It’s been a good year and a bit for FIFA fans, what with three FIFA games released in that time – FIFA 10, 2010 FIFA World Cup: South Africa and now FIFA 11. FIFA 11 includes many of the features of FIFA 10 and the World Cup version, as well as some new additions that improve the overall experience from the last two games.
One of the major additions is the Be A Pro: Goalkeeper mode, which allows players to step into the shoes of the man whose job is to stop the ball from ending up in the back of the net. The idea of playing as the goalie has been discussed amongst my friends who are also fans of FIFA, as we thought the idea of playing as the goalie would be fun and something different from what we were normally accustomed to. Unfortunately, this mode turned out to be boring, as you’ll spend the majority of the match standing around your goal area doing nothing except instructing other players when to shoot, pass and put extra pressure on an opposition player.
In circumstances where the play comes within your area, markers and guides appear to assist you with positioning and reading the trajectory of the ball. This proved to be most helpful, as the camera angle puts you at a great disadvantage when trying to read the movement of the ball. A positive with being able to play as the goalie is that you can now play full 11 vs. 11 matches.
Another change is the combining of the Be A Pro and Manager mode into an all encompassing Career mode. This time the Career mode spans 15 years, and you have the option of playing as a player, manager or player/manager. If you begin your career off as just a player, you can then work your way up to being a manager.
If you’re strictly just a player, your job is only to play football. The game includes the option of controlling just your pro or playing as everyone on the team. When you play as a player and manager, your pro will play the matches, but you also have a say in the way the team is run, like team selections and transfers. While, as manager, you have a say in how the club is run, but you won’t be able to play as your pro in actual games.
One of the major changes affects player transfers, as transfers are now two separate steps. First you’ll deal with the club regarding the transfer fee then you negotiate with the player himself regarding their salary. This addition adds more realism to the game, as it reflects how transfers are handled in real life. While it’s not Football Manager when it comes to the information and stats provided, the management side of FIFA 11 does a satisfactory job.
The Personality + feature is probably the most exciting new addition in FIFA 11, as certain traits of actual players are now included in the game. This basically means that the players in the game will perform on the pitch like their real-life counterparts. For example, a player like Park Ji Sung, who is known for his high work-rate and stamina, will have this characteristic reflected in the game and thus makes him standout from another player with similar stats, but without that trait. This creates a greater sense of realism in the matches, as special players like Rooney, Messi and Kaka really make an impact.
The new passing system allows for me precision and realism when passing, as holding the pass button longer will result in the ball going further, while tapping the button offers a shorter pass. As a result of the new system, I found that the ball didn’t always automatically fall at the feet of the intended player, rather mistimed passes tended to land either in no man’s land or be intercepted by an opponent. Another reason I like this new system is that, along with the feeling that the player and the ball operated like separate entities, it seems to fix the ball bouncing around like a pinball when trapped in a congested midfield. This was my main gripe with the World Cup game, but I’m pleased to see that it’s been rectified here.
Another improvement is the variety of player interactions on the field, as you’ll see defenders trip over each while trying to shut down an attacking player; a smaller attacker being barged out of the way by a larger defender. Jostling is now initiated without the press of a button, so now when trying to gain positioning in the box; you no longer have to worry about holding down a button. There are also many variations of shot animations, so it will be rare that you’ll see the same one back to back. Goal celebrations have been improved, as now you can celebrate with your teammates. This results in many zany celebrations such as the rowboat.
Visually there isn’t much difference from the past two FIFA games, but I am disappointed that EA couldn’t do what Konami did with Pro Evolution Soccer, and actually create realistic player models of some of the lesser known players. There are far too many generic player faces in this game.
While FIFA 11 doesn’t include any major changes to the game, it does include several new additional modes and features that improve on an already excellent game from last year. So for me, this makes FIFA 11 the best in the series so far.