FIFA 11 Review
Game: FIFA 11
Developer: EA Canada
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
It’s that time again folks, FIFA is 11 (according to the adverts) and with the new year comes new features, new concerns, new hopes and yet another chance for EA to get the online modes just right. Once upon a time FIFA games were just incremental in their updates, some might even argue that they would have been better suited to annual paid DLC updates, but in recent years EA Canada have really gone to town with their efforts to make it worthwhile for the consumer to lay down cold hard cash on their games.
With the annual FIFA vs PES “debate” (it was a debate once by the way, nowadays it’s just fanboys beating each others bloody corpses) roaring into full swing (and PES has come on leaps and bounds this year), has FIFA done enough to keep it’s place at the very top? Read on for the full review.
[singlepic id=250 w=320 h=240 float=left]GRAPHICS: Never a let down in the visual department, FIFA 11 is excellent to look at. Player likenesses are yet again improved on, but there is still work to do in this area. The biggest improvement to any graphical elements of FIFA 11 are in the menus themselves and how the game presents itself outside of the actual matches. EA have listened to the complaints about never-ending menus and it’s far easier to navigate and find exactly what you want in them now. That’s not to say it’s perfect, because there is still a lot depth and some things are hidden away a little, but the things you need most on a regular basis are easy to get to.
SOUND: As per usual with a FIFA game the sound is excellent, plenty of real-life songs (but not the rude ones) sung by the crowd, the usual eclectic soundtrack to accompany the menus. Hitting the crossbar or post has never sounded so good, it sounds like you are going to break the bar in half when you hit it. Even the advertising boards behind the goals sound weighty and correct.
Small touches like hearing the players shouting to each other during practice matches just add to the experience, but the main new feature to the sound department is the custom chants and songs.
Basically, within the options menu you will be able to customize chants for all sorts of occasions such as scoring a goal, players doing well, away team doing well and many others. This feature can also use the media sharing capability of your console (certainly on Xbox 360 anyway) and you can create a playlist on your media server that you can use in game. This has all sorts of connotations, of course you can just choose to have The Beatles “Let it Be” playing when you concede but you could, if so inclined, decide to record yourself shouting abuse and create it as a playlist for when the opposition scores. When playing online your opponent won’t hear it, but playing local multiplayer there’s the opportunity for mirth to be had! It’s not the most incredible feature, but it proves yet again that FIFA is very customisable!
[singlepic id=247 w=320 h=240 float=right]GAMEPLAY: Let’s get the biggest change out of the way straight away, FIFA 11 has had the physicality ramped up significantly. At first this doesn’t feel like a good thing, but after a few games it actually feels like a really good gameplay change, for the most part. It’s actually a fairly conflicting change as it is certainly not a minor one, it’s very noticable and it does change the game. Sometimes you’ll find it frustrating getting knocked off the ball so easily, but conversely you’ll feel incredible satisfaction when you do break through and hold a defender off to slide the ball around an oncoming goalkeeper to take the lead. Despite any positives it has to be said that it’s an odd design choice as it doesn’t appear anyone was particularly clamouring for the game to be more physical, but within a few hours it will all feel totally natural anyway.
What this change does do though is add a new level of realism into proceedings, if you are a lightening fast player you’ll still be able to beat the defender to the ball and leave them in the dust and if you are a strong player you’ll be able to shrug off all but the most world class defenders. Whether or not this additional level of realism makes the game any more enjoyable will be totally subjective however.
The other main addition to the FIFA series is the “Be a Goalkeeper” mode which is the very definition of “easy to do, hard to master”. Playing as a keeper and trying to keep up with crosses coming in is intense and guaranteed to get the palms sweaty. Control wise it is actually fairly simple though, left stick to move (as usual) and right stick to dive, with the face buttons being your “shout” buttons whereby you can command AI players if you wish. Obviously the learning curve is steep so you’ll be helped out with handy coloured lines that will tell you what position you need to be in and also the flight of the ball. One thing is for sure, “Be a Goalkeeper” online has the potential to be utter chaos. Was it worth waiting for though? Absolutely! It completes the “Be A Pro Clubs” mode and now brings full 11 vs 11 online play. The only thing worth baring in mind with “Be a Goalkeeper” is that if you are part of a good side (online or offline) then you may well not have an awful lot to do in a match. The better the defence, the less the goalkeeper will be called upon!
[singlepic id=249 w=320 h=240 float=left]A big complaint in previous FIFA titles was the “ping pong passing” and whilst it hasn’t disappeared entirely, it has been greatly reduced to the point where it doesn’t feel as big a talking point as before. If you are the type of player to hammer the pass buttons you may well come unstuck rather quickly as yet more realism has been added to the gameplay in this respect. If a player would need to “take a touch” then that is what will be required in FIFA 11 and if you don’t do that then the pass with either be short or be a complete failure, letting your opponent hit you on the break.
Holding down the “pressure” button to tackle has also had its effectiveness reduced, you now need to actually attempt to time your tackles properly or you’ll end up just getting shrugged off by any player worth his salt. This makes the game more skill based and definitely stops the button feeling like an “auto-tackle”. It is still useful though, if just to get a player to track back and it does still tackle, but it’s not as effective as actually tracking a run and timing your tackle to perfection. Moreover, the sliding tackle has been massively improved, you won’t always end up prone on the floor after a slide tackle now. Sometimes a player will go to ground, but only on one knee whereas others will slide through and come out the other side with the ball. It actually makes sliding tackles extremely satisfying to do and stops you relying on the “pressure” button as much. In short, the revamping of the pressure and sliding tackles marry together to make defending extremely satisfying.
You can once again import your EA game face, but as per usual you’ll have to start from scratch when it comes to skills. Once again, levelling up your player by completing accomplishments. Speaking of which, they have been added to on a monumental scale! Totalling 400 now, there are ribbons awarded for completing the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels accordingly. The progress for unlocking these is incredibly natural and hearing the sound when you unlock an accomplishment gives the same feeling as the achievement unlocked or trophy sounds. They all have explanations for what is required and none seem out of reach if you are prepared to put the effort in.
[singlepic id=89 w=320 h=240 float=right]Generally speaking there are other improvements too, shooting feels better. Career mode is now split into three modes, manager, be a pro or player manager (both combined) so there is no need for seperate saves over different modes. As player manager you can also choose before every match whether you wish to play as just your pro or as the entire team.
One of the features talked about pre-release was personality plus but to be honest, whilst it does play some part, it doesn’t feel as though it plays enough of a part. A good example for fans of the English Premier League is Kenwyn Jones, the bugger is unbeatable in the air. For the first time in a sports game you’ll find yourself picking your first eleven based on the opposition. When this happens to you and you actually take it in, you’ll realise how cool that is. However, the personality plus features don’t rear their heads as much as perhaps they should. Perhaps this is simply down the size of the game and the level of content and players within it.
As exhausting as it may be, we’re not done yet! One thing that may have annoyed FIFA 10 players was the fact that you had to have two seperate campaigns going, one for manager mode and one for be a pro. In FIFA 11 you can have player manager, whereby you do both which is a very welcome addition indeed. The manager mode has also been heavily revamped, taking a fairly big influence from Sky Sports (there is even an menu for “Sky Sports.com” which shows all the stats from all competitions) and it looks more like 2010 FIFA World Cup than FIFA 10. The only complaint is that when you get e-mails, once you’ve finished doing whatever they require, going back to the career menu takes a little longer than it should.
There is also a full replay theatre now, which means you can save replays for local playback or even just to upload later on. Saving and/or uploading replays still takes quite a while though and doing this in the middle of a match really takes you out of the game at times, so it’s really still a feature saved for only the most outrageously spectacular of events, at least until they manage to find a way for it to save and upload in the background.
[singlepic id=86 w=320 h=240 float=left]Online modes remain largely the same, though the online be a pro clubs mode has been slightly revamped. As with the rest of the menus, it looks much cleaner and clearer. It also looks as though there are proper leagues now and hopefully the confusion surrounding this mode might be cleared up in that respect, but due to the game not being out at the time of review, it’s hard to say for certain. The greatest shame though is that the number of people allowed to play “any” hasn’t been limited and that means you will still come up against opposition full of people playing “any” despite the mode being designed for teams playing individual positions (the clue is in the name for goodness sake, if you want to play “any” then there are normal head-to-head matches for you!) and utterly ruining the experience for others.
So despite all the positives, the game isn’t perfect. Although fully licensed there still feels no sense of occasional to the big matches. Playing as a Champions League team, playing a European match really doesn’t feel too different to any other match, and it really should feel more important than just another date on the calender. There are also some saving issues. Going in and out of the career mode e-mail screen the game “saves” for what feels like too long a period of time, this also happens in other areas of the career mode.
LONGEVITY: Everyone knows a FIFA game will last you until the next one comes along, so you can expect to get at least a full year out of the game if you love your football games. There’s plenty to do and the online clubs are better than ever. You really aren’t going to get bored any time soon playing FIFA 11. However, it is worth mentioning that only time will tell how the gameplay changes really play out.
VERDICT: At the risk of getting the fanboy peckers up, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that FIFA 11 is the best football game to date. It offers unparralleled realism (on the field, some strange things still happen off the field) and depth to gameplay, building upon the excellent FIFA 10 and 2010 FIFA World Cup games that it follows.
It’s taken a long time to get this good and most football fans have had to suffer along the way at some point, but play FIFA 11 and you’ll forgive every dodgy football game you’ve ever endured. Some of the actual footballing changes are obviously subjective, but on the whole this game is an absolute delight to experience. Give it the time it deserves and you will be rewarded with the gameplay you’ve always deserved. You need FIFA 11, you deserve FIFA 11.