As certain as night follows day, it was a sure thing that EA Sports would announce a World Cup game in time for this year's South African tournament. After all, FIFA 10 is now within touching distance of selling 10 million copies, making it one of the most successful games in EA Sports' history. So we pretty much knew what we were in for when we received an invite to a mysterious event in London recently where the division's Peter Moore lifted the lid on 2010 FIFA World Cup. What did surprise us, however, was just how different a proposition it was from the four-month old FIFA 10, with a much more vibrant look that befits the World Cup tournament. We managed to get hands-on time with the game at Stamford Bridge, where Premier League leaders Chelsea ply their trade, and spoke to producer Simon Humber about what to expect.
"We've been working on the game for 12 months to create the most stunning football game ever," said Humber. This has been achieved, he claims, through enhancing the gameplay, improving the visual authenticity, and capturing the carnival atmosphere of the tournament itself. The gameplay improvements are undoubtedly the most important, but it's certainly a tough job for Humber and his team to top what David Rutter achieved in FIFA 10. "We've something new in every area," he claims, listing 100 improvements in passing, shooting, dribbling, and every other basic gameplay feature in the game. Humber is upfront about other FIFA 10's annoyances, such as the goalies who were too eager to rush out and the fact that it was too easy to chip them as a result. Both issues have been addressed in the World Cup game.
Of course, while FIFA 10 is authentic to domestic football, the World Cup is a different beast entirely. We'll have to wait for the actual tournament to see how this year's event is presented on TV, but early marketing shows a bold colour scheme, and the South African weather should give the whole event a bright visual aesthetic. All these elements have been incorporated into the game, which results in a distinct carnival feel to the tournament. The crowds are vastly improved over FIFA 10--each team has its own 3D supporters, on whom the camera focuses during downtime, wearing their own team colours and waving their nation's flags.
All of the razzmatazz is there, too, with fireworks, confetti, and the new LED ad boards adding to the atmosphere. The FIFA broadcast captions have all been licensed, which means that the matches should have the same feeling whether you're playing them on your console or simply watching the real tournament unfold on TV. Also new are the actual managers for all 199 eligible teams who will bark orders at their teams from the sidelines. And if you take your team through the seven games to go from group stages to the finals of the tournament, you can watch them winning the World Cup as we saw when Humber played a video of England lifting the trophy.
One of the most surprising aspects of 2010 FIFA World Cup is just how much the graphics have changed from a technical perspective. The new lighting engine really adds to the realism of the players, with comparison shots of Ashley Cole and, particularly, Peter Crouch revealing the greatest improvement in the new game. The pitch is similarly improved, with richer, more textured grass clearly shown in Wembley comparison shots. With the carnival atmosphere of the competition added to the game, 2010 FIFA World Cup is substantially different from its predecessor in terms of visuals.
As Humber said during his presentation, this is the first time the World Cup tournament will be playable online. Details are sketchy right now, but there will be a persistent multiplayer mode where you will be able to represent your favourite team against the rest of the world. There'll also be an interactive globe in the game with statistics and news pulled in during the buildup, as well as the competition itself, from FIFA.com. We'll have to wait a little longer before finding out more about these features, but with 300 million FIFA 10 online games played and counting, you can be sure that online will be a huge focus for EA Sports in 2010 FIFA World Cup.
2010 FIFA World Cup will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and PSP on April 30, leading up to the the tournament itself on June 11. Stay tuned for more info on the game as we get it.