As a pretty regular sports gamer, the one thing I hear all the time from friends is how they don’t want to be buying the same sports game every year. Many a gamer – myself included – has complained that from year to year most sports games just do not undergo major changes….Other than roster updates, team additions or stadium/kit updates.
But this year’s FIFA 11 is different.
The guys over at Electronic Arts have put in over 200 changes to the game and I have to say it is the most frustratingly real soccer game I’ve ever yelled at.
If you play a game long enough, you learn the tricks – and for years FIFA has been like that. You play for a while, you find the tricks and then you are hammering teams 10-2, etc. A few years ago it was the spin-&-go where you could spin past opposition all the way down the park without fear of reprisal. Last year the passing engine seemed a little too easy and simply pinging passes down the pitch in quick fashion usually worked with little trouble.
Not in FIFA 11.
Senior Producer David Rutter told me a few weeks ago that the one major change this year is that you actually have to use your tactics to get through defences and break down opposition sides – and he was right. I tried the usual bevy of tricks I’ve learned and not one worked. I had the ball taken off me, was tripped up, muscled out or had guys in my passing/shooting lanes in a heartbeat. I actually did have to try and find openings and build my play into the opposition end – and it is not easy.
The AI is smarter and more tactically aware and while it will frustrate you when you first start to play – it’s the kind of frustration that produces a smile knowing they got it right.
They have carried over ‘Live Season’ so you can set team form in the game to mirror that of real life which is a feature I enjoyed in last year’s game. They also have ‘Ultimate Team’ which caters to those who like collecting cards and building a side. I tried it out last year and also enjoyed it. (As an aside, if you enjoy Ultimate Team, check out EA’S ‘FIFA ALL-STARS’ on Facebook)
Another one of the major innovations this year is the ‘Be A Goalkeeper’ option in the ‘Be A Pro’ mode (though why anyone would want to be a GK still escapes me). I gave it a try in the practice arena – and it was awesome. I can see this being a major hit with game players, especially in the online environment. I was joking with one of EA’s PR guys that online leagues just got a little more competitive with players able to recruit for 11v.11 games online – GK will be hot commodities if you know how to play the position well.
For me, I’m not much of an online player – Manager Mode is where it’s at. Every year I take a team and play a few seasons just to see what I can do. I take big teams and little teams and for me, the issue I’ve always had is with the transfer Market. You usually find unrealistic valuations, stiff negotiations and little in the way of counter-offers.
From what I’ve played so far, this hasn’t changed – and it is the one thing I’d like to see EA work on. I took over Manchester City and went after Cristiano Ronaldo – just to see. I offered 90m for him and the offer came back denied. It’d be nice to see more of a “That offer is not what we’re willing to do. Would you consider 100m?” and then have it go from there. Make it an actual negotiation. They have this in the Madden engine, it’d be nice to see it here.
I’d also like to see the EA team go after the rights to the various tournaments within each of the licensed leagues. Instead of the ‘league cup’ in La Liga, how about the Copa Del Rey? Or Coppa Italia, Coupe De La Ligue, Carling Cup/FA Cup, etc? It can’t be that hard to secure the rights once you have the league licensed can it?
I know Konami has the Champions League rights so those are out of the question but – those other tournaments should be easy to license and would be a welcome addition in my mind.
Overall, I could go down the spec sheet and list off all the new innovations but instead I’ll just NOT waste your time and tell you if you like soccer gaming and you want to play the most realistic game (look and feel) on the market, this is the game for you. I know there are likely guys reading this who swear by Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) but I think even YOU will find EA has gotten it right.
For me, this game easily scores 9.5 out of 10 – there’s always room for improvement.
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