The new penalty system brilliantly simulates the stress of taking a pressure penalty in front of the world
What you can't turn off - not that you'd want to - are the many improvements EA Canada's made to the in-match graphics. The lighting system has been completely redone (it's hard to notice at first, but a quick game of FIFA 10 highlights the effort that's been made), and the pitches look a lot more authentic; they have a textured feel that you imagine may actually affect player movement (they don't). Player faces, particularly for the bigger teams, look astonishingly realistic. Liverpool right back Glen Johnson, for example, is unnervingly lifelike. The lesser known nations haven't enjoyed as much work, as expected, but when it comes to the famous players, like Wayne Rooney, we're approaching photorealistic levels of fidelity.
While welcome, the new graphical bells and whistles aren't the main attraction here. Every FIFA fan wants to know about the gameplay. This, really, is the crux of the matter: why should I buy World Cup if I've already got FIFA 10?
Well, EA Canada's supposedly implemented over a hundred gameplay improvements. A hundred. You'd think, then, that World Cup would feel vastly different than FIFA 10. But it doesn't. It feels ever so slightly more responsive, and as a result a touch faster, even though we know it isn't. Ultimately, World Cup feels instantly familiar, as FIFA 10 did before it.
This isn't a slight. FIFA 10 was, in my mind, the greatest football game ever made. Indeed by virtue of iteration, World Cup is the better game. Keepers don't rush out like mad men at the mere whiff of a one-on-one. Chip shots are now much harder to score from. The new penalties, which charge you with stopping an oscillating needle within the "composed" area and aiming with an invisible reticule, are the best penalties ever in a football video game. There are new animations, like controlling a lofted through ball without losing momentum, a new command-based celebration system, new skills, new shot techniques, better player awareness, and loads of other stuff going on under the hood that makes World Cup play like the incredible simulation it is. And there's even a tad more depth, with altitude now affecting player stamina and player form affecting performance.
As with any game that only incrementally improves on its predecessor, some of FIFA 10's failings have unfortunately made the cut. For a start, the crowd looks ridiculous, particularly during the silly dancing cutscenes. Player faces from lesser nations still look like waxwork nightmares, and up close, player bodies still have the posture of apes. The last word on this, though, is reserved for the commentary, which, while excellent, still suffers the odd hilarious moment, like Clive Tyldesley screaming "amazing save!" when keepers catch harmless crosses and shots.
It's worth noting that World Cup has an online ranked league, made up of ten divisions, that serious players can get their boots dirty with.
So, really, you're getting a strikingly similar gameplay experience. Bearing that in mind, is World Cup worth a punt if you own FIFA 10?
Before I answer that question, it's important to know what game modes are on offer and how they're different to those in FIFA 10. The Be a Pro mode returns, this time as Captain Your Country. It works similarly: you create a pro, select an existing player, or import your pro from FIFA 10, and play controlling only that player in the hope of making the first team squad, and then the pinnacle of anyone's football career: captaining your country.
Beyond that, and the traditional exhibition and online modes, there are a raft of impressive new modes that, in some cases, genuinely innovate the virtual football space. The highlight is 2010 FIFA World Cup Online, the first ever official online-enabled World Cup mode in a video game. It works similarly to Street Fighter IV's online championship mode. You pick from one of the 199 playable countries, play against real life opponents firstly in the group stage, then in a knockout, with the obvious goal of lifting the trophy as world champions.