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FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
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FIFA 11, Football games, Games reviews, Sports Games
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FIFA 11

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

Platforms: PC | PS3 | X360 | Wii | NDS | PSP

Developer: EA Canada

Publisher: EA Sports

Right, first of all let's get one thing straight. Let's dispel all talk of realism here. FIFA has never particularly been the franchise for that. Where it has succeeded in recent years is selling The Beautiful Game at it's most beautiful: capturing the epic nature of the biggest matches, making you feel like a footballing superstar by thumping in a goal from 35 yards, bringing stadia to life the world over and making passers-by think that there's a Saturday match on the box rather than a video game.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

But FIFA 10 wasn't perfect. Thankfully, neither was PES 2010 either, but there was still some ground to be made. For starters, it was far too easy, the keepers still erred on the side of occasional idiocy and, whilst the game boasted excellent motion capture and 360 movement, passing felt a bit robotic, there were too many clear lines through the opposition defence and lobbing made chipped goals plentiful.

That said, it was still an absolute cracker of a game, one with a distinct personality and arguably the finest football game we'd ever seen...though there were a fair few arguments there. A lot of work's gone into tweaking things for FIFA 11 and, whilst there aren't too many wholesale changes to the formula there've been a number of additions fuelled by fan feedback that make FIFA 11 an enticing proposition.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

Let's talk game modes first. There's been a bit of streamlining: Be A Pro and Manager Mode have been merged into one and you can choose to be a Player, Player-Manager or Manager over the course of 15 seasons. There's far more feedback this time around, with the Board really getting shirty if you're not pulling the results in. Fail to float around the top of the Premiership with Chelsea or Man Utd and you're looking at a swift trip to the job centre.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

The 'career' aspect of it all is really just superficial fluff, the central hub now a more dynamic window of scrolling stats and news items. It's sleek and swish and clinical, almost to the point of being austere. An injection of tabloid sensationalism wouldn't go amiss. The RPGish mechanics of FIFA 09 - crafting players to your own liking - are still largely absent: something I rather see as a negative, with PES offering a bit more in terms of customisation and focused growth.

Transfers are relatively laughable, you can buy anyone with the right money, and they're now split into two stage of negotiation: transfer fees and player wages. Clubs won't try too hard to hang on to their crucial players, and Gerrard will happily turn his back on the Kop if you put enough zeroes on the transfer proposal. Basically, FIFA 11 is suggesting that all footballers really care about is money. Which, on the strength of England's performance in the latest World Cup, might not be too far removed from the truth. Oooh...satire.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

It's unfortunate that Ultimate Team isn't included from the start as it is with NHL 11, because it smacks of content being removed only to be sold at a later date. There's precedent for this with FIFA 10, but on the strength of EA's other franchises we might have thought it would make it into the game.

You can, however, now play as the goalkeeper and, as the online modes return with a vengeance, that now means full 11-vs-11 Pro play over the Web. Personally, I've never managed to get on with Be A Pro. 22 players are too many really, particularly when you find that 80% of the time you're stuck with mavericks who never hold position, don't know where the pass button is and fail to realise the difference between centre back and centre forward. That said, you get that problem in the park too. When you do come across a cohesive group of players, the game really kicks off, although as goalkeeper you're praying that your team are rubbish so that you actually end up with stuff to do.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

This could all be solved by bringing back the 5-a-side mode that FIFA had, but alas, that dream is still yet to return. You can, however, form your own team. There are more creation tools than ever, although most of them require the Online Pass and synchronisation with the web based Creation Centre, which is slow, temperamental and likes to crash without warning from time to time. Designing your pro and downloading your face makes inserting yourself into the game just as easy as last time, but I found I actually had to unlock my own hair. Afros weren't allowed from the start.

Online versus play is still where it's all at, the head-to-head thrills are largely unchanged from FIFA 10 but that's certainly no bad thing at all. Matchmaking is swift and relatively painless, although there are one or two bugs that cause that have caused my game to crash once or twice, which irritatingly contributed to my DNF percentage.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

A wealth of modes then, but it's the on the field action that'll mark FIFA 11 as a success or a disappointment and it;s fair to say that a few little things feel very different indeed. It used to be the case that speed was the ultimate cheat in football games. Special talismans - the Ronaldos and the Messis of the world - would be noticeable because of their supreme pace, capable of outstripping defenders with ease, seemingly running through them like a knife through butter. FIFA 11 still places a certain amount of emphasis on pace, and the 360 degree dribbling returns, but this time the main stats you need to be concerned about are strength and balance. This is a far more physical game than before.

The refined engine, adding in 360 degree jostling as well, has highlighted the physicality of the sport. We thought FIFA 10 was a step up, but this is a leap forward. It's no longer enough to pick the perfect pass or use speed to beat your man, you have to be prepare to put the bodies of your team on the line too. Defence, traditionally the weakest and most limited aspect of the FIFA franchise, is now crucially important.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

Passing has undergone a shift as well, it's less automatic, requires far more control and goes hand in hand with an increase in the freedom and mobility given to off the ball control. Positioning and passing, timing and precision, are now things that can be said in the same sentence when talking about this franchise and, whilst we praise them here, I reckon they'll probably annoy some series fans.

Football games will now tend to get bogged down in the midfield area. The increase in physicality, the emphasis on player stats and abilities down to the minutia, means that the middle of the field turns into a bit of a scrap fest. Interceptions happen more often than ever before, the ball no longer magnetically drawn to players' feet. It also means, impressively, that matches in the lower leagues are significantly more dramatic, more variable and more unpredictable than ever before. It's more realistic, sure, but it's also a little strange. In certain games you could be forgiven for questioning as to whether your playing a game with FIFA on the box.

EA should be commended on the whole, FIFA 11 looks and plays fantastically. They've been brave and really put the 'contact' back into contact sport to make for a dynamic and dramatic experience.

Pros:

  • Eye-meltingly pretty
  • Massive scope for customisation
  • The new gameplay elements make for a more realistic, scrappier experience...

Cons:

  • ...but might upset series fans
  • Loading screens are horribly ubiquitous
  • Being a keeper isn't as fun as you might think

The Short Version: EA have not only managed to capture the beauty and grace of the Beautiful Game, but its grazes and grit too. There are bugs and niggles here and there, but by and large this year's instalment is a triumph. Close call between EA and Konami, but I think FIFA just takes it this year...but only just.

FIFA 11 Review: Jostling For Attention

Add a comment4 comments
Mick  Oct. 5, 2010 at 22:42

How can you give this an 8/10 when most of the AI is completely broken? Let alone all the online / crashing / broken passing system issues. Another reviewer who only played the game for 2 hours.

Matt Gardner  Oct. 5, 2010 at 22:58

Correction...have played for just over eighteen hours now and, although I've encountered a few glitches and the odd bug - the main freezing glitch is alluded to in the article - none of these have been game breaking at all. It's not perfect and it's marked down against last year's effort but it's still a great game. I would like to see Ultimate Team from the start, though, and a 5-a-side option.

I beg to differ on the AI front too...the higher difficulties offer a challenge the likes of which has never before been seen in a FIFA game. Goalies aren't perfect, although chipping is much less spammable this time around, but by and large the AI's been improved. The new gameplay elements, subtle though they are, do take a little bit of getting used to. You can't review a sports game after two hours...if I had, both FIFA and PES would have been walking away with 5 apiece.

Sadsak  Oct. 6, 2010 at 01:54

I also have to disagree agree with some of the reviewers comments regarding the online playability. At present the Pro Clubs mode is more or less completely broken. When you search for a club to play against the search constantly comes back with no results, and generally kicks teamates from the squad and back to the bench. The only way that myself and around 8 of my friends have managed to play a hanful of games since owning the game since release, is for everyone to go all the way back to the main selection screen and then go back into our pro club. Even then it still generally comes up negative on the search results. We could even play a friendly with another of my friends clubs as it point blank refused to establish a connection even though his club was listed in the search results. Out of the few pro club games we have managed to play they have been issues with players being kicked mid match, lagging, glitches in the graphics, not being able to stop a players movement on the pitch after making a run 3 seconds after moving your toggle stick and the game just freezing up and crashing are to name but a few. EA are obviously aware of this problem as they said so on the ingame scoreboard and said they were working on it. At the time of writing this, it is yet to be fixed.

On the whole it is a great game, and I can see its potential, but I suspect there will be many people like myself who think it should never have been allowed onto the shelves to be sold, with sections of the online play broken and unusable. Who runs there quality and testing department? Its not good enough that some developers think that after a console owning consumer who has paid a premium price for a game, that it is ok for them to release a game broken in the knowledge that they will try patch it at a later date just so that they hit release date deadlines. Not many other industries would be able to get away with it. You could just imagine the uproar if the next Samsung bluray player had non functioning forward and rewind features or the next BMW only had 2 of its 4 doors working and they then made you aware that they knew about it and will fix it at a later date after you have made your purchase. For me, these problem, glitches or whatever you want to call them are spoiling mine and others enjoyment of what could be a very good football game.

Sadsak  Oct. 6, 2010 at 02:06

Just to add to my above comments regarding the online play, my and all my friends have good internet connetions with good upload/download speeds, all nats are open. We have even wen as far as cofiguring our routers and port forwarding them for EA's servers and Fifa 11 itself, so we know for certain that it is not a issue at our end.

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