Wednesday 6 October 2010

Game Review – FIFA 11

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

There is no doubt in my mind that FIFA has become a staple household product for any fan of football. Throughout the past three editions of the game, we have seen FIFA rise to dominance as the best and most comprehensive football simulator, brushing aside the ever-popular Pro Evolution Soccer series and other attempts at football games. Since FIFA10, the development staff has been hard at work tinkering and redefining the game-play of FIFA and this was evidently shown in the World Cup addition to the series. Many however, exclaimed this was nothing more than a 1.5 model of FIFA11 and the 2.0 final product was not yet complete. Well right they were, as good as World Cup 2010 was, FIFA11 continues its tradition by expanding its mechanics to make FIFA11 even more fluid and life-like. Once again, this is the best football sim on the market and the best installment of the series yet.

It is difficult to describe the changes FIFA11 have put into place as like all sports simulators, it is all about the ‘feel’ of the game, I think that is the most appropriate word for what I am trying to get across. If one had to describe immediate and noticeable differences between FIFA10 / World Cup 2010 and FIFA11 is the latter is slower paced, relies much more on one touch football to work round players, has a much better and harder to master passing mechanic, more intelligent goalies so scoring is even harder and an unpredictability in shots taken so finishing does not become robotic and easy. These are just the tip of the iceberg but FIFA11 does a fantastic job portraying and even more realistic and fair game than its predecessor, if that’s even possible. A pretty entertaining amendment was the fact it was clear that the development staff simply didn’t know what to do with the lob shot; in FIFA10 it was hilariously easy to score using the lob, while the World Cup game completely nullified the technique giving me a grand total of 0 lobs scored in over 250 clocked games. Well it has become slightly easier to manage a chip in FIFA11, but once again, with the air of unpredictability surrounding the game, those lob shots can go just about anywhere.

On paper FIFA11 stresses the importance of individual player traits through the Personality Plus schematic. This essentially categorizes players and shows their best skills in badge form, be it having incredible strength, speed, the ability to produce excellent crosses, long distance shots or prolific finishing inside 25 yards. It kind of feels like a badge system for those who do not really know footballers, so when you pick a team logic dictates your speedster should be out on the wing and your strong holding player should be at the back of the midfield. Regardless, as much as the game parades these badges, there really isn’t that much player differentiation. I have noticed some really nice touches, like Lionel Messi running exactly like he does in real life, but other than the top athletes of the top clubs, little can be distinguished between players.

EA have certainly made a bold statement by essentially not offering any new game modes to FIFA11, instead concentrating entirely on redefining their already incredible formula. The career mode offered is a mixture of the previous ‘be a pro’ and ‘manager’ modes, allowing you to do one or the other, or both at the same time. This is certainly a welcome enhancement as it takes the best from the previous modes and rolls them into one package, allowing variation in how you play the games and with some enhanced managerial abilities that increase player interaction, it can actually be quite a lot of fun to progress through the career. A somewhat controversial addition to FIFA is the ability to play as the Goalkeeper in career mode offline and in competitive online modes. To be fair, they have done a fantastic job making playing as the keeper fun, the controls are intuitive and easy to use and it also opens the way for 11 vs. 11 online matches. Regardless, the inevitability of standing around and waiting all game for a few shots can be tedious, so small stints are recommended but long hauls between the sticks can’t be that thrilling.

If you don’t have a furiously competitive group of friends to play offline on the same machine with, then you will be very happy to hear that FIFA11 continues bringing excellence online as well. You will have to input a code to play online however as FIFA11 is one of the first of EA’s titles to sport the online pass system. That is an entirely different debate in itself so I will not go into it, but regardless, I will mention that once you play online, it will lock to that machine and if you take your game to a friends house, you will not be able to access the online game modes unless they are willing to pay a charge. On top of this once again you can purchase Live Season that upgrades and tracks player performance in real life and the hospitality mode will find and transfer your game preferences from previous FIFA games. There are also friend leagues and lobbies that allow players to interact and create competitive point ranking systems to fire up the competition. All of this joins together to bring an excellent online package that is so addictive it really is unbelievable.

Technically FIFA11 is simply outstanding. The game once again tweaked and expanded the game’s visuals from players to the pitch to the crowds; everything is downright beautiful. The soundtrack is great as ever and the crowd is even louder and engulfing this time round. The commentary has not seen great improvement and seems like a repeat of FIFA10, but this could very well be because World Cup 2010’s commentary was absolutely brilliant. Regardless, it is a great technical achievement that should have you in awe.

Ultimately, it is the improvements of the game-play’s core that makes FIFA11 so good. We all knew that FIFA10 and World Cup were brilliant, but to be able to expand upon it once again and make it even better is just phenomenal. It’s true what they say, enjoy the finer things in life because those little things are what make playing each and every single match on FIFA11, exciting, different and thrilling.

Technical presentation – 9.0
Graphics – 9.0
Game-play – 9.5
Replay value – 10.0

Final score – 9.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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