FIFA 11 Hands On Impressions

by on September 2, 2010

FIFA is one of the most successful football (soccer) games of all time, but only in recent years has the game truly deserved the title with the introduction of some revolutionary gameplay changes such as 360 degree dribbling and the be a pro game mode. Whilst the foundations have been laid with FIFA 08, 09 and 10, fans feel that there is room for some much needed improvement and are looking for FIFA 11 to deliver.

Last week, myself and Asim were invited down to a special FIFA 11 community event at the Emirates Stadium in London to play the code which was on offer at Gamescom 2010. What did we think of the game and the much talked about new features? Read on to find out.

[singlepic id=90 w=320 h=240 float=left]PRO PASSING: Passing, probably the biggest topic of FIFA discussion amongst the GodisaGeek crew. Passing in recent FIFA games has been dubbed “ping-pong”. My understanding of this term is this – a team passing the ball around the pitch with extreme pace and accuracy, requiring minimal effort from a player using assisted passing settings.

The big new feature to kill the dreaded “ping-pong” is “pro passing”. EA’s Gary Paterson explains that passes will require increased skill and consideration on the assisted and semi-assisted control settings. My view of pro passing is a little different to Mr Paterson, I feel that accurate passing is still very easy to accomplish on the assisted and semi-assisted control settings. The main difference between passing in FIFA 10 and FIFA 11 in my eyes is pace, in FIFA 11 the ball has less zip and tends to bobble a little. There is nothing wrong with a little bobble though, in fact I welcome it.

This is where we are with passing in FIFA 11, passing is still incredibly easy to pull-off, but has been curtailed to ensure unrealistic passing moves are less likely to happen when playing human opponents. It seems like a safe move from EA to “fix” passing, but not revolutionise it in any way.

CONTROLS: The controls in FIFA 11 have some unexpected yet good additions, it seems that choice is the name of the game with a high number of options available to players.

[singlepic id=89 w=320 h=240 float=right]A couple of the big changes include a new auto switch option. If, like me, you prefer to play with manual player switching to ensure you have total control of your team then you may have been caught out a few times by a high ball such as a cross. This is now a thing of the past, as a new switch option allows for auto switching to occur only with high balls, leaving players such as myself in total control when the ball is on the deck, but assisted in the air.

Another good addition to the control scheme is an option to increase the effectiveness of the power bar when passing with the assisted or semi-assisted passing option. The idea is that whilst the assisted controls will take care of the pass direction (as it usually does) players will have increased control over the weight of a pass, bringing more skill into the passing equation. I do have one question though, why is this not a default option? Hmm.

For a full rundown on the new control features you can check out this video of FIFA 11’s Lead Producer David Rutter.

PERSONALITY PLUS: David Rutter compared personality plus to Modern Warfare 2’s perks system, certain players will have a number of perks which defines their strengths as a player. I noticed straight away that Carlos Puyol had a toughness ability which meant he would be physical in a tackle. I am not sure how many “perks” or “traits” are available in the game, but I do know players can have more than one. For instance, Puyol also had the tactician trait. In fact, he had quite a few others traits too and each of them defined him as an outstanding player in a number of different defensive situations.

[singlepic id=88 w=320 h=240 float=left]The main question is though, does this give players personality? I will stick my head out and say yes, even at this stage. I have confidence that over time, key abilities will be noticed and sought after, adding an element of individuality to players.

360 FIGHT FOR POSSESSION: FIFA 09 and 10 had a relatively good physical element, ensuring every ball had to be fought for, but things did get a little old over time. The “360 fight for possession” freshens up the physicality of the game allowing for physical teams to mix it up in a somewhat realistic and competitive way all over the pitch.

FIFA 10’s physicality was some what two-dimensional, a player would have to approach an opponent from a specific angle for a tussle to ensue. It is called “360” but is it really 360 degrees? It does not matter too much at this point. After all, is 360 dribbling completely 360? Maybe, but who cares as long as it works and feels good to play. 360 fight for possession felt really good and that’s what counts.

GAME PACE: The whole pace of the game feels like it has been taken down a notch, this might have been done to combat the “ping-pong” passing or it might have been done to make the game that bit more realistic…..who knows?!  Whatever the reason behind the drop in pace, I can say that it felt just right.

Games still retain the ability to shift into spells of high tempo, but this is purely player driven. Players may find it harder to shift up a gear with the slower passing and physical presence, but should appreciate the challenge of a game with increased realism.

SUMMARY: Some of my impressions may seem a little too critical to some, but that is only because I expect so much from FIFA 11. That being said, FIFA 11 is a much improved game when compared with FIFA 10, the team behind the game are certainly pushing in the right direction. Going by what I have played, FIFA 11 is shaping to be a worthy purchase for anyone who enjoys the virtual beautiful game.

Checkout the video below to see some of the new features in play


[singlepic id=87 w=320 h=240 float=right]Before I delve into the meat of my FIFA 11 impressions, I just want to say that it plays a good game of football (much like FIFA 10), but the features EA have added (the ones they keep talking about anyway) don’t really add much to the gameplay. In fact, I think one particular feature (360 fight for possession) hinders the gameplay at times. Much has been made of the “360 fight for possession” feature and I think it sounds good in theory, but when put into practice on the pitch…..it just doesn’t work that well. Worryingly, I think it makes the game a bit too physical at times and doesn’t allow the player the freedom to express themselves. Then you have the times where it just doesn’t work at all. If you listened to our PES 2011 vs FIFA 11 podcast, you would have heard me mentioning a certain situation where the “360 fight for possesion” feature totally failed. I found it quite strange that Drogba managed to hold off four players from different angles and somehow composed himself perfectly to score a goal. Maybe EA are still tweaking this particular feature, but going by my experience so far I wasn’t really impressed.

That brings me nicely onto the “pro passing” and “personality plus” features, which (I hope I am not being too harsh here) seemed to be pretty much non existent. Even though the game speed has been slowed down, “ping pong” passing is still very much present. When playing on the assisted settings, you can still tap the pass button rapidly a few times and the ball will go straight to another player on your team. No skill involved, just tapping of the pass button. This happened with every team and every player in the code that was played. Granted, there weren’t any “poor” teams playable in the code that was on offer, but even the defenders could pass amazingly accurately on the assisted settings. Maybe, you need to play as Blackpool or Stoke City to truly see how “pro passing” works, but doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of the feature?! The difference should be felt with the player first, not the team. Maybe that is down to “personality plus” not having an effect on the game too. The additions of “perks” or “traits” is a good idea, but they count for nothing if you don’t feel much of a difference between players of differing skill or technique. Sure, you might find that Messi or Ronaldo are faster than other players, but does that really equate to personality? My answer would be no. I still think that FIFA fails in making you feel like you are in control of a certain player, a quality individual such as Messi or Ronaldo.

[singlepic id=86 w=320 h=240 float=left]It’s not all gloom and doom though in terms of the new features as the “be a goalkeeper” addition is surprisingly good. The actual mode itself wasn’t playable in the code at the Emirates (or at Gamescom), but you did get to try your hand at goalkeeping whilst a match loaded up. I think the experience is best summed up by saying that myself and Aryel spent quite a bit of time in the “loading screen” playing about, even when a match was all ready to go. To put it in simple words, it’s fun – especially when going up against a human player. You feel immensely satisfied when you make a save whether it be on assisted, semi-assisted or manual settings. For those of you who don’t know how the “be a goalkeeper” feature works, click here to check out the official video which tells you everything you need to know.

When all is said and done, FIFA 11 is a good football game. Going by what I have played so far though, it is only a slight improvement over FIFA 10. Sure, the folks at EA Sports didn’t need to improve that much compared to the competition (PES 2011), but it’s still very hard not to be disappointed with the features that they have added in FIFA 11. All the features (pro passing, personality plus and 360 fight for possession) need some serious work if they are to have any positive effect on the gameplay. If they manage to do that before the game is released then it could be something special, but as it stands the battle for football gaming supremacy is wide open.

Pre-order FIFA 11 in the UK or Pre-order FIFA 11 in the US