New-style soccer videogames top old

  • Technology
  • Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010

New football titles are hitting store shelves as the World Cup games are being beamed in from South Africa.

Football is kind of an odd duck for gaming. How best should a game developer spice up a sport in which the final score is often 1-0? How do you inject gaming action into a sport where the scoreboard stands, mostly, unchanged?

With the World Cup just days away, I took a look at 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and Pure Futbol for an answer.

First on the pitch was 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, (by EA Sports for Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and Nintendo Wii).

This is the official licensed videogame tethered to the real competition, which started on June 11.

This game adheres to the structure and country lineups of the real World Cup.

It includes all 199 teams that took part in qualification. The player names and faces (and often distinct haircuts) are familiar, as are the playing styles of soccer stars, such as Landon Donovan of the United States and English footballer Wayne Rooney.

Improved mechanic

I played the Xbox 360 version and started off with a quick tutorial to learn some kick and pass controls. It is hard at first to keep the ball from sailing too high, but once I booted a few past a practice goalie I was off to play a match.

I began my quest for the cup in Group C, alongside England, Algeria and Slovenia. I opted past the qualifying rounds and used the straight-to-the-finals options, although I could have played some friendly matches to tune up a bit.

England trounced me straight away, 7-0. No surprise there, but I toughened up a bit and made the following matches closer by leaning on two of my squad’s strongest ball-handlers, Donovan and Jozy Altidore.

Donovan beat his man up the sideline pretty well, and consistently set himself up to make a strong cross.

The trouble for football videogames still exists when you try to make hard cuts with the ball.

There is a bit of a lag on this title, and most others, that gives the computer defender enough time to disrupt your path and break up your play just too often.

Sure, you learn to dish the ball off a little sooner as you gain more experience in the game, but it perhaps too closely mirrors real life soccer in which nearly all journeys to the goal end in, well, no goal at all.

That aside, the sport is beautifully rendered here. The replays are fantastic on goals and near misses that graze the cross bar.

The announcers and ambient crowd noise are the best I have heard in a sports game. They call each play accurately, barking out the names of the exact players involved in the corner kicks and penalties.

Hearing the game called in such realistic fashion helped keep me engaged and learn my players and their nuances.

FIFA World Cup South Africa is a solid title. It does not break any new ground, but it treats the sport with accuracy and respect.

Pure fun

Pure Futbol (from Ubisoft for Xbox 360, PlayStation3) throws tradition aside in favour of a brutal modern twist on football.

In this game, professional players have grown disgruntled by having matches decided by a referee’s quick whistle.

They agree to play at locations across the globe, with no referees and few rules. These matches are very different from a traditional setup. It is five-on-five (goalies included) and the ball can move from end to end quickly on what visually appears to be a shortened field.

Instead of the midfield camera angle on most football games, I played behind my ball handler and could see only in front of me and to the sides as I sprinted down the pitch.

A nice feature in Pure Futbol is the cross shot indicator. When my player moved the ball close to my opponent’s goal, a small purple triangle glowed to indicate that one of my teammates was in good position to receive a cross kick, and possibly take a strong shot on goal.

This paid off and I was blasting strong shots at the goalie in no time.

The matches are quick and set to last three minutes each by default. I could toggle up my aggression level to really take on the role as a bullying “hard man” on my side.

I also liked the shot meter, an arc of coloured zones determined how well I would perform my power or skill shots. I had to release it as close to the narrow white-coloured zone as possible to have a better chance to score.

The soccer learning curve on both titles is challenging. I had more fun once I learned to control my shots and keep them low.

I preferred the fast pace of Pure Futbol over the official FIFA title. It gave soccer a fresh new look which purists may shun, but those looking for a departure from the 1-0 contests might appreciate.

Two out of four stars for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Three out of four stars for Pure Futbol. — RON HARRIS (AP)

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