Ever since the HD era began, FIFA has been the number footy title. This is mainly due to the fact that the developersdecided to make the game more realistic than its predecessors. FIFA 11 continues this trend, and the results this year are truly wonderful.
FIFA 11 is the best footy game to date, but it is far from perfect, the game succeeds with ease in the most important parts, but falls short in other areas that matter the most to the FIFA purists.
First things first, the most important aspect is the gameplay, and this is the main selling point in FIFA 11, the game is completely different from FIFA 10, and the moment you start a match it shows.
The most brilliant aspects of the new gameplay engine are the dribbling and the tackling animations, which have significantly enhanced the authenticity of the game and made it truly resemble the real thing even more than before.
Towering figures like Campbell and Mertesacker move like the real deal, with slow dribbling and heavy movement, while players with a lower center of gravity like Arshavin and Messi sprint in impressive fashion, Ronaldo’s dribble even resembles his tippy toes run in real life.
Sadly not all players have signature animation created for them, but the majority of them feel more like the real deal. The most impressive animations in the game are Fabregas’ and Arshavin’s, both players are closer to their real life counter-parts than any player in any FIFA game before them.
The tackling animation has been completely revamped, players like Pique, Song and Vermaelen have a dozen different tackles up their sleeves, you can sometimes press the sliding tackle and the player won’t slide, but rather stretch one of his feet to capture the ball, this is a wonderful and useful animation, seeing how in FIFA 10 the players made useless sliding tackles that almost always missed the target completely. Meanwhile, players with no tackling experience like Torres and Ronaldinho have few tackling abilities, making it easy to get through them without much of a hassle.
If you’ve been following FIFA 11 for the last few months, then you probably know about the Personality+ feature mentioned by EA Sports, stating that players behave like their real life counter-parts more than ever. This isn’t true, at least not entirely. Rooney doesn’t act like Rooney in real life because he was designed to specifically act like him, but rather because FIFA increased his attributes, and added emblems that state what a player is great at, it resembles the emblem system featured in past NFL games, but in a FIFA-like presentation, and also added a “trait” system, where it states certain traits players have. This is useful, as it tells you important things like who is a power header, long shot taker or an injury prone player. The trait system, coupled with the emblems are what makes Personality+, it speeds up the process for gamers trying to search for a player with a specific trait.
The downside, is that the goalkeepers have no emblems that distinguish them from one another, while the attackers have an abundance of different traits and emblems, having a “penalty stopper” or a “quick reflexes” emblem would’ve been very useful in career mode when searching for a goalkeeper to purchase.
The AI for the opposotion has been significantly enhanced, skilled players like Ronaldinho and Messi will dribble past you, and will even do a few tricks and make you look foolish, while the defenders won’t fall for the usual 1-2 pass anymore, but rather intercept it, making the game more realistic and all the more challenging.
Another impressive, yet overused mechanic added in FIFA 11 is the team awareness level, players swap positions during the game, this feature messes up the defense for any player who is using the man marking feature in a multiplayer mode, leaving his players chasing shadows. The bad thing is that the players stay at each other’s positions for longer than desired, when a 6’4” Bendtner crosses the ball to a 5’8” Andrei Arshavin to score a header, you realize that the mechanic was taken a tad too far.
A few features have been added as well, such as handball (which can be toggled on and off), and an “Analog Sprint” feature, which determines how fast your player is sprinting in accordance with the player’s press on the R2/RT buttons, the harder the press the faster the sprint, this feature is massively helpful when you’re trying to time your run to avoid the offside trap, or sprinting forward while waiting for backup to arrive.
A few unrealistic problems in gameplay is the lack of AI in players sometimes, while defending a set-piece such as a corner, the tall defenders such as Mertesacker and Pique stand outside of the box completely, this truly frustrates when you concede from a setpiece, seeing how the main reason you bought these players was to defend set-pieces in the first place.
Also, sometimes when you’re playing a home and away leg, and your team is losing in the first leg, at the end of the game if you win a corner, your goalkeeper rushes forward, this is truly a suicidal move, seeing how you stil have a chance in the return leg, and if you concede from such a glitch in your own turf, then you have to score not one, but two goals in the return leg to make up for the away goals rule, this ruins your day right there.
While there are occasional quirks that are usually present in footy games, the good far outweighs the bad in this FIFA game in terms of gameplay.
Manager mode has been completely revamped, now you have a “career mode” that gives you three different choices to choose how to play your career. You can play as a player, a player-manager (you play then retire and manage the team), and as a manager from the get go.
These aren’t the only adjustments made here, career mode is far superior to any other manager mode before it, while it isn’t perfect, it is absolutely a step in the right direction by the developers.
Every team has his own budget and his own objectives, Manchester United’s board asks you to win the league, while Wigan’s board will ask you to finish in the top half of the table, nothing too surprising here.
However, once you choose the team you wish to manage, you will be blown away. I chose Arsenal as a manager, and the board’s objective was to win the Premier League, the moment career mode starts you will notice that the presentation is miles ahead of past FIFA iterations, the details are indeed surprising.
After deciding to sell players and buy new ones, you’ll notice that just like real life, every player loaned on a season long loan by his team will be loaned to the team he went to play for in real life. Traore was on a season long loan at Juventus, and while you can recall him (for a fee), I decided to leave him and gain experience.
FIFA 11 forces you to make choices and decisions you would’ve ignored in previous FIFA titles.
In fact, FIFA 11 was designed to make you improvise, you can no longer upgrade facilities like past iterations of the game. You don’t need to upgrade the negotiator to be able to get new players to join your team, and you need to negotiate with the player as well as the team.
For example, I was able to convince Bayer Leverkusen to sell me Rene Adler, but after negotiating with the player, he stated he was loyal to the club he spent so many years in. This forces you to find new players to buy, it might be somewhat disappointing to not get the player of your choice, but that’s how it usually is in real life.
The one gripping issue, is the fact that the majority of the great goalkeepers in the game have been around with a certain team for many years, which means that almost all the great goalkeepers will reject your offers out of loyalty.
You also cannot buy players who are spending their first season with a team, and you are also forced to pay premium to get players in the starting 11 of their team, and overpay rival teams (in Arsenal’s case, Chelsea and Tottenham) to buy a player amongst their ranks, overall the players in FIFA 11 are usually more expensive than in previous titles.
But despite the player’s price, it’s actually easier to buy players this time around, while the first season will be somewhat difficult to buy players in, once you enter the second year everything comes together. The board rewards you on completing your objectives, and they increase your finances to help you acquire new players.
Should you win the league with Arsenal, you get 20 million Euros as a reward, coupled with 40 millions that you acquire as funds for each new season, while with Barcelona you get over 100 million Euros at the end of the seaosn (assuming you won the league and the cup titles), you not only earn the transfer money, but you also earn money for the player’s wages, this makes a world of difference and alone helps FIFA 11 surpass the abysmal FIFA 10 manager mode.
You can also allocate your budget, and choose whether you want a ton of transfer money, or player salaries, the board allows you to relocate your budget three times each season (which is more than enough really), this helps you in deciding whether you want to buy a few decent players with the transfer money, or one superstar signing and increase his weekly salary.
You sadly can’t offer to swap player with a team, which happens in real life and also has been featured in PES game for a long time now. You also cannot buy a player on deadline day, as you can take up to a week in negotiations, therefore you need to submit an offer at least one week before the transfer window closes.
A minor issue, is that when playing a home and return leg matches, the return leg sometimes isn’t on the calendar, this can ruin your hope in resting a few key players before the return leg.
Another problem, is that you will rarely be able sell any high profile players whose price are 35 million or higher, you can’t loan high profile players as well, this doesn’t help when you’re low on budget and want to sell an aging player to be able to buy a new one. Also, some strange unrealistic transfers might occur, but these are just some of the few minor problems in this otherwise impressive career mode.
The biggest problem in career mode however, is the player’s retirement. While indeed it is part of real life, in PES the players retire around 36 years of age, and are then reborn as younger and less experienced players, meaning that you won’t part with your favorites anytime soon.
But in FIFA, players retire at any random age above 30, and when a player retires, that’s it! No more Gerrard, Messi or Ronaldo, you are then forced to spend the rest (and probably majority) of the game playing with ugly generic and unrealistic looking players, and get to end career mode with fake players. This is a low point for the FIFA franchise, and the fans will attest to that. You can change the players ages from the edit mode, but not only will that take forever, but you will lose the realisticness of the game, you will no longer be able to buy the old experienced veteran defender and young talented striker, because they’re all 15 year olds, and their prices will inflate on a grand scale seeing how they have the same attributes but are younger.
All in all, career mode is in a league of it’s won when compared to the other FIFA games, and is a breath of fresh air that FIFA fans will adore, the players retirement is the one serious issue that keeps this mode from being one of the best career mode in a sports game this year.
Online modes are a bit of a mixed reception here, that is mainly due to the fact that there are people from all around the globe playing. When you’re playing against a person who is Stateside, the game will run well, but if you’re playing against someone in Europe, Asia or Africa, the game will run fine unless they have a slow internet connection, it is recommended to watch the latency bar before the game starts, anything below green will probably have some minor to serious lagging.
The newest feature in terms of gameplay is the all new Be A Goalkeeper mode. This mode puts you in goal and you will don the gloves for the very first time in a video game. It is surprisingly addictive, and it’s strange that FIFA almost nailed this mode in their first try.
Being a goalkeeper ain’t all as fun as it seems, if you play as a goalkeeper in the arena, against a friend or the computer you will have a blast, but in a normal match some rules need apply. You need to play with a considerably weaker team, and take the difficulty up a few notches to actually be part of the action, after playing with Aston Villa’s Brad Friedel against Chelsea on Legendary mode, it took around 2 minutes for me to actually touch the ball, and the moment you kick it there’s no guarantee when the next shoot at you will be taken.
In fact, it seems insane that FIFA made an entire career mode where you can play as the Goalkeeper, it’s nice to have the freedom of choice, but you can spend quite a while not touching the ball, especially when playing against weaker teams.
FIFA 11 is a great game, but it’s not all flowers and sunshine though, the game has a few annoying flaws, and a real serious problem as well.
The Replay Theatre, which fans have waited ages for can only store 5 replays. The fact that a 320GB PS3 in the year 2010 can only save up to 5 replays of a FIFA game is downright offending to anyone who has waited so many years for EA to create a feature that helps you save your goals on the PS3. It will take you less than 2 weeks to use all 5 replays, and then you’ll have to overwrite the old replays to save a new one.
Virtual Pro has remained unchanged, you can upload your player’s face from FIFA 10, but the end result is the same as last year, the same old skin color issues that make you look quite hideous, and even when the camera is being played in Tele mode, you can easily notice from afar that your player has some serious tan issues. It is saddening that EA Canada hasn’t even touched this feature at all.
The biggest dissapointment on the developers behalf is the player faces. While the graphics of the game are pretty (when on a realistic looking player), the majority of the game are left unchanged. This is unforgivable, as the EA developers lied time and time again stating that they took players faces and designed them from the ground up.
If you’ve played the demo, then you probably believed them, but the majority of the redesigned faces are the ones featured in the demo itself. Only Arsenal, Lyon, Chelsea, Juventus and few more teams have had almost their entire squads completely built from the ground up.
In fact, any player that was related to Arsenal and the mentioned teams has recieved a complete makeover, Sol Campbell and Fran Merida left Arsenal, but the developers didn’t know so they built the players faces, Joe Cole and Poulsen’s faces as well are realistic looking (they were playing for Chelsea and Juventus, respectively), this means that the developers did make Chelsea and the other teams and left the rest of the game on purpose.
It is beyond the pale really. Imagine yourself booting up FIFA 11 for the first time, going to play with world cup finalists Holland only to find that they all (with the exception of a few players) look like freaks, or playing with Inter, the European Champions, only to find out that Milito (who looks like an alien) and Sniejder’s faces have been left unchanged, while Arsenal and Lyon’s reserve goalkeepers and 17 year old players have been made to resemble their real life counter-parts.
Another traditional piss off from past FIFA titles, is the annual commentary of Martin Tyler and that annoying Andy Gray. The same old soundbites are being used all over again. Calling Fabregas, who soon turns 24 a teenager is proof that the commentary has been left unchanged for a long time.
The majority of the commentary is Andy Gray criticising and Martin Tyler stating the players names, and when they finally start saying something interesting, the moment a tackle or a shot on goal occurs, they cut it, talk about the tackle and pretend the former speech never even occurred. In fact, if Martin Tyler says something you wanted to hear, just keep dribbling until he finishes his sentence.
To be fair, EA added a few lines that will please some of the fans, assuming Martin Tyler doesn’t change the subject.
The soundtrack in FIFA 11 is a true delight, the game has many soundtracks from bands from all parts of the world, you will find yourself humming and singing these songs as you play, and will want to check out the albums featured in the game.
And now for the serious problem that was mentioned earlier.
Some copies of FIFA 11 tend to freeze occasionally for a couple of seconds while playing a match, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it will freeze 6 times in a single match, and it is almost guaranteed that the game will freeze at least once every game or two. While not all of the copies have this problem, a fair number of them do. Some people even went and changed their copies of FIFA, but the copy they bought freezed as well. On the X360 you can install the game on the hard drive, this helps quite a bit, but on the PS3 you’re left with a game that has the occasional freeze.
This problem might be considered a deal breaker for a lot of people, and if you’re a PS3 owner who is starting to have second thoughts, you have every right to. But in all fairness to FIFA 11, had I known the game would freeze as much before I bought it, I would’ve still bought the game anyways, because despite all the annoyances mentioned in this review, the gameplay more than makes up for a few seconds of freeze and a couple of geriatric commentators.
The Blast Factor: In terms of multiplayer (exhibition or online), FIFA 11 is probably the best footy game to date, you shouldn’t let the freezing issue bother you, especially when there is a good possibility that EA might create a patch to download that handles this problem.
If you’re a PS3 owner and can forgive the freezing issues, and looking for the most realistic footy game to date, FIFA 11 is it, the gameplay will help you forgive the game for the freezes and get over the other issues in the game. If you’re starting to have second thoughts and getting a bit skeptical, you might want to check up on PES 2011 before making a decision regarding FIFA 11.