When we asked you for your opinion on FIFA World Cup 2010 a few weeks ago we were a little surprised at the wealth of praise you all heaped on it. Normally these interim FIFA titles get the same reaction from the community “oh it’s just FIFA 10.5” or “two £40 FIFA’s in six months?” But throw those comments out the window and judge FIFA World Cup 2010 on its own merits and you’re left with something quite special and far, from evolutionary.
First of all there’s the menu design. It’s still the same old EA layout and it has all of the flaws and usability issues which I hate to my very core. But isn’t it nice to see a bit of colour and vibrancy in a FIFA game for once? The earthy orange colour palette, with the FIFA.com styling and the cheerful World Cup mascot Zakumi all make for excellent viewing.
There’s also another brilliant addition to the menu design which is the use of the World Map for team selection. Combined with the free analogue cursor it makes team selection an utter joy as you swish between continents with L1 and R1 for backup. It’s so much more intuitive from a usability perspective that I find it crazy something similar wasn’t implemented for FIFA 11?
Now on to the thorny issue of game modes of which there are many to choose from. The standard assault at World Cup glory is well represented as you’d expect covering everything from qualification to the finals. But the stand out game mode for me is probably the “Story of the Finals” World Cup Scenario Mode which was at its peak when the tournament was happening live in South Africa.
Within just a few days of the matches being played you’d have the latest selection of real World Cup scenarios available for download to relive on your console. Going back over them in the last few days has brought the tournament in South Africa back to life, reminding me of the many twists and turns World Cup 2010 had to offer. Personally I love this mode purely because it offers something a little different to the usual FIFA fare and fans of FIFA 08 I’m sure will nod in approval.
The biggest change to the game modes came in the online space though with skill point ranked matches thrown out in favour of a league based “three points for a win” system more akin to the real football world. There were ten online leagues to advance through with promotion and relegation always within sight. There were also cup competitions at the end of each season to give those stuck in mid-table mediocrity a chance at glory before their next online campaign. It was engaging, exciting and when there’s silverware at stake, things change.
This radical online overhaul was a bold move by EA not only because the skill point system was so ingrained in the FIFA psyche but because the server side match making had to be flawless to partner it. Not only that but it forced a change of mindset rather than gamers just blindly trying to accumulating skill points for no reason. People don’t care about being docked skill points or having a high DNF but what they do care about is winning cups and league titles. That’s the kind of positive reinforcement we want to see EA using to tackle things rage quitting and Online Leagues were a big step in the right direction. If this doesn’t come back bigger and better for FIFA 12 I’ll be shocked and probably mortified, this is too good a system for EA to let pass them by.
The gameplay however is spliced with both good and bad elements. The good is that to me the gameplay feels a lot more methodical than FIFA 11 and the AI especially is much better at getting forward and creating chances. It also seems to have inherited some the impressive Euro 08 AI where teams will react very differently when playing matches in home and away legs. It’s a little more subtle than Euro 08 which isn’t a necessarily a good thing but it is there all the same. EA need to pick up where Euro 08’s team AI started and run with it for FIFA 12.
Sadly there are a few gameplay elements which leave FIFA World Cup 2010 almost unplayable for me at times. The main one is the defensive lines which are utterly abysmal. The back four don’t seem to have any awareness for each other or their own positioning. They’re constantly being sucked in to midfield when there’s already ample cover and the centre backs track every single run in behind from the strikers. Whilst that’s great for pressing and tackling back, it plays everyone onside and leaves gaping holes for the opposition to easily exploit. There’s very little you can do to prevent it either it just happens around you leaving the defender you’re controlling utterly helpless.
One thing physics wise I think EA can take from World Cup 2010 though is the shooting. FIFA 11’s shooting is largely regarded as better this year with the extra variation in trajectory and added unpredictability things we all asked for. But what shooting has lost from World Cup 2010 is raw pace. When you hit shots in World Cup 2010 they stay hit and can crash in to the net with amazing ferocity at times, it feels brilliant. If EA could combine the trajectory and physics improvements from FIFA 11 but keep that top end pace from World Cup 2010 they’ll have shooting absolutely nailed.
In some ways it was easy for EA to be brave with some of FIFA World Cups 2010’s design choices because it isn’t a core FIFA release. If some of the more radical ideas hadn’t worked then the main FIFA title would have remained unscathed. But the most radical changes like Online Leagues, Scenario Mode and the new penalty system did work and with great success, so why not carry them all forward?
It’s also important to remember that FIFA World Cup 2010 had a transfer update, boot updates, kit updates, ball updates, unlockable teams and of course the 55 real World Cup Scenarios to download. It was well supported and well looked after, something which the main FIFA titles have failed at spectacularly.
It has its issues (which I’ve mentioned) but there’s no doubt in my mind that FIFA World Cup 2010 is the most complete and cohesive FIFA title EA have ever delivered. FIFA World Cup 2010 wasn’t just evolutionary, it was revolutionary but sadly that design bravado is something EA seem to have lost in transition to FIFA 11.
FIFA World Cup 2010 is bold, innovative and above all else brave and for me it’s the best next-gen FIFA we’ve ever seen, not quite a master piece but as close as EA has ever come.