2010 FIFA World Cup is a hefty game featuring over 100 countries and the full World Cup tournament set on site in South Africa. You can work through the qualification schedule with any country or jump straight into the World Cup group stages. There’s a penalty shootout mini game and also a Captain My Country mode, which like most EA sports games, lets you control a single custom player throughout all the matches. Interestingly, the game was released before provisional rosters are announced. So surprisingly, players like Beckham, Ronaldinho, Benzema and Ballack are actually in the game even though they’re not going to South Africa.
One good thing about FIFA World Cup is its load times. The game loads reasonably fast and if you ever need to pop out of the game and do something else, your game is automatically saved; no questions asked. You can only have one campaign going on with each mode so if you’re playing Captain My Country, you can only be captain of one nation, although you’re free to play the other modes as another country. Even though games go fairly quickly in accelerated time, I never had an issue with putting the game down and picking up later.
What loads on screen are some finely animated players who are capable of showing that they’re fighting for the ball and doing acrobatic moves on the pitch. Unfortunately, the level of facial detail for all the characters is pretty much non-existent. For example, I could barely tell the difference between John Terry and Ashley Cole. Except for bald players, everyone looks relatively the same. The rest of the game is fairly polished and FIFA World Cup features all the South African stadiums and kits that belong to each nation. Kit selection is actually quite important. I was playing England once and paired up with Serbia only to realize the game actually allowed both of us to get on the pitch with white kits. That was embarrassing to say the least.
One of the interesting quirks of FIFA World Cup is in its idea of player control. For most games, once you’re off camera or you’re about to be off camera, control then shuffles to the player closest to the action. In FIFA World Cup, control never shifts until a fellow teammate wins the ball, which means you can be hopelessly trying to catch up from the opposing side of the pitch after a goal kick. This has its positive and negative moments but I would have liked this to be configurable option.
Speaking of options, even after battling through the group stages into the finals, I still didn’t have a good grasp of the controls. The directional control on the left hand side moves wherever you place your finger. I surmise this was done because the ball might be playing in the lower right hand corner of the iPhone and you wouldn’t be able to see. But all it really does is make it more difficult. I couldn’t count how many times my player would stand still because I was moving the directional joystick where I thought the controls were when in fact it had moved on me on the screen. It is extremely annoying and certainly does not help with the gameplay.
The most worrying part of the gameplay, however, is in the artificial intelligence. On amateur mode, the opponents are pretty basic. They will rarely take a shot on net and sometimes back pass and dribble all the way back to their own end of the pitch for no apparent reason. However, this can be changed by ratcheting up the difficulty level in which the opposing players will markedly increase their possession time. The developers, however, neglected to give your teammates a slider as well as all throughout the game they are stuck on amateur mode. Teammates simply don’t support you in 1v1 situations, attacks and movement off the ball. Let’s start with simply dispossessing an opposing player. You could dispossess someone with a sliding tackle and be on the ground needing time to recover. By the time you recover, the opposing player will have won the free ball back all the while your teammate will simply stare at the whole situation. When it comes to attacks, it’s painful when shots at the keeper yield rebounds in the box and yet my forwards and wingers will stand idly or even shuffle back to get on defense. In fact, unless I set up a 4-3-3 formation, rarely do midfielders even come up to support an attack. Most of the time, the only person in or around the box is your central striker, which makes it all but impossible to land a shot when the opposing team has four defenders standing in front of you. Finally, teammates don’t have a lot of movement off the ball. While the game does have an option to double tap a pass to pass it to a teammate and have them pass it directly back to you, rarely do teammates run forward to get into position. In fact, when you aim at a player and select them as a recipient for the pass, they often stand lead-footed in one position waiting for your ball to come oblivious to the fact that an opponent could meander into the passing lane. Or if the pass did not have enough power, they actually do not run towards the ball and will wait patiently until the pass is intercepted or completed. I guess the good thing is there is never an offside.
Finally, the commentary is dodgy at best when related to what’s happening on the pitch. I sent in a severely under powered cross from a corner kick where the defenders then took the ball and started a counterattack. Somehow, this meant the commentator should say I made a great corner and then uttered “This is good” just as the defender had the ball at his feet. I’m not sure how any part of the above sequence of events can be considered positive. But like the rest of the game, the commentary sounds professional but ultimately is inconsistent especially with how it’s implemented. It’s this inconsistency that creates an underwhelming gaming experience with FIFA World Cup. Let’s hope the real games aren’t like that.