Now, chances are if you are reading this review you already own one of EA’s previous FIFA games and have come to find out if it is worth shelling out for the latest instalment. Have they done enough tweaking to make the game stand out from its predecessors? Is the FIFA franchise becoming stale and predictable?
FIFA has long been a massive cash cow for EA (Well, in Europe anyway), but was for a long time playing second fiddle to Konami’s Pro Evo Soccer series. Many people just found PES to be more playable and fun. However, the tide turned after FIFA 09. EA stepped up their game and really gave PES a run for its money. Since then each FIFA game has become more refined and ultimately more enjoyable. After EA’s last FIFA release, 2010 FIFA World Cup, a lot of folks thought it couldn’t get much better.
Then came FIFA 11. It has taken every great part of the last few games and done something unthinkable, actually made them even better. Everything from the smallest details to the biggest features has been improved. Anyone who has played a FIFA game before will instantly feel at home. The menu system is set out much like it has been the last few years, but somehow still feels streamlined. From the main menu you can navigate to all of games features (and there are quite a few) including Exhibition Match, Online Play and the various types of Game Modes.
The usual suspects are there of course Be a Pro, Manager Mode, 10 vs. 10 (although that is now 11 vs. 11, I will explain later). There are also some new additions such as the Player/Manager Mode, where you manage the team just like in Manager Mode, but can come on as a substitute to help change the course of the game. Think of it as a cross between Manager Mode and Be a Pro. It’s a good way to play the game if you like the structure of the manager mode, but prefer to play the actual game as a single player instead of the whole team.
As you would expect, every major football team from around the world is available for you to take control of. From the top flight of the English Premier League to the lower echelons of the Italian Serie B, I don’t think a single club has been over looked. Of course, most of these teams will be cast aside for your favourite team, but if you want more of a challenge you can always take one of the lower division teams and steer them to greatness.
When you first start a new career, the game will ask you which type of game you want to play, Manager, Be a Pro or Manager/Player. Once you have navigated the opening selection screens it’s on to the main game. With Manager and Player/Manager modes, all of the managing tasks will become available to you. You can pick your squad and team formation. Scout for new players and arrange transfers to and from your club and oversee the general running of the team. You will also be kept up to date via email on the status of your club and players. This will allow you to make changes to the squads to increase your chances of success on the pitch. As you progress through the footy season, you will also be required to play in cup ties, similar to the world famous FA Cup. These are knockout games, so once you’ve lost a game, that’s it for that season.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to win your domestic league and progress up the ladder. This brings in more money to the club and allows you to try and secure the transfers of better players. However, as you play more games your current squad will also develop their skills. You can let the game do this automatically for you, or take control yourself and assign skill points to a multitude of player attributes. When playing in Manager mode, you have the option of playing the game yourself, switching control between all 10 outfield players or just let the game simulate the match and determine the score based upon your clubs skill level compared to the opposing teams. Doing this makes the season go quickly, but takes away the main fun of the game.
When in Player/Manager mode you will take control of a single player (based upon the selections you made at the start of the game). It means that you can still play like Be a Pro, but continue the fun of controlling the club at a manager level.
Be a Pro mode has remained mostly unchanged. Create your player, and then work your way up through the ranks, from sub to star! Your performance in each game will be rated, and as you get better you spend more time on the pitch and maybe one day get to captain your club. However, a new Pro mode has been introduced, Be a Pro: Goalkeeper. This mode puts you in control of; you guessed it, a goalkeeper. Available for both offline and online (in 11 vs. 11) you must keep your eye on the ball at all times. Move the goalie around as the ball comes closer; the ball is tracked by a red line to help you make the right moves. It’s an interesting concept, and one I’m surprised they haven’t thought of before. Only thing is that it’s incredible boring. After playing a few matches, I felt more like a spectator than a player. And the few times the ball did make its way towards me it became difficult to control the keeper and I felt too much like a liability. It’s a shame that mode hasn’t worked out as well as the rest of the game, but it can easily be ignore
You can also play the Virtual Pro mode where you create a player from scratch and then develop him over various different game modes. It’s a great feature in the Pro style and means that you can take your own little mini me in to battle, online or off.
The rest of the game is simply a delight. The controls feel like they have done in the past, but with the new 360 degree mode, the players feel fast and fluid. The animations look amazing, making watching the replays a joy. EA have also made it easier to score from a cross, something that was considered a miracle in previous games. It’s still a bit too easy to be dispossessed, but the annoyance that pressing a button to pass the ball, only for the animation to take to long has been almost eliminated.
Once you have conquered all the single player modes and are looking to dominate other players, then give some of the online options a try. FIFA 11 has everything from head to head to making your own superclub that should satisfy everyone from the casual to the hardcore soccer fan. If you just feel like taking it easy and just want to play a quick match, then try out Head to Head. If you want to play with others, you have a few different options. In Team Play, you take your soccer skills online and join up to 21 other players in a fight for supremacy. In this mode, you can choose what position you want to play as but do so carefully as if you choose a position you are not comfortable playing, you may just cost your team the game.
In Friends League, you can create an online league that accommodates you and up to 31 other friends and allows you to play by the rules you set up against other players from around the world. If you are worried about going online in FIFA 11 because you are scared that you will get demolished, well don’t fret because this game has some of the best matchmaking in any sports game. In Match Lobbies you have a good variety of options that will ensures you will find a match that you will have fun playing and not get owned 10 -0. And if that’s not enough for you, you can even take your Virtual Pro online in ranked matches or matches against friends. By using your Pro online (like offline) you can earn rewards and upgrade his stats.
Fast, frantic and fun, FIFA 11 is a master-class in how to make a sports game. Almost perfect in every aspect, it is difficult to see how EA will improve on it for FIFA 12. But then again, we all said that last year.
Review copy provided by publisher.