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Why FIFA World Cup 2010 is a fix... on PS3, at least

Lalala passing, 5* abuse, 100% aggression - and how it threatens to derail arguably the best football game of all time

I've not been playing 2010 FIFA World Cup. I've been obsessing about it - to the extent that no other game's getting a look in. Blur, SplitSecond, UFC 2010, Skate 3... all lasted minutes in my PS3, or remain in shrink wrap. Even Rockstar's incredible, but structurally familiar and undeniably slow burning, Red Dead Redemption only survived an hour until I popped in EA's latest for another crack at the Online World Cup. Thing is, I'm now good enough at it to realise that it's one of the most 'broken' online experiences on PS3, though no less compelling for its imbalanced quirks. It's not just me who's noticed... as an increasingly irate rebellion on EA's own message boards suggests.

The roots of the problem are thus: When I first started playing, there were only two possible outcomes to a ranked online game. 1) I lost 7-1 to someone who seemed to be playing a different game, who won every tackle, who scored every jammy goal possible; while my players crumbled and failed to make basic passes. Or 2) I'd take a two goal lead and... my opponent would quit out. Instantly. So, either way, when I won, I couldn't win. Highly frustrating.

Tens of tens of hours later, I 'understand' the game a lot better; a bit like Neo peeking through the source code of The Matrix. I've even learnt to manipulate the code myself, humiliating noobs in the same way I was once humbled. But seeing the code, and agreeing with it, are two different things, and there are some serious issues affecting FIFA World Cup which fans, like myself, are increasingly distraught about.

Lalala or Ping Pong passing
What I didn't realise when I started playing, is that 1-2 passes (using L1 + x) are ABSURDLY powerful when it comes to creating space. In fact, used between two top strikers like Torres/Villa, it's almost unstoppable - even if you move to prevent the run, the striker just brushes you off the ball. Or tapping to switch defenders causes a fatal 'brain freeze', which allows the striker to charge into the space, despite your best efforts to cover the gaps.

5* Abusers
There are a handful of 5* ability teams in the game who are, frankly, too powerful to handle, including France, Spain, England, Brazil and sort-of Italy. While a technically gifted played could beat them with a lower skill team, their sheer power/pace - attributes which FIFA places too much stock in - is too much for most sides to handle. My brief dalliance with home nation Wales was quashed after I tired of my 67 ish ranked players being swatted aside by Spain's 85+ warriors. Torres might as well have laughed at James Collins as he muscled him to the floor.

Custom Formation Abusers
You can custom design a 'weird' formation offline, and use it online. The most infamous of which is 6-0-4 (a formation that wouldn't exist in real-life in such a pure format, though Mourinho's Inter do adopt a similar 'blocking' mindset). Simply, you clog up the defensive area with high power players, then turbo pass/through ball up to your high speed strikers when the other team has over-committed. Again, a bit like real life, but it's in-game exploitation borders on comical, especially when used in conjunction with...

100% Pressure/Aggression Abuse
When setting up your Custom Tactics, you can set your team's tactics sliders to 100% aggression/pressure, so they fight like dogs for every ball, and close down players like heat seeking missiles. You'll know when you're up against someone using it, since every time a midfielder receives the ball, he's suddenly hounded by three players, arriving as if from nowhere. The issue isn't that EA allows you to apply such pressure, but that its use isn't correctly punished - with a good team, you can apply grinding pressure for 70 mins at least without any noticeable stamina drop. You don't need players who are fit to do that. You need robots.

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