It’s all about the bullet points. Annual sports franchises, especially the already popular ones like FIFA, have a hard time adding enough new stuff each year to make people keep buying their game.
The first of these new features that you’ll notice when you play FIFA 11 is Pro Passing. It is designed to give the player complete passing freedom, allowing you to pass exactly where you want to and regulate the amount of power behind the pass.
FIFA games have had the manual passing option in the past as well, where you could remove the AI assist and accurately direct the pass, rather than letting the AI predict where you intend to pass. Pro Passing is a middle ground between AI-assisted and manual, giving you the freedom to pass into open spaces, while retaining enough AI assistance to reduce the number of misdirected passes.
This now gives you the opportunity to pull off some thrilling long-range through passes.
What we didn’t enjoy quite as much was how much power you need to put into a pass to even get it from a central defender to a wing back. The farther you intend to pass, the longer you’ll need to hold down the pass button.
While the pass power is realistic, the default game speed is not. Gameplay in FIFA 11 is considerably slower, but it’s still not slow enough to accommodate its passing system, and this often results in midfield scraps where possession changes hands quicker because you won’t find the time and space needed to connect passes.
Making it even harder to retain possession are the overpowered defenders. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing as Messi; any defender, or defensive midfielder can dispossess you with ease. If you’re the attacker, you’re better off playing the pass-and-move game rather than taking a defender on.
In FIFA 11, you can be sure that even if one of the best players in the world gets past one of your defenders, there’s no way he’s getting past two. The defenders will either win possession or foul the possessor. One way or another, they’ll stop you. Even their animations seem super-human. They almost slide into standing tackles when they’re near the ball and you’ll see them lean towards the attacker as if in a jostle for possession even as they approach the ball.
Over the last few years, FIFA’s offline game modes were more a case of quantity over quality. This year, both the Be A Pro Seasons and Manager Modes have been consolidated into one Career Mode, and the result is a deep and addictive single-player experience. You can either choose to play the career as a player, manager, or player-manager.
They’re all worth a shot, but most players will probably stick with player-manager in the long run as it offers the best of both worlds. One of the biggest improvements in the Career Mode is the transfer system. Buying and selling players is simpler and more fun. There are some issues with the structure though. Having to stare at the fixtures calendar for a minute or two between matches is a waste of time, as is reading through useless emails from the team management. But on the whole, the new Career Mode is a success and a solid platform to build on.
EA changed the game, so to speak, in FIFA 09 by implementing 10 vs 10 online multi-player. This year, they’ve added the 11th player. You can now play as the goalkeeper, which means in online matches, every player can be human-controlled.
FIFA’s presentation has always been top notch, and while this year’s game isn’t a drastic improvement, it still maintains a high standard. The player animations are sublime although the character models, especially for the lesser known players, is a mixed bag. On the pitch though, the game looks beautiful.
With an online multi-player system as complex as FIFA’s, there are bound to be a few niggles, but on the whole, FIFA 11 is trouble-free and quite fun online. You’ll have no issues finding a game whatsoever and once in a game, lag won’t be an issue unless you have a slow connection.