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FIFA 11 Review

December 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Kob Monney

Another year, another Fifa, cue a slew of comments by the developer proclaiming new and ‘innovative’ features or the remark that ‘it is our best FIFA yet’ from EA executives. It’s hard to look at a Fifa game without being cynical (in fact it’s hard to look at the FIFA organisation without being cynical) and if you’re of the mind that football should be played outside rather than indoors with a controller or if you just don’t like football full stop then this game isn’t likely to change your view.

The question for those who enjoy playing the games will not be ‘is this the best Fifa yet?’ The question is whether this iteration of Fifa is the most fun to play?

This review won’t be a laundry list of the different modes with a score slapped at the end for there are many modes and that would be boring. Suffice to say Fifa 11 is a comprehensive game.  What matters most is whether the core gameplay is fun enough for any enjoyment to be had.

Is it fun? The only answer I can give is yes and no and I’ll explain why.

In EA Canada’s quest to simulate football it’s taken the Fifa brand which, only a few years ago, was considered a poor man’s Pro Evolution and turned it into a game that doesn’t just sell because of the brand (it helps!) or by having a famous player on the cover but because it’s associated with quality. I’ve played the last three Fifa games on the trot and from 09’s (now) rigid but entertaining gameplay to 10’s more expansive gameplay we arrive at 11. What strikes me is just how difficult it is. Passing needs to be spot on, no pass or shot looks the same which reduces the belief that you’ll achieve even the easiest pass. You’ll get a feel for the mechanics of it but never feel entirely comfortable with it. Each modification EA has brought adds a sense of uncertainty, an unpredictability to events. In replicating the beautiful game it’s also brought its rather annoying tendencies.

Having played Fifa and then watched a match it’s uncanny how well they’ve managed to simulate it. The downside is the less exciting elements of football appear. Matches tend to get bogged down in a midfield battle where one tackle leads to another and then another. Possession is key, retaining it more so as being in control allows the player to dictate flow of the match. It requires the player to think and assess their options. What’s annoying is just how often you’re entrenched in a midfield battle with play reaching an impasse once you cross the half way line. It’s irritating when a simple 5 yard pass to a teammate bounces off their shins, goes out of play or worse yet goes straight to the opposition. You’re never quite sure what you’ve done to misplace your pass, have I over hit it? Under hit it? Put the wrong direction on the pass?  You’re never sure and it only adds to the frustration.

Another peeve is shooting, in one match I managed to hit the woodwork five times and sometimes the delay between pressing the button to shoot was so much that the keeper smothered the shot. If I had more hair they’d be clumps of it on the floor.

EA have added this Personality + trait where players have abilities and in order to utilise them best you’ll have to play to their strengths, however all teams appear to play in much the same manner. Individuals may change but Bolton feels similar to Arsenal (apart from the noticeable gulf in individual talent). Thus each match leads (even on World Class difficulty) in you laying siege to the goal with nothing to show for it leaving the opposition to score with their only chance. Personality + is a good step but you’ll prefer it if teams had a personality of their own.

When Fifa works in your favour, the thrill is unlike any footballing game out there (in my mind). Having to break down banks of four means the onus is not just on use of the through ball (which is severely underpowered) but through creating space. Modifying your tactics, using wingers to stretch the play or quick, intricate passing will save the day and the thrill of building up a move, getting quicker and quicker as you enter the final third before drilling a shot off the post is unmatched. It’s in trying to reproduce these moments that keep you coming back to Fifa even when its more grating tendencies rear their head. Tackling is better but referees will still punish you harshly when it’s clear you took the ball. Advantages seem shorter when you have the ball than it does for the opposition and because of a lack of space, pulling off tricks is harder but all the more satisfying when you pull it off.

So if it’s appeared as if I’ve been more negative than positive about this game that would be true. Like any other Fifa it has its infuriating traits but the game is also capable of eliciting so much joy. It’s not perfect and it never will be and rather than picking the game up and playing, it requires a degree of mastery, of getting use to its inherent quirks. It’s maddening and exhausting but Fifa 11 is worth it but only just. Fifa 11 comes close to be exasperating but because of that it becomes close to being brilliant.

Copyright Kob Monney 2010

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