Once upon a time the biennial announcement of a FIFA World Cup or Euro game was met with unparalleled disinterest. And rightly so: the titles were pure shovelware, produced to make a quick buck out of the biggest sporting event of the summer. In 2008, however, things changed. After an appalling 2006 World Cup game hopes for anything above average for Euro
2008 were rock bottom. But instead of the usual gurnfest, EA delivered its first good football game of the decade. Euro 2008 is the criminally forgotten evolutionary step in FIFA's transition from trade-in fodder to greatness, and though it wasn't perfect* it laid the groundwork on which FIFA built its stock, excelling where PES has failed so gloriously.
It's no surprise to discover that World Cup South Africa (WCSA) is far less progressive than its tournament-based predecessor. Now that the main series has settled into a successful groove EA needn't be as daring with the mechanics. Refinement, not revolution, is the vibe behind this one: tweaking and fixing FIFA 10's niggles without dislodging the fine balance of the on-the-pitch action. Expect smarter keepers who are less inclined to stray forward, tougher chip shots and small control improvements like chest-trapping and allowing a long ball drop over your shoulder.
The biggest changes all feed off of the World Cup license. As the official tournament game, WCSA stars all 199 participating teams, all ten tournament stadia and a selection of extra pitches from each of the qualifying region. The tournament can be taken online too, and Battle of the Nations mode collates information from every match played to discover which nation has the best FIFA players.
As well as incidental improvements (fireworks, streamers and all the other back-of-the-beer-mat extras) EA is keen to bring the match location into play.
Home advantage will often swing the match stats in favour of one side, while teams playing at a high altitude will become fatigued quicker than during a match at sea level. Ball behaviour will also change in stadia with less air resistance, though we're promised this will be only slight, to avoid moon physics.
For once the news of minor improvements is a good thing. With MW2's online mode, Infinity Ward proved that adding too much to a winning formula can ruin a great game. Luckily EA knows how close FIFA is to perfection and isn't prepared to jeopardise the position any time soon.