It’s a little tricky for a non-football nut to get excited about the next FIFA title. Indeed, it’s always been easier for non-footy gamers to get into the brash, in-yer-face stylings of Pro Evo. That’s all a moot point now though, as it seems widely accepted that EA has won that particular battle and stands pretty much unchallenged as the king of football titles. Before we even get going then, it’s worth saying that if you want the best footy game out there, get FIFA 11.
That’s not to say you wont have issues with it. The modes have been squeezed, the dynamics changed, and what you did to win in previous versions simply wont work any more. These points, in and of themselves, are not problems by any stretch. The issue we have with this iteration of FIFA is that it feels a little like EA Canada has phoned it in somewhat. What this does, in essence, is create a game that after a few hours’ play, will have you longing for next year’s FIFA.
Before we get into the specifics of the additions made to FIFA 11, we’d like you to think of a world where you weren’t necessarily guaranteed a FIFA title next year. “Pffft!”, you say “that’d never happen.” You’d be right, of course, it’s as inexorable as the movement of the heavens or the slow plod toward death. No, there will always be another FIFA. So what we’re reviewing here is not a game, as such, but more of a ring on the soccer tree of EA Sports’ forest of licensed sporting titles. Our point – strange, we grant you, but there is a point here – is that if you looked at FIFA 11 with the eyes of a person who didn’t understand the certainties of life; birth, death, and the next FIFA, then you’d get annoyed with this iteration. If you don’t live in this fluffy world of chocolate bunnies, reasonable taxes and honest politicians, you probably wouldn’t care. It’s only a year until the next one, anyway.
It’s not finished. We’ve seen how, when necessary, EA Canada can step up and create a football game that addresses the feedback and needs of the gamer. We’ve also seen how the self same development team can spend an entire year goofing off then firing a blunderbuss of add-on turds at the game and seeing what the marketing team can make stick. FIFA 11 falls between the two. They haven’t spent all year doing nothing, but while there has been plenty of ‘think’, there doesn’t seem to have been enough ‘do’.
So, what’s new? Gameplay wise, the two biggest changes come in the form of ‘Fight For Possession’ and ‘Personality+’. The former makes challenges for the ball a far less predictable affair. This is very much a good thing. EA Canada can have a lolly for that. Rather than inevitably losing the ball if you’re trying to hold up play, you have the ability to make a game feel that much more realistic. On the down side, there aren’t enough of the scripted animations, which turns what could havebeen a genuinely positive change into one which can make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. EA Canada gets their lolly taken away for that. The end result? No lollies for EA Canada on the gameplay front.
‘Personality+’ continues to push home the point that these players really play like their real life counterparts. In fairness, we thought it had been pretty well done in previous versions. That’s not the point though, is it? Footy gamers want to hear it, so it gets said, over and over again, just in case someone else happens to say it more convincingly. Yes, we’d probably say that this virtual Messi is a little more like the real Messi, but it’s not really moving things forward, is it?
Elsewhere there appears to have been similar stagnation. The ‘Be A Pro’ mode has been merged with the ‘Manager’ mode to create a holistic career mode. This can be done from the point of view of a player, manager, or player/manager. While it has been streamlined, of that there’s no doubt, it’s a little weak to stand up by itself. Things like form have been taken away, and the loading, waiting and menu screens are still too much of the game to be so carelessly considered. Looking at it as a bastard child of the two modes, it’s fragile, and even as the mode for footy-loving loners, it’s not detailed enough. You feel as if they’ve taken out the bits that didn’t really work tremendously well, and replaced them with, well… very little.
FIFA isn’t broken in the true sense of the word, but it’s simply not a complete enough game to get hyped up about. It’s a glorified beta test for a game that’s at least 2 years away. We would prefer EA Sports to release a FIFA title when it’s ready, but that simply isn’t going to happen, is it?
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