2010 FIFA World Cup
A dangerous slide tackle resulted in a red card and the fans reacted appropriately. The crowd of thousands at Johannesburg elicited a roar, while the supporters of the penalized team expressed disgust and disappointment. Their chance of advancing to the knockout stages plummeted with that red card. How could anyone hope to contain Brazil with just ten players?
2010 FIFA World Cup does some things right, but something is missing. Despite the roars and chants from the crowd, it all feels hollow at times. After a few matches, it dawned on me why things felt so subdued: no vuvuzelas. Those obnoxious buzzing horns, louder than anything else on the broadcasts, are nowhere to be found. Despite what may be happening on the field, the action felt lifeless. Love them or hate them, it’s not a World Cup in South Africa without what sounds like a swarm of angry bees. The lack of vuvuzelas isn’t the main problem, but it’s symptomatic to some of the larger issues in the app. For every two things done right, there’s something wrong that detracts from the experience.
The core mechanics, while pared down from the console versions, work well. Considering how maddening controlling anything but Canabalt can be on the iPod/iPhone, this is no meager accomplishment. The left thumb serves as an analog stick, while two buttons on the right side operate tackling, sliding, passing and shooting. The touch-sensitive ‘buttons’ makes shooting intuitive, while requiring some finesse to maneuver around defenders.
While offense provides plenty of flair, defense is more problematic – mainly due to some of the bone-headed players. Switching to the closest defender is the best way to play, teammates have the uncanny knack to generate red cards. This is remarkable because in more than 30 games I’ve played, I’ve never seen the opponent acquire one. The refs can’t be blamed – like they can in the actual World Cup – but the questionable A.I. makes some games frustrating, especially when on the higher difficult settings. Another problem area involves the goalies. They often dive way too late for a shot, if it all. This is fun on offense. Not so much on defense.
Despite the problems in FIFA World Cup, the features are ambitious. The free play mode offers dozens of teams, from tiny Fiji to mighty Brazil, complete with player rosters. The World Cup can also be played through, but the teams and groups are exactly as they are in real life. Picking up and playing a match only takes around six minutes, making it ideal for bathroom breaks or short bus rides. There is online multiplayer, but nobody was playing the few times I checked. I assume they were watching the actual games instead.
The one mode that breaks away from the entertaining but unspectacular offerings allows you to become a captain on a country of choice. A position (forward, defender, midfield) is chosen, a limited amount of visual options are selected and then it’s off to the World Cup. Only that one player is controlled and with the questionable A.I. handling the rest of the team can be aggravating. Still, improving a character – even though his career only last a handful of games – is a nice change from controlling the entire team, but even this is flawed. Successfully completing a pass, stealing a ball, dribbling up the field, increase the score, but missing a shot, a tackle or losing a ball detract the points. In a game where I scored the only two goals, I was given a poor score simply because some of my shots hit the crossbar or missed entirely. Now imagine the real-life reaction to a two goal game coupled with plenty of near-misses. The man would be a hero.
For all its faults, 2010 FIFA World Cup was a welcome addition to the World Cup fever I’m experiencing. I played some matches – which are short and quick – between halftime breaks. I played matches before they actually happened on the television. Playing as the small teams that didn’t qualify in the free play modes was also a pleasant diversion. When the World Cup does come to an end, I can’t envision playing this game aside from the rarest of occasions. Not even the implementation of vuvuzelas would change that.