Bango! A 50-yard belter from Stevie G. Blam! A 30-yarder fizzed in from Rooney. Thwack! A stunning bicycle kick from the goal machine that is Emile Heskey. We’re only 12 minutes into our opening World Cup match and already we’ve netted three of the finalists for the Goal of the Tournament competition. And there we were worrying that our love affair with FIFA might be stretched thin by this mid-year release…
The above should be immediately familiar to all FIFA 10 owners. Last year’s arcadey take on EA’s annual football game was a goal-fest of unmatched proportions, and FIFA World Cup (an infinitely more digestible moniker than 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, which we’ve been told to call it) doesn’t so much build on FIFA 10’s foundations as it does maintain them. The game has barely evolved at all.
Save for the odd HUD and menu reshuffle, the biggest factor that sets the two games apart is the lack of club teams, resulting in the most overworked goal nets in football history. It means more goals from free kicks just inside the half. More chances to jump up and celebrate a deliciously curved cross that resulted in a precarious 5-5 draw tipping in your favour during stoppage time. More time spent celebrating the sport you love most (to enjoy the moments where you’re through on goal, you flick the Wii remote to shoot and silhouettes of excited supporters begin creeping into view, encroaching on the screen like the tacky photo frames built into your mobile phone’s camera mode). And, of course, more time spent revelling in the post-goal celebrations when Lampard and company start auditioning for a place at Pineapple Dance Studios.
Vibrant menus and prominent national colours add the World Cup flavouring. Underneath it all, though, is the FIFA game where every match is the most intense one you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
The big draw this time around is, of course, the World Cup mode. We’ve never really believed that rewriting history in game form has ever made up for that match. You know, the one we see every two years (more or less) which results in a tear to beer ratio unfit for consumption, glum faces for a week and a plane full of disappointed players on their way back to the motherland. Yet some people do, and for those fortunate individuals FIFA World Cup duly delivers with a tournament that does everything you’d expect – and not a great deal more. If you want, you can jumble the group matches up and erase Henry’s handball by swapping France out for Ireland, and you can also mix up the squads by giving Terry the boot in favour of Bridge. Otherwise, it’s a no-frills addition that delivers precisely what you’d expect.
But for everybody else there’s a meatier attraction to dive into once you’ve won the World Cup once or twice. Zakumi’s Dream Team is the game’s career mode, asking you to begin life as a team of no-hopers – poor players plucked from the more obscure nations – and complete challenges against the world’s better squads. The hook comes in the Pogs-esque twist: beat a team and you can pinch one of their players.
Life asour homebrew teambegan easily enough when we were asked to roll over teams such as South Africa and the USA. A win unlocked a bronze trophy and our pick of some average players, but when we fulfilled the criteria for the silver and gold awards – usually by scoring a hat-trick or maintaining possession for a set percentage of the match – we were allowed to recruit better players from the opposition.
Presumably this involves bundling our wanted man into the boot of a Toyota Prius, driving them over the border and strapping them down, Kathy Bates Misery-style, until they either agree to transfer over their national citizenship or find themselves hobbled and dumped in a ditch. However it’s supposed to work, we’re not complaining, as the practice of assembling a dream team man by man is a massive undertaking brimming with strategy.
With only one player of any nationality permitted at one time you’ve got to be careful about who you pick: the temptation to load your midfield and striking positions with better players needs to be batted away early on, both because the Rooneys and Torreses only appear towards the mode’s close, and because well-chosen defenders are more than capable of abusing the generous scoring system.
Our first striker, Qu Bo, netted five goals in the 8-1 thriller that kick-started our ascendancy of FIFA’s world standings, and served us well until we’d shored up our shaky defence, our questionable keeper and our midfield quartet. And while the swapping mechanic is far easier to abuse than the transfer system in a regular FIFA management mode, dragging a team from the depths of nothingness to a point where even Brazil is scared to take us on is just as satisfying as being crowned Premier League champions as Plymouth Argyle in FIFA 10. Well, almost.
The spectacle of FIFA 10’s mechanics coupled with the glamour of the World Cup’s licence make FIFA World Cup a magnificent celebration of this summer’s biggest sporting event. The lack of on-the-pitch improvements is the only real sticking point, but one that’s almost balanced out by the changes elsewhere. However much pain the real World Cup delivers, this tie-in is guaranteed to entertain.
Apr 23, 2010