The gameplay in 2002 FIFA World Cup is almost identical to FIFA 2002, which was released only 6 months prior. Most notably, it introduced to the franchise what are effectively passive abilities. If a player is especially renowned for being an exceptional passer, his passes can curve past defenders. If he is known for his running, he might run faster than anyone else on the pitch.
The A.I has four levels of difficulty:
- Amateur - The easiest difficulty setting. The A.I rarely tackles and gives away penalties on a regular basis. Their shooting is inaccurate, and when dribbling they rarely sprint.
- Semi Pro - While still easy, the A.I has made improvements. They will rarely foul the player, but will still shoot inaccurately and make running errors.
- Pro - The biggest leap between difficulties. The A.I never makes stupid fouls, and are deadly at close range. However, they still apply primitive tactics.
- World Class - The hardest difficulty setting. The A.I will score almost every time within 30 yards. Their tactics are advanced and they are fast on counter-attacks.
The game's soundtrack is fully orchestral. Whenever a goal is scored, one of 7 orchestral pieces are played, seemingly at random.