Sunday, October 10, 2010

FIFA 11 Review: A Great Game for now...

Just a quick heads up before you begin to read, this review is long, so please, unless you're interested in reading the full review, just look at the bold section titles, and read what you want to. At the end there's the "Overall" section, which sums up my thoughts best, but please feel free to read the entire review.

I got the FIFA 11 demo on it's release date, and I went on to get the FIFA 11 game when it was released for Xbox 360. So far, I love it. I love the new system of passing, control, personality, and overall realism which puts the game on a different level to it's predecessor. The Career mode is entertaining, especially with the AI pulling off skill moves against me, and the transfers which are going on are truly realistic.

So why did I put "A Great Game for now..." in the title? Well, among all of the improvements which EA has made to the game, there are as many areas which haven't been worked on, and still provide some frustration. But let me tell you, I love the game right now, and I've read plenty of negative reviews which in my opinion don't truly understand the complexity of the improvements made. Yet, I have the moments where I think, "C'mon EA, are you really doing this to me?", below you'll find the good, the bad, and the annoying of EA's latest football/soccer game, FIFA 11.

First impression

My first impression was strange, I didn't know how to react to the improvements which EA had thrown in, and at first it felt a little awkward. It took time for me to understand the 360 degree physical play, more realistic first touch control, and the Pro Passing. And while my first several games were largely unsuccessful, I began to get used to, and appreciate the features which EA added.

I got used to the new features, and I now understand why EA has implemented them. They offer a whole new level of realism, now fighting for the ball very realistic, and you have to take into account the 360 degree physical play, the way your individual player will control the ball, and whether he can successfully pass it off in his situation. So don't be fazed by the demo, or your first match, persevere and I'm sure you'll enjoy the game much more.

Career Mode

The first thing I did after starting up the game was getting my Career going. EA have taken away the old Manager Mode and the Be A Pro, and they've replaced it with Career Mode. In this mode you get to decide to be a player, player manager, or just a manager, and you have 15 seasons to make football/soccer history.

I always love building up a small, lower league side, and moving on from there, so I started as a player manager (using my Virtual Pro) for Grosseto in the Italian Serie B. The transfer market had just started, I was selling my older players and snapping up young prospects with ease thanks to the new way of negotiating in FIFA 11.

I first find the player I want to buy, and my scouts will give me some info on him, like whether he's willing to move, or whether he wants to stay put cause he just joined his club. Then I offer the transfer fee to the club, and if they want more, they'll let me know how much, and if they just want to keep the player, they'll stop negotiations (I've not had a club stop negotiations with me yet). When they accept, you have to offer the player a contract, wages per week, along with clean sheet or goal percentage bonus, and then the length of the contract. And then finally, the player will either accept or decline the contract, deciding to join your club, or stay where he is.

The wonderfully working Calendar of FIFA 11's Career Mode
All of this takes from 4 days to a week in the game. This is thanks to the new way that time passes in FIFA 11, no longer week to week negotiations, now you can progress day by day, or just skip to match-day if you're not interested in a lot of negotiations. The system is fluid and perfect in my opinion, because it gives me enough time to buy players, but also to skip the time if I don't need to reinforce.

On the field

I've decided to make this "On the field" section to help you understand the in-depth improvements which have been made to the game. While there are the very prominent things like "Be a Goalkeeper", there's lots of tactical details which have really made the game enjoyable for me.

For example, in FIFA 10, when you used Barcelona and you set Messi on the right wing and Pedro on the left wing, it would stay like that the whole game. There would be no switching around, it would be a rigid and troublesome experience when your winger cuts in, and no one fills the space he left, like what would normally happen in a real football/soccer game. But now, my wingers will switch wings when needed, with players helping cover space when a player decides to move up the field.

Take Lucio as an example, he's Inter Milan's Brazilian center-back who loves to rise up the field with the ball on his foot. In FIFA 10 this wasn't possible, because when you rose up the field with Lucio, you'd just leave a gaping hole in your defence, and none of your defensive midfielders would think about covering that space. Now, in FIFA 11, the system is fluid, so if I decide to rise up the field with Lucio, Cambiasso will slot in the defence for a little to cover the space.

That's the main improvement I noticed, and it makes everything much better for me, whether it be wingers who switch sides, or a central defender who likes to attack. It just adds a level of realism to the game.
Notice the other scores from the league on the top right which are shown as you play


Well, I've finally come to the section entitled "Frustration", basically this is where I rant about what I don't like about the game, and what should be changed/added/removed.

I truly love the inclusion of "Be a Goalkeeper", it's tons of fun, and I'm even thinking of creating a new player (a goalkeeper) to play throughout a career of goalkeeping. But if you expect any other position to be fun, don't. What I mean by this is that playing as your player/virtual pro, in what used to be the "Be a Pro" mode, is still as frustrating as it was last year.

In FIFA 10 I found the game mode unplayable, and after many attempts of enjoying the mode, I gave up and decided to stick with Manager and Online. I was hoping that maybe EA improved the terrible way that playing individually works, but they didn't. I really can't find any improvement to playing as your player, and not as the team. So if I were you, I'd just steer clear of it, and play as the team  (which EA gives you the option of doing).

No frustration with "Be a Goalkeeper" yet
Another frustration for me is the way that EA have now stripped Career mode of any form of Scouting, Stadium improvement, Youth system, and the other aspects which you could spend your money on in FIFA 10. Now, there just ins't really a scouting system anymore, and you can't improve your ticket sales by increasing stadium capacity, hell, you can't even see the money you make from ticket sales.

The slightly lame replacement that EA have made to the scouting system is directly in the Transfer Market menu when searching for players. Now you can turn on a button which says "Scout picks" and it'll give you about forty 17 to 23 year-olds which most people know about and can't afford, like Jack Wilshere from Arsenal. My Italian Serie B side does not have the money to buy Jack Wilshere, or Daniel Sturridge, so I tend to ignore the scouting which is included in the game.


This is a long review, and at the end of it, I have to say that although the game has it's flaws, I love it. I'm a huge fan of the Career Mode, and when I get tired of that (which won't be very soon), I'll think about really delving into "Be a Goalkeeper". So this game is practically eternal for me.

And while the game can be slightly frustrating at times, EA has made sure to add all the little gimmicks that make me feel fuzzy inside. For example you can now change the net shape, and tension, something which isn't that important, but it's something I find sorta cool.

EA has also added a "Budget Allocation", where you can decide how much of your money goes to transfers and wages, so you don't find yourself with 50 million to spend, but no wage budget (or the other way around).

And another little gimmick which actually makes a big difference for me, is the interaction with the board in Career Mode. Now you get performance reports if the team is doing badly, you get your assistant letting you know if a youngster is doing well and should get some playing time, or if a player is looking tired, and might need a rest.

You finally get rewarded with more money after a good season
And while some might miss the sponsor money and the ticket sales which come in, now, when you progress through rounds of a cup tournament, the board rewards you with sweet sweet cash. Same thing at the end of the season, when they evaluate your performance, and give you some cash for next season's transfer window.

All of these gimmicks, mixed with great play on the field, and finally some realistic transfer deals (no more Benzema to Bolton), make a truly fun and enjoyable game for all footy fans, whether you be a newcomer to the series, or a long time veteran. So FIFA 11 gets my thumbs up, although there are things which can be worked on for FIFA 12, but what about you? What did you think about the game? Share your comments below!

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