Here in the states, when we think of the biggest selling sports game every year, we just assume it has to be EA’s Madden franchise. It turns out we couldn’t be more wrong. FIFA 11 is set to smash Madden records. It is the fastest selling sports game in history with 2.6 million copies sold in its first week. Then the obvious question is, will EA’s 19th FIFA game be as good as all of the hype that it has received? I’m here to answer your burning question.
As always with sports games developers strive for authenticity. This years FIFA is no different. This years version has over 30 licensed leagues, 500 licensed teams and over 15,000 players. Which I would be willing to bet is more then most other sports games you will find. To create the most authentic experience possible new features are always added to the game.
This year the biggest feature that FIFA is touting is the Personality+. What this new feature adds to the game is a new sense of realism. It makes the in game players play and act the same way their real life counterparts would. I’ve never payed much attention to professional soccer, so I can’t really attest to how accurate this feature really is. Where it stuck out to me was in the player creation. With the amount of customization options for the players personality, it really shows they EA team went through a lot of work to make the players much more dynamic. Speaking of player creation, the biggest highlight of this new system was the ability to do all your creation online then later import it to your console.
Also new to this years game is the “Be a Goalkeeper” mode. I only played a little bit as a goalie, but I found the controls fairly intuitive, though it might take a while to master. Once one becomes good at it, it could be very deep and it could be a great addition to game modes. Lastly, for the first time ever in a online soccer game, comes the ability to play 11 versus 11. I didn’t have a chance to use this feature, but having played the 6 versus 6 on the NHL series, I can assume the same type of enjoyment can be had in FIFA.
The visuals in this game are great. The animations are smooth and look extremely realistic. It is one of the best looking sports games I have played. There is also a lot of atmosphere built into the game. During the pre-season the stadiums will be half empty and there will be less cheering. Though when the full season comes round the crowds come in and you can hear a lot more going on. The soundtrack was alright in my opinion, but with the ability to create custom soundtracks I pretty quickly went in and made one of my own. With the understanding the market this game is trying to reach they had to reach a pretty wide demographic with the soundtrack. I think they did pretty well. So overall I was really impressed with the games presentation.
The last soccer (football) game that I really played was FIFA 2001 so I really didn’t know what to expect when I first booted it up. What I really like was the ability to just go 1-to-1 with a goalie on the field from the very beginning. It gave me a chance to figure out some of the moves before jumping into the game. Other sports games I have played give you the option to use a practice mode, but you have to find it in a sea of menu’s. What makes this mode different is the ease in which you can jump into it. From the menu you press you back button and you are instantly transported to the pitch facing a goal keeper. With the ease of transition it is one of my favorite features, one that I wish other games would implement (ahem EA’s NHL series cough cough).
If I were to break the game down into two different modes, there is Be a Pro mode and full team control. My favorite mode was Be a Pro mode, having played the majority of the game in that mode. In this mode you control one player throughout his career of a possible 15 seasons. As you play with this character his skills will improve making him a better all around player. I found the game play to be extremely solid. The new passing system the development team implemented works extremely well. I always felt like my passes missed or hit the mark because it was something I did, not a random computer computation determining the outcome. The computer AI was spot on. I felt the most of the players were exactly where they should be. The shooting and ball control were just as solid as I would have expected.
My issue with game play would be the camera in Be a Pro mode. What I found was that there was only one camera option that really worked, which was the end-to-end mode, completely zoomed out. All the other views either focused directly at the ball and you couldn’t see your character, or it focused on your character and you couldn’t see the ball. Though that really isn’t a major issue. Another minor issue that I found with the game was in full team control. While playing defense, I am constantly switching characters, and I would like more control over which character it goes to. I imagine the AI is choosing the most appropriate character that I should use, but it is often times not the character I would choose. Even if my choice isn’t correct, I still think it is my choice to make.
This is the 2nd FIFA game released this year with the first being FIFA World Cup 2010. I believe that FIFA 11 is a big step up from World Cup. 11 offers many more features and is a more robust experience. That being said, if you had bought World Cup I would say it isn’t necessary to buy this game quite yet. Though if you haven’t played a soccer game in while or are a huge fan of this series I am sure it won’t disappoint. With so many game modes and features this game can keep you busy for a long time.