However, there's undeniable satisfaction in combining to undo a tough defence and seeing those points totals totting up, and in some respects this is the best mode in the game, because playing together towards a long-term goal heightens the fun and drama. You can import a custom pro from FIFA 10 for this mode, too, and when one of you does become captain you gain the ability to direct other aspects of the team.
Online, the World Cup offering is comparable to FIFA's Interactive Leagues system, building up a nation's ranking over a succession of games, while regular ranked matches now use a promotion and relegation model, awarding points for wins and draws over subsequent matches. The underlying tech appears unchanged, however, suggesting that @FIFAQuitters will have to keep fighting the good fight.
Elsewhere, the single-player Story of Qualifying mode mixes full-squad and single-player scenarios to good effect, plunging you into dramatic circumstances - the Ireland vs. France playoff just after Thierry Henry's infamous handball, for instance - and inviting you to write your own legend. Apparently EA can introduce new scenarios quite easily, too, so we should see some contextual updates during the World Cup itself.
Drama was a watchword for the development team judging by the wholesale revamp of penalties, which now place greater emphasis on timing and judgement as opposed to luck. Spend a bit of time on the practice pitch investigating how the power bar works, how to use the stutter step and when and for how long you need to angle the left stick to bury the ball in the side netting, and the results will be there for all to see. Whether you can do it all in the heat of the moment is another thing.
The learning curve on penalties is steep enough that people will be caught out by it initially, but 2010 FIFA World Cup makes concessions elsewhere, with a new two-button "Dad Pad" control scheme that does most of the thinking on your behalf, leaving you with little to worry about beyond running around, passing and shooting.
The idea is to make it easier for newcomers to play against experienced players, and to some extent it works, as Dad Padders simply aren't allowed to make basic mistakes in defence, and a lot of pass selection is automated. We can probably expect to see it again, although a refined version that allows you to gradually expose yourself to more difficulty might be a superior long-term option in FIFA 11.
Whoops, we've gone and mentioned FIFA 11. EA Sports' next "proper" football game could be as little as five months away, and is likely to absorb all the best things 2010 FIFA World Cup does on the pitch and surround them with more modes, features and playable clubs than ever before. It's not the World Cup developers' fault that their game is sandwiched between annual updates, but that doesn't entitle their corporate overlords to a free ride.
2010 FIFA World Cup isn't a cynical release, at least, but it was always doomed to be obsolete within months, and by that token it's hard to offer more than a guarded recommendation - even though those who do make the investment will probably enjoy their footballing summer more than the numpties we're sending to South Africa.