How do you better a game that has already been critically-acclaimed, trumped all its competitors and is lauded for being one of the most realistic football games ever? How does a developer add to a game encapsulating everything about the football market from its tagline "Let's FIFA", right down to its innovative and popular Be A Pro mode? How do you improve on FIFA 10? If you are an EA Sports developer, you decide that FIFA 10 was actually not as perfect as it was praised for being, and go ahead and make brave changes to the games' physics. And in the eyes of this reviewer, those changes have somehow managed to make the FIFA 2011 game an even better game than its ubiquitous predecessor.
What is New?
EA Sports announced two major changes to the title: the introduction of Personality + and Pro Passing for FIFA 2011. The first of these features is an attempt to create subtle differences in player abilities and skills.
The 'boring science' saw the developers create a system of finely-tuned attributes to give an endless number of permutations and combinations of individual player behaviour. What that means for the FIFA lover is that the Barcelona team can and will pass through the slightest keyhole that opens up in your defence. While Rooney will charge about like the indomitable bull that he is, randomly firing in thunderbolts from long range. And Messi, well, is just the demi-god that he is and will leave you in as much awe as he does in real-life. EA Sports claim that these little tweaks will bring big differences to the football simulation experience, and many agree with them.
Plenty of people have even found themselves developing their own transfer policies that suit these new developments, choosing players who are lightning on the wings, a powerful striker up front, and pacy defenders to chase down the counter-attacking opposition.
Release Date: 28/09/2010
Available on: PSP, PS2, Nintendo DS, Xbox One, Wii, PS3, Windows, PC
The depth of variation that exists in the FIFA 2011 game means that no two people will play the game in the same way. You truly feel like you are personalising the whole experience with your own stamp of authority, rather than being just a token gesture of signing the highest-rated players.
Pro Passing is aimed to improve on FIFA 10's accurate passing system. Short passes are now subjected to power adjustment in the same way that long passes have traditionally been. Although at first, it may be frustrating to see yet another pass along the ground shoot off the pitch for a throw in, mastery of the system will have you passing like Real Madrid. True '360' passing direction married with variable power means that passing a football in a game has never offered so much intent and creativity. You can hit the ball harder so that the receiver can let the ball run through his legs, leaving the marker for dead. You can pass it slightly off centre to make it easier for the receiver to run onto the pass. It adds to your personalisation and playing style.
The other customary improvements are all present and accounted for, like: extra player skills (new stepovers and spins), squad updates and graphics enhancements, which we have come to expect from every new FIFA game.
The career option has been adjusted slightly: the three possible career modes of Manager, Be a Pro and the all-new Player Manager (if you enjoy sadistically subjecting yourself to the stresses of both on and off the field) are bundled into the same menu. From the mock newspaper headlines announcing signings and results, to the Talk sport console for statistics, everything has been added to keep FIFA as the leader in football simulation realism.
There has also been a change to the way in which club finances are conducted. Moving away from the FIFA 10 extreme of being able to raise a lot of money in a very short space of time, FIFA 2011 makes an art of finance handling. You are allocated a transfer budget at the beginning of the season, and you have the option of adjusting the budget three times per season, to change the ratio which is dedicated between transfer and wage. Contract negotiations with players are kept separate from the transfer fee offers to give a meaning to salary negotiations. However, a couple of gripes can be levelled at the transfer system, one new and one old. The new one regards the signing of young players - for some unknown reason, ones who are listed for loan cannot be signed on permanent transfers. As you click to sign the player, you are taken to a player contract offer screen to negotiate a loan deal, as opposed to a transfer screen. In addition to this it seems EA Sports of Canada have retained their old view from FIFA games past that you should not be able to renegotiate with a player who has rejected your offer, until the following season. This is noticeably infuriating when you have the chance to sign the next big thing on a tight budget for a mid-table team.
The career mode advances on a calendar backdrop, moving from day to day as the game loads and processes information. This gives you the sense of truly undergoing a football season, nervously awaiting the Cup Final date or your next chance to pick up three vital home points in your battle against relegation.
The 'Be A Pro' mode was one of the most enjoyable options for many from previous titles and it was interesting to find out whether FIFA developers subscribed to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage. However, as with the game engine in general, EA Sports decided that they could further improve the involvement and playability of the game mode.
How you play the 'Be A Pro' mode defines how well you will do as a player, and if you will be playing at Barnet or Chelsea. The matches you play offer great opportunities to boost your attributes. Get a high match rating and you will gain more - simple logic. And to get the higher rating, the logic is even simpler - complete passes, be positionally-aware and score goals. In this mode, the Pro Passing and Personality + features really come into play, making slick passing a joy to make and receive, and having your own personal style of dribbling, running and shooting makes it all an experience in every sense. For us mere mortals not earning £250,000 a week and falling out of nightclubs every weekend, this is as close as we will get to living out the magic of being a football superstar.
In the 'Be a Pro' mode you will start at a lower league club, and your goal is to work your way off of the bench to the first team, key player, and eventually the captain which makes you almost un-droppable. You receive emails from the manager to apologise for overworking you, but that you are too important to the team not to play. Little touches like that make you feel wanted, and that you are on the cusp of greatness. When a transfer Window becomes active (if you have had a good season) you can break through to a higher league team, then you have to go through the same process again, because you are not going to jump straight in the first team at a premiership club regardless of how good you preformed at Barnet! At your top club, you will have more important games like the champions league to play in, which all adds an element of excitement, even though the reality is you are just playing against other players in different coloured shirts.
And that is just the tip of the experience with the refined Be a Pro game mode in the Fifa 2011 game. Quite clearly the crown in its gleaming jewel, the developers of FIFA can rightly feel proud of what can be achieved with its career mode. It takes the meaning of the phrase football simulation to a whole new level - you are truly living the FIFA dream.
All the other things which give depth to EA Sports' flagship title are still there: basic tournament modes, team and player customisation, the ever-addictive pick-up-and-play arena mode (which has a degree of interaction and competition with friends now, among which, the quickest Arena goal is a fun challenge), and the ever-popular online matches and leagues. The point's accumulation system for the online profiles has been tweaked slightly to reward decent performances in spite of a bad result; this gives the player an incentive to continue playing rather than leaving after conceding three goals. The opinion-splitting top-trumps style Ultimate Team option is present but remains a mostly-unused option and a less realistic take on the FIFA experience. That should not take away from the quality of the Fifa 2011 game as a whole - if you do not like it, do not play it.
The true champion of this outstanding football simulation is without a doubt, the Be a Pro mode. Simulation implies some degree of imitation of real-life. For 99% (many professional footballers are confessed fanatics) of FIFA 2011 gamers, we can only dream of a life in boots, on grass and under floodlights. However, when our created FIFA alter-ego steps over the white line onto the pitch - for that moment, EA Sports takes us to a world where we live out those fantasies and rub shoulders with the best of them. The game transcends what it is - it is much more than a video game. It is a vessel for millions of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions.
Graphics - 9/10
A common finger pointed at FIFA games is that they fail to capture player likenesses as accurately as their rivals. However, players are still clearly recognisable, and it works well with the polished game play visuals and user interfaces.
Playability - 10/10
Gripping and exciting game modes are the integrating features of realistic ball physics, player movement and intuitive AI opponents. Away from games against the CPU, an enthralling experience can be had with online gameplay against human opponents from around the world. As near to faultless as you can achieve in 2011.
Originality - 8/10
Ever since the massive revamp of the game engine in FIFA 08, the title has carved out its own niche and established itself as the indisputable leader in its genre. Continually tweaking to ensure it stays ahead of the competition, EA Sports have taken football simulation to a breath-taking level.
Game Depth - 10/10
A wide array of game modes for the lone and the social gamer alike, personalisation options to create your own FIFA and an accumulative experience which results in more than the sum of its individual parts. The degree of involvement that is encouraged from the player is stunning and engrossing.
Addictiveness - 10/10
We all want to score the goal that seals the Champions League title? We all dream of making that crucial tackle a la Bobby Moore that keeps our team in the lead in the final minute of extra-time? Then once that cup is hoisted in the air, you just cannot wait to load up the next season, or the next match and do it all over again. For many, this game gives a new meaning to addiction and will take gaming precedence until FIFA 12 is released.
Value for Money - 7/10
If you know where to go to buy it, you may never have to pay the premium RRP price for the game. And if you enjoy the online modes, the price of the online memberships is more than worth the enjoyment which you get from beating some hapless player from the other side of the world 7-0. However, the price is still high, and if you play online solely to play FIFA games then it all mounts up.
Overall rating - 91%
Without a doubt FIFA 2011 game is one of if not the best football simulator on the market. FIFA goes over and above for each player's own individual experience and keeps on giving, no matter how long you play it for. Once again, the question is posed as previous to the 09 and 10 titles: how can EA Sports better this FIFA 2011?