For the past few years, EA has dominated the market of football games. EA Canada has been able to overcome the once-great superpower of Konami’s Pro Evo series, and has continued to unleash the finest in football simulation games.
FIFA 11 was not expected to deliver a knockout punch like FIFA 09 and FIFA 10 were able to – due in large part to the release of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa earlier this year. However, fans of the series would have been remiss not to have at least hoped for a more immersive and entertaining experience with FIFA 11.
Let’s be frank: FIFA 11 is unequivocally the greatest football game ever made. It boasts an attention to detail unseen in previous – or rival – titles, and manages to add yet another layer of realism to an already phenomenal gameplay structure. But, like all sports series tend to do at some point, FIFA 11 is more of a plateau than a sharp summit. There are disappointing features, yes, and a few of the best parts of FIFA 10 have been surprisingly omitted from this release. However, the good points far outweigh the bad, so let’s start by looking at some of the more underwhelming elements.
It’s surprising that that it has taken 19 releases for a handball feature to be implemented into a FIFA game. The handball rule is a vital part of football, and fans will be happy to see that it now has its place in every fixture. Players can choose whether they want the handball rule activated wholly, everywhere except the penalty area, or simply turned off. The fact that there is even an option to turn the rule off supports the notion that EA Canada simply weren’t happy with the programming of this feature. The law states that for a foul to be awarded to the opposing team, a handball must be recognized as “deliberate”. The sheer subjectivity of this matter makes it an extremely difficult rule to implement, and unfortunately the developers simply haven’t spent enough time on it. Players will doubtless become frustrated with the regularity of penalties given during matches, so beware that – in this case – the realistic option is in fact quite unrealistic and flawed.
Referees also seem to have been tweaked quite a bit over the past year. The addition of personalized referees is great to see, and allows gamers to know if they will be subject to a lenient, moderate, or strict referee. Unfortunately, EA Canada simply hasn’t gone far enough with this concept, and more often than not you will play an identical game with a lenient referee as you would with a strict one.
Despite these sometimes frustrating changes, FIFA 11 does have plenty to offer in the way of entertainment. The Russian Premier League is the latest league to be included in the series, and not only widens your playing opportunities, but also adds an extra depth to European competitions. All the top leagues from England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, the United States, Australia, and many more are all at your disposal as well.
One of the many pet peeves with FIFA 10 was the fact that the calendar system was faulty. Too often teams would have both a standard league fixture and cup competition scheduled to take place on the same day. Not anymore, as FIFA 11 now incorporates rescheduling matches so that your team will very rarely have to play more than one game within the space of three days. Injuries have also been vamped up, with the potential for players to be sidelined anywhere from a couple of days to six months or more. On a similar note, CPU squad rotation has also been implemented splendidly, so no longer will you see Nemanja Vidic playing at left fullback, or Steven Gerrard leading Liverpool as a lone striker.
In terms of gameplay alone, FIFA 11 is marvellous. Goalkeepers are more intelligent, players can score goals from much further out – granted their skills are high enough, the conditions are ideal, and they are in the perfect shooting position – while the overall team mentality is far more intelligent this time around. Shooting is arguably the most exciting improvement for FIFA 11; players can now see their shots dip cheekily under the goalkeeper or sliced well wide when taken on their weaker foot. This is where the element of realistic attacking play is at its very best; gone are the days of scoring the same goal with the same player in the same position match after match.
But while all of these additions have made gameplay more cohesive, it is the Be A Goalkeeper mode that has been given the most attention by media outlets. Gamers can now tackle the most difficult position on the field with an entirely new system of play. Be sure to bone up on the dos and don’ts of goalkeeping before jumping into a match or you’ll be looking at a 10-0 scoreline within minutes. The fact that FIFA fans can now do battle in true 11 v 11 multiplayer fixtures is just another reason why EA Canada are far, far ahead of Konami these days.
Although it will likely have no bearing on your decision of whether to purchase FIFA 11 or not, the commentary is satisfactory. Once again, Martin Tyler and Andy Gray have teamed up to bring you the play-by-play broadcasts of every match, and once again they become tiresome within the first few days. Repetition sets in after only a few matches, but they have added enough new spiels and fun facts to at least keep gamers entertained while they play. Similarly, the music won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but there is enough variety in there to keep the average football lover happy as he manages his team between matches.
Overall, FIFA 11 is a wonderful game. It is not the hot new girl at school who all the boys are drooling over. Rather, it is the elegant chemistry teacher that intrigues us with her refined tastes and ability to keep us coming back for more. Whether you are a hardcore football fan or simply interested in a top sports game, FIFA 11 will draw you in with its high quality gameplay and never let you go.
Players look more realistic, stadiums are given great attention to detail; simply put, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking sports game in HD This year.
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Controls can be tweaked for beginners and experts alike, while the in-game structure is well built and continually full of surprises.
The commentary is typically dull, but the ability to add personalized chants for your teams and players provides an entertaining side project.
This is one game that sports fans will be able to play right through until FIFA 12 is released.
FIFA 11 is the best football game around. Football fanatics won’t put it down, sports lovers will appreciate the depth of gameplay offered, and even the average gamer will be able to enjoy a few solid months of multiplayer action.