Reviewed by Jarred Milner
“We are 11”, that is the slogan EA has slapped onto their latest Fifa outing, and underneath that seemingly uninspiring headline rests an experience full of life and excitement.
That’s right sports fans and hooligans alike, Fifa is back, and after really picking up their game in the last couple of years, the anticipation of what this year’s outing would hold had everyone waiting with bated breath. So what is the game like, will you still be holding your breath at the end, or let out a gulping yawn?
Read our In-depth review, after the jump.
Let’s get straight into it. Fifa, as ever, comes loaded with different modes and options. The Arena returns where you can have a kick around. Press start and Fifa’s simple yet beautiful presentation is noticed immediately as you navigate through the menus and different options available. Get straight into an exhibition match with a friend or against the AI, or if you prefer you can get into one of the more ‘lengthy’ modes.
[pullquote]Fifa have banished their manager mode and Be a Pro from existence. Okay, that isn’t entirely true, they have decided to incorporate the modes into one.[/pullquote]Fifa have banished their manager mode and Be a Pro from existence. Okay, that isn’t entirely true, they have decided to incorporate the modes into one. So now you have Career mode, where you can choose between taking control over the whole team, as a player where, yip you guessed it, control one player in the team and build your career, and player-manager where you can, well you can play as one player and manage at the same time. The other options consist of playing a tournament or a league chosen from one of the many (and I do mean many) teams available in the game. Finally, you can take your game online, play using your virtual pro in a club team with a whole bunch of your online yobs, er, I mean mates of course, as well as a bunch of other online options.
The online modes return in true force. Setting up a match is painlessly simple and the online multiplayer is a huge plus in Fifa. Despite occasional lag and getting kicked from the sometimes temperamental EA servers, the online is as good as ever. Playing matches bring all the intensity and excitement you would hope from an online game, whether it is in a head to head match, or playing 11 vs 11 with your virtual pro. Online tournaments, leagues, and ranked matches are nothing new, but it is good to see that it keeps true to current form in the Fifa series.
A problem always apparent in Fifa is the manager mode, or the now renamed Career mode. In the past it always seemed to lack depth, and unfortunately I can’t honestly say I feel differently this year. Teams don’t have a definitive style of play which makes a team like Arsenal and Blackburn seemingly play the same. The lack of depth doesn’t end there though, as defenders and wingers can do the same tricks, players shoot and pass just as well with both feet, pace doesn’t seem to make a difference, nor does the size or strength of a player. It is a bit of a let down when you play against teams who all seem the same and you work out the best ways to score. This really ruins the single player experience, and is a problem that Fifa has had for years. Once you find out a way to score you are pretty much set, not only in this game, but if you are a Fifa veteran than your style of play will be exactly the same as the previous games, and can lead to the single player modes in the game to be a rather dull affair.
Thankfully, other aspects of the manager mode are much improved. Injuries are far more realistic than they used to be, fatigue plays a part, signing players, while still relatively easy, is a bit tougher than before, and the stronger AI teams tend to win most of their matches. Still some bizarre transfers going on when you play, Essien to Man City was one I noticed, and Messi went to Real Madrid in another session I played. Messi, to Madrid? Really! Apart from the almost nonsensical transfers, and lack of depth, the manager mode certainly has improved from previous years. The calendar system is really useful, although at times it takes ages to load. The negotiation method is far better allowing you to tweak offers, while choosing your staff is also important in terms of developing players. So, on a whole, it is good to see that EA are paying some attention to the single player modes of the game, but a little more wouldn’t hurt.
Be a Pro is pretty much exactly the same as it has been since it was first introduced. Use a real player, or your own created player and build him up from rookie to star. Choose a team to start with, play your best so you can make the first team, change teams a couple of times and retire as a billionaire. Well, it is a little more complex then that, but if you have played Be a Pro in any of the previous games, there really isn’t much to add. I can say that the rating system is still frustrating, for example, if you put in a great cross, but your striker doesn’t get to the ball, because generally your AI pals are rubbish, your rating goes down. Little annoyances like that really hurt the mode, and a bit more effort to tweak this sort of thing wouldn’t go a miss.
At this point I must mention, that one of the new options in Fifa 11 is the heavily advertised “Be a Goalkeeper.” That’s right, for the first time in a Fifa game, you can be the goalkeeper. You know the guy that stands between the poles, can use his hands, and back on the school playground was usually the last to be picked, or was the fat kid who couldn’t run, but could block just about anything. You, yes you, get to be that guy. Now you may be wondering why the negativity. Well it is simply that being the goalkeeper is plain boring. You stand for most of the game wandering around your penalty spot, until the off chance comes around where you actually have to make a save. I even went to hang up the washing, decided not to pause and my team was 3-1 up at half time. That means, if I had been sitting there I would have had to make one save the whole half. It was a natural progression in the series to add the goalkeeper, but it really isn’t worth playing, unless of course you are that rare person who finds being bored exciting. You know the saying “Like watching paint dry”? Well it could very well be ousted by “Like being a goalkeeper on Fifa”.
Enough with the modes now, and, wait… what is that little ray of sunshine over there? Oh it’s the Fifa gameplay. This is where Fifa really stands out, and I am happy to say that EA have gone to lengths to make this possibly the most realistic flow of football in a game to date. The accuracy of the passing, the player movement, the flow of the game is just magical. From the moment you get into the stadium you can’t help but notice how realistic and spectacular it looks. Fifa have been known for their pretty graphics, and it really is a highlight of the new game. For the most part the players walking onto the pitch look a lot like their real life counterparts, but slightly let down by the fact that some of the “lesser” players look pretty awful. Again, this is pretty annoying and surely a bit lazy. I mean Skrtel, you know the mean looking, nuts and bolts eating centre back, looks like a puppy dog.