2010 Fifa World Cup an authentic experience

 If you have been gripped by World Cup fever, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa video game, brought to you by EA Sports, gives you all the atmosphere without actually being there.

The game is full of just enough new features to make it worth buying an extra FIFA in the year. As with previous FIFA titles, presentation is one of the most immediately apparent ways in which 2010 World Cup excels. The in-game time and score displays are exactly the same as when you watch the real competition this summer. Couple this with official branding, manager animations and even vuvuzela horns, and you really couldn’t ask for a more authentic World Cup experience.

There’s also a noticeable improvement in graphics from FIFA 10, making this the best-looking football game there’s ever been. Sure, grass realism and stadium detail is unlikely to be a factor of consideration when deciding whether to buy the game, but it does help reinforce the impression of a distinct step forward from last autumn’s release.

Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend take over commentary duties and have plenty of insight to offer about the tournament. Particularly impressive is the bespoke commentary on offer in the game’s new Story of Qualifying mission feature, where you’re given the chance to rewrite history in a variety of short challenges.

Curiously sponsored by Coca-Cola (which apparently ponied up the cash for this part of the game’s development), in this mode you’re given the opportunity to play as Ireland in extra-time after Thierry Henry’s famous handball goal, or to re-enact England’s Walcott-inspired victory in Zagreb.

Aside from the main draw of playing through this summer’s World Cup matches, with unlockable content and star ratings for each mission passed, this is where the real longevity in 2010 World Cup lies. EA Sports is even planning to release further missions based on events in South Africa via DLC during the tournament.

When it comes to the action on the pitch itself, there have been a number of small tweaks that will satisfy FIFA 10 obsessives. Game play is noticeably zippier, and goalkeepers are now far harder to chip – something anyone who’s played at a reasonable level online will know was disproportionately easy in the previous iteration. EA has also included the intriguing new feature of the “Dad Pad” – an option allowing a simpler set of controls and part-AI assistance, meaning newcomers are less likely to be scared off in their first few games.

It’s likely the focus for most will be the World Cup mode itself, and this works flawlessly. Real-time scores filtering in from concurrently played group games, and football facts from the countries with which you’re playing, are just a couple of the small touches that contribute to the larger, hugely satisfying, experience. Add in the same excellent online play available in FIFA 10 and a Captain your Country mode (much like Be a Pro) and there’s an awful lot to occupy you.

2010 World Cup takes the best football game on the market at the moment and improves on it, and you have to take your hat off to EA Sports, who must have known that any old tie-in release would have sold well given the excitement surrounding this year’s tournament. They could easily have not made the effort.

However, while a pared-down FIFA 10.5 with a brilliantly used license will be a pretty attractive prospect for many, FIFA 11 is still only four or five months away, and without any club teams available, I can understand why many will be tempted to keep their wallets in their pockets until autumn.