New Zealand, or get the Republic of Ireland past France in the play-off? When the real tournament begins, additional scenarios telling the story of the competition will be available. Captain Your Country is similar to FIFA 10’s Be A Pro mode (and players from that can be imported to this game). You control just one player on the pitch rather than switching control, your stats improving when you play well. Up to four people can compete in this mode, with constant feedback on how your “rivals” are doing. A full schedule of B internationals and friendlies prepares the players for the real business of the World Cup qualifiers, the manager giving messages of encouragement to players trying to earn their place in the starting line up. The ultimate aim is to qualify and captain your chosen country at the World Cup.

Online play sees the player picking a country to represent. All of your online results will then be credited to that country, with the end of the real tournament marking the end of the Battle of the Nations. It’s possible to play a quick match or indulge in a full tournament online, and performance remains as good as FIFA 10 with up to twenty playing. The online lobbies let you find matches with particular criteria, and there is an additional World League Ladder. Earning enough points from a season of ten games will see you promoted to a higher division (and tougher competition), but poor performance could see you relegated.

The animation of the players is excellent and the stadiums are beautifully represented, from shadows on the ground to the fireworks at the start of a game. Sadly the cutscenes have imperfections – the peculiar “stuffed shirt” look of the managers, and the jump between the manager on his own and talking to the substitute about to go on is glaring. There are also other glitches, with panels slow to appear or players suddenly vanishing when a menu pops up.

The cup tournament can be played online for the very first time.

The menus are bright and cheerful, but seem to lack some of the depth that made FIFA 10 so good. Lazy text – a typical example would be “played in 1 World Cup(s)” – lets it down slightly, but the news stories do bring a smile to the face. Sound is a mixed bag, with plenty of atmosphere generated by the crowds (and the plastic horns) in the stadium. At times the commentary from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend is a little repetitive, but there are some good phrases in there that capture the mood. The EA Trax doesn’t have the same impact as in previous releases but are a reasonable mix of styles and sounds.

Play on the pitch is excellent, with tweaks and improvements over FIFA 10. The most obvious is the new method of taking penalties, bringing into play the player’s composure and giving human keepers more of a chance to save. It’s worth practising them before embarking on a full tournament. In general player AI seems to be of the same high standard as FIFA 10, with very few niggles. The scenarios in the Story of Qualifying mode are great fun to play, ranging from a short five-minute blast to enduring a long match. Control includes the new “Dad Pad” with its simplified two-button control and greater ability to customise the buttons. The only doubt would be the long-term interest in repeating the tournament.

The most important question to answer is should you buy this if you already have FIFA 10? Dedicated football fans will already know what they are going to do, but for everyone else it will come down to how desperately you want to re-enact the World Cup in your own living room. It still plays a great game of football though.