Reviewed: October 5, 2010
Released: September 28, 2010
I really enjoy certain things about this time of year. While normally around this time I am settling in to the malaise of impending winter, there always comes along two video games that help pick me up from the doldrums; NHL hockey and FIFA soccer. This year, EA did the unthinkable. They released FIFA 11 Soccer in the USA three days before releasing it in Europe. I'm shocked there were no hooligan riots. At least there were none reported on the USA news.|
Last year, FIFA Soccer was incredibly impressive. The game itself was fun to play and had multiple game modes to keep people coming back. But then came the FIFA Ultimate Team add-on and that made it even better. There really wasn't much to improve in FIFA 10 – and that's great news – however I was worried EA would change something drastically just to keep things “fresh”... and completely mess up the game in the process. Thankfully, they didn't make a mess with FIFA 11 and even added some great new features.
EA has tweaked the overall gameplay with the addition of Personality+. It is the next step toward the players having unique personalities. Shades of this were in FIFA previous years, but this system seems much more robust. A lot more players have little personality traits that make the video game players look authentic in their movements. Even player goal celebrations are contained in this new system. The career mode has a new engine in FIFA 11 and it delivers an authentic pro that mimics real life. Only you can hinder your creativity. Career mode is limited to a 15 year lifespan so if you want to be on top of the world, you have to learn great patience.
The number of licensed teams included in FIFA 11 is another big win over the competition. The only addition from last year is the Russian League. Leagues are from Australiatria (Austrian Bundesliga), Belgium (Belgium Pro League), Brazil (Liga do Brasil), Czech Republic (Ceska Liga), Denmark (Superliga), England (Barclays Premier League, Npower Championship, League 1 and 2), France (Ligue 1 and 2), Germany (Bundesliga and 2 Bundsliga), Italy (Serie A and B), Kora Republic (K-League), Mexico (Primera Division Mex), Netherlands (Eredivisie), Norway (Tippeligaen), Poland (Ekstraklasa), Portugal (Liga Portuguesa), Republic of Ireland (Irish League), Russia (Russian League), Scotland (SPL), Spain (Liga BBVA, Liga Adelante), Sweden (Allsvenskan), Switzerland (Axpo SL), Turkey (Super Lig), United States (Major League Soccer), and the rest are in “Rest of the World” which has 8 teams (down 2 from last year) and 2 all-star teams.
In this World Cup year there are also 39 International teams included (2 less than FIFA 10), however there is once again no official “world cup” tournament in FIFA 11, just a tournament mode where you can pick from 17 cups. It has a lot of rule settings to customize your tournament to your liking, but no World Cup. So if you really want to play the World Cup from this past summer, you'll have to get EA's official World Cup game for a heavy discounted price at most used game stores. In total, FIFA 11 has over 30 leagues, over 500 teams, and more than 15,000 players at your fingertips... and if that wasn't enough to convince you, there is a major addition in FIFA 11.
The big new addition is the Creation Center. You can go online to www.easportsfootball.com and create your own teams and players. The fun has finally come to FIFA! It does still need some work (you can't make your own team crest or logo), but it sure is fun making your college team or classic teams. You can download others creations, thus extending the life of this game a great deal. My first download was the 1977 New York Cosmos featuring Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, and many others.
One word of warning: when you get this game new, a code is included on the back of the manual to enable online play. If you bought it used, you'll have to pay EA for the privilege of playing online. When you get the game you can setup a free 10-day trial, but you can't download user created teams with the trial.
On the subject of teams, EA owns the NCAA college license so I have to wonder why they wouldn't put NCAA teams in the game as well. It wouldn't take a whole lot of resources to make even just the top 20 NCAA teams a reality. It certainly wouldn't warrant their own game (maybe on Xbox Live), but would fit right in with the USA system where college and minor leagues are used as a source for draft players. While we are on the subject, isn't it about time the women get some respect? The USA women's team is followed by a lot of fans, and adding men's and women's NCAA teams into the mix would even increase the appeal of FIFA 12 next year. Inclusion of these teams would certainly increase the fan base and sales for this game.
EA has finally come through with a complete online 11 vs. 11 game. Yes, you can pick from any of the 11 positions including goalie. But as with NHL 11, playing goalie can be a pretty boring affair and I suspect the only people who will play as the goalie will be people who played goalie in real life. FIFA is one of the few games where online play might be the biggest attraction of playing.
Xbox live play is a complete soccer game experience. Playing full 11 vs. 11 games can be very rewarding if you are on a team that plays their positions. But occasionally you might end up with some boneheads who think everyone is on offense and that usually leads to counterattack breakaways (sorry goalie). I suppose as with all online games, your fun is greatly affected by who you are playing with – a hack or a soccer player.
When online you can play in standard head to head mode, team play, and set up a league of your own. There is also the “Live Season” which updates player data based on how the real life players perform each week. Every week you can download a new roster update. You can participate by paying 800 Microsoft Points for all the leagues (Premiere, Ligue 1, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Liga BBVA). Individual leagues are 400 Microsoft Points.
The graphics of FIFA 11 are amazing. There wasn't much they could do to improve from last season but they did! 51 stadiums are authentically modeled right down to the advertising boards. EA Sports games seem to be stepping away from the authentic ESPN logos and other graphics. The sports ticker is still ever present, but menus and transitions are now branded with the EA Sports logo. Instead we get a few graphics from England's Sky Sports (frequently seen on Fox Soccer Channel here in the USA). It's nothing flashy, but does get the job done while keeping the Sky Sports brand front and center.
FIFA 11 is one of few games that still take advantage of the face mapping capability. You can import your mug shot on the EA Sports website or just import it from your previous version of FIFA. It is both horrifying and amazing to see your own mug shot on a celebrating player after scoring a goal. As with NHL 11, FIFA suffers some minor framerate issues when using the “Be-A-Pro” camera angle – especially when playing 11 on 11 online. It's not unplayable, but it is noticeable when there are just too many independent players on the screen at once.
All the commentators from FIFA 10 have returned for FIFA 11 including Ande Gray and Martin Tyler for the English commentary, Mexican Spanish (Richardo Palaez and Perro Bermudez) and French (Franck Sauzee and Herve Mathoux) commentaries are also included on the disc. The English commentary is, as usual, quite good. I rarely heard repeated phrases and the English style of commentary is a welcome change from the usual American rubbish, and who doesn't enjoy the spirited Spanish commentary with hilarious calls of GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLL!!!
The music is again an odd mix of 33 songs in what I guess can be described as “world music”. The majority I have never heard of or wish I hadn't. Bands from all over the globe are featured, including Adrian Lux, Chromeo, Gorillaz, Linkin Park, The Black Keys and many others. There are settings to turn them all off and use your own music if you so desire. You can also create custom chants specific to your player, team or league.
FIFA 11 is an amazing value, but still has more growing to do. I personally cannot justify paying any amount for online play or an “ultimate team” trading card add-on product. I understand EA wanting to recoup more of their money, but the add-ons are so un-compelling I really think they would be better off just putting these features inside the game. FIFA 11 has 46 achievements for a gamer score of 1,000 points. The majority of the achievements require run-of-the-mill items most people would do naturally. What you don't see in the tutorial videos you can probably pick up easily in the manual.
FIFA 11 is going to be in a very close race with NHL 11 for Sports Game of the Year honors. On many levels, FIFA has really thrown pretty much everything into this game and all others have some huge catching up to do. FIFA is fun to play and available for most every platform from PS3 to cell phone. The addition of the creation center has put FIFA 11 in a class by itself, straddling the fine line between reality and gaming amazingly well.