FIFA 11 Review: Most Fun Sports Game Has Some Flaws

Quick, easy question: Who’s the best player currently on Aston Villa?

Ashley Young is probably the first name that pops to mind. Maybe you’d say youngster Marc Albrighton. You’d be laughed at but Emile Heskey is proving, yes, there’s still some worth in his 32-year-old carcass.

If the world of FIFA 11 is to be believed, the answer to said question is Welsh defender James Collins, who the game rates as an 81 overall, one whole rating point ahead of Young, as well as other Villa standouts like Brad Friedel, Richard Dunne, Stewart Downing, Stephen Ireland, Stylian Petrov and Gabby Agbonlahor.

Therein lays the tricky spot FIFA 11 finds itself.

It’s the best-playing soccer game on the market, yet it falls wide of the target when it comes to creating an authentic footballing experience inside a video game console. Still, it’s miles ahead of its only other competitive – Pro Evolution Soccer – which despite adding the Champions League and Copa Libertadores licenses lacks many national league licenses, notably the Premier League.

Part of my long-ranging personal problem with the “FIFA” series is it tries to appeal to a worldwide collection of soccer fans, yet in the end leaves everyone feeling a little empty. Nothing against these leagues, but how many gamers are actually use the Polish, Czech or Irish Leagues or the various other secondary or tertiary leagues? Hate to say it, but also how many global gamers are every going to queue up a FC Dallas/Colorado Rapids match?

As it is already, it seems 95 percent of online players always select Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United, to begin with.

It’s nice to have nearly 30 leagues to select from, but in the end, aside from the club colors and badges, there’s not a lot to separate a team from the Danish Superliga from the Swiss Super League.

On the plus side, EA finally added the Russian Premier League to the next-gen consoles adding appealing teams like Zenit, Rubin Kazan, Dinamo Moscow and CSKA into the mix, although its “Rest of the World” option remains bare bones, with glaring omissions like any of the top Ukrainian, Romanian or even an choice from the Asian Champions League sorely lacking.

EA might be better served to beef up the presentation for the big leagues, such as the EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga, to create a more accurate game experience. Add some more unique stadiums instead of the generic Ivy Lanes of the world. Render a few more faces to make players look like they really do, not just the superstars. Any good reason Clint Dempsey once again gets a generic digital avatar? Both ?ukasz Fabia?ski and Vito Mannone get unique renderings. So at least Arsene Wenger has one less thing to complain about.

To its credit, the EA’s other flagship — “Madden NFL” — makes you feel like you’re inside an actual NFL game when you play it. Same thing for Visual Concepts “NBA 2K11″ which take realism to another level. Granted this is much more difficult when you’re dealing with around 30 different leagues, there’s only so much memory space on the disc itself.

That said, this year’s FIFA does add a full-blown creation center via its website for folks who used to go crazy with the old PES “edit” file. You’re able to import custom songs and chants to trigger during introductions and goals. So yeah, that’s pretty cool to play against Manchester City and hear “Blue Moon” when your players walk onto the field, assuming you have that much free time on your hands to actually put it into the game. Hey, adding “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to digital Anfield might be the only way to cheer up some Liverpool fans at this point.

Single player in FIFA 11 remains hit-or-miss. The computer AI is now a little less generic, with teams playing slightly differently and they’ll even pull off skill moves, which is a nice wrinkle. Yet at higher levels the computer rarely makes a wrong pass or moves a player out of position, making it a challenge, albeit not a very exciting one as most games play out like late 1990s Serie A games. EA is touting it’s “Personality Plus” system so players play like their real-life equivalents, but it’s hardly noticeable as a team like Grimsby Town still doesn’t play all that differently than Real Madrid.

Career mode has once again been tweaked by EA allowing you to play as a single player, coach or player-manager. The developers apparently have heard the outcry from fans, so the fixture list is a little more realistic — I even saw an early season mid-week Championship game with my Portsmouth career pushed back to January because of a clash with a Carling Cup match. Transfers, too, have been tweaked to be more accurate, so you’ll no longer see Manchester United selling off Wayne Rooney to Palmeiras.

In short, career mode isn’t all that compressive or engrossing as it could be, since in the end playing upwards of 50 to 100 matches vs. the computer AI gets boring.

Now you’re probably thinking by this point, this guy must hate FIFA 11. Well, that’s not the case at all.

For everything it lacks in making you feel like you’re in an authentic soccer experience, the game makes up for in sterling game play and variety.

Ever since FIFA 09, EA appears to have found a fluid game engine, an almost eerie precision. Take a guy with enough skill, say a Cristiano Ronaldo, and you can basically do whatever you want on the field. The game does a great job getting the “feel” of its controls right. Power up a shot to the upper corner from the right distance and watch it fly. There’s just a sense of knowing you hit it right, albeit in videogame form, that’s very satisfying.

If there’s a change from last season, it’s that FIFA 11 feels much looser than last year. You’re no longer able to ping-pong one-touch passes across the field like a fleet of Xavi’s.

The biggest gimmick EA added to this year’s game is the “Be a Goalkeeper” mode. For a couple years now you’ve been able to create a digital version of yourself and suit up anywhere on the field, except in goal. Now you can and it’s surprisingly a whole lot of fun. You’ll definitely gain a new appreciation for goalies learning the right angles once you step into their shoes.

Through it all, the core of the game, for me at least, is online play whether it be as my virtual pro in a match alongside 11 other players or in a 1-v-1 scenario against another gamer. In this area FIFA 11 belts another cracker, even if the EA servers have been a little touch-and-go through the first week. Aside from the fact almost everyone seems to use the same five-star teams, there’s few better tests of skill in sports gaming. It gets even better playing alongside a friend on the same side and taking down the opposition.

Is FIFA 11 perfect? Not really.

Does it make you feel like you’re walking out of the tunnel and onto an EPL pitch? Nah.

But is it the most fun to play sports game currently on the market? You bet.

Call it the Tottenham of video games. Flawed and inconsistent, but thoroughly entertaining.

Order FIFA 11 today online via Amazon.

Editor’s note: You can read more of Mike Cardillo’s articles on his blog, That’s On Point. Plus, you can follow Mike on Twitter @thatsonpoint

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to FIFA 11 Review: Most Fun Sports Game Has Some Flaws

  1. ruffneckc says:

    Good writeup but you contradict yourself to a point,”To its credit, the EA’s other flagship — “Madden NFL” — makes you feel like you’re inside an actual NFL game when you play it.” Insinuating that FIFA 11 doesn’t give you an authentic experience. Then further down your write, “For everything it lacks in making you feel like you’re in an authentic soccer experience, the game makes up for in sterling game play and variety.

    I’d say the path the dev team is on is stellar. No other game has as much content as FIFA, with only 1 year dev., time you have to appreciate that some areas will be lacking, while others are prioritized. Having many leagues, satisfies the masses, which reflects EA’s high sell through numbers. Last year, Mannone and Fabianski had generic faces, not so this year. It takes time but eventually every licensed team player will have a decent face.

    Overall, the game is much much better than FIFA 10, where it really counts and that is on the pitch. I’ve played with “lesser” teams and you can definitely feel the Personality + in effect as 1 or 2 have strength or dribbling that you can use to your benefit.

    While you’re at it, join the EPLTalk League and game with a good bunch of people on Xbox 360.

    • ruffneckc says:

      So I apologize – ignore the 1st para, as I misread that section of the article. You did not contradict yourself.

  2. adjam82 says:

    To be fair as a Villa fan Collins is a cult hero. A fantastic committed defender certainly better than Dunne and the others you mentioned. Young is possible a more valuable (to the team) player but it is SOOO close.

  3. Martin says:

    The PS3 EPL Talk League is set up. if you want to join simply search for “EPL Talk” on the PS3 or add me on the PS3. My PSN ID is esomedina and I’ll invite you that way. Just include EPL Talk in your Friend Request message.

    We currently have 9 people signed up and the following teams have been taken (the 9th player hasn’t actually joined the League as of yet and picked his team):

    Team (username)
    Arsenal (DoubleJ88)
    Aston Villa (atom_25)
    Chelsea (Kipp9)
    Liverpool (moose9t9)
    Manchester United (XxRedDevilxX)
    Newcastle (trisfgotp)
    Tottenham (esomedina)
    Sunderland (Eng9lland)
    ??? (GhostDog(312)

    Feel free to add these users to your friends list as well.

    We’re hoping to get 20 people total so we can have a real EPL league season going. Games are set to 10 minute halves and we play each other twice like the real EPL. You can play at your leisure but I’m hoping we can set up a dedicated time each week to jump on and play a couple matches.

    • Simon Burke says:

      I am sure people will be lining up to take Blackpool :)

    • Josh says:

      Martin,

      Thanks so much for setting this up, much appreciated. This will be a ton of fun. How is the schedule going to work? I will be able to start playing in the league after this weekend.

      Best,

      Josh (XxRedDevilxX)

      • Martin says:

        Yeah, should be some fun.

        As for scheduling, I think we can play each other whenever we want, just depends who is online at the time. I’ll post a message on the League News section of the game to discuss times.

  4. Gaz Hunt says:

    I’m pretty sure the player stats get updated and are indicative of recent form.

    So while Young may be regarded as the best player on the team, his recent stats may not agree with that. Maybe he’s gone a few games without scoring, assisting, or just plain threatening-looking. Collins on the other hand may have looked solid, picked up an assist, or similar in his recent games.

  5. Joe says:

    So because you are a soccer snob, people who are fans of “tertiary” leagues should be left without a way to play as their favorite teams? And because you are ignorant about the Danish SuperLiga and Swiss Super League, there is definitely “no noticeable difference” between them?

    A valid opinion should be backed up with evidence. One’s own ignorance doesn’t qualify as evidence.

    I’m glad you’re not a game designer.

  6. Lermio Lermasaurus says:

    I understand where Joe is coming from, because my home team is actually FC Dallas and I have used them before. But, I also see where Mike is coming from, because who outside of Dallas would actually use them? Probably nobody. It’s cool that they are in the game, but I wouldn’t care if they weren’t either. I always use my favorite European clubs anyways. Good review though, I’ve played the game and this is pretty spot on. The last line made me lol too!

    • ruffneckc says:

      @ Lermio

      My home team is NY Redbulls. If you want to play with FC Dallas, I’ll certainly take you on for kicks! :) on Xbox 360: ruffn3ckc.

  7. Dave B. says:

    I haven’t gotten that deep into my Manager Mode, but i think with scouting no longer available, the smaller leagues out there are going to be a lot more important – especially if you’re taking a League Two or League One side and trying to get them to the Prem.

    Instead of scouting the young future stars of your team, you’re going to need to go out and find some good young players that’ll blossom with your team as it gets better.

    That should mean plucking from the lower divisions in Germany, Spain, Italy, England and France. But it might also mean grabs guys from Russia, Czech Republic, Australia, US and other smaller leagues.

  8. dominjon says:

    All things being equal I would say Collins is better at his job than A Young is at his.

  9. Sid says:

    FIFA might have more content on it, but when it comes to having one on one games with friends, the playability and game play experience is way better on PES/Winning Eleven Soccer series hands down. My opinion :)

    • DinMN says:

      Have you played PES2011? Simply amazing. I play it on PC, so the content isn’t a problem: the modding community is on TOP FORM when it comes to adding in the missing content. The fact that teams like Man City won’t allow PES to use their name isn’t PES’s fault. It says something to me when UEFA chooses PES and Konami to represent their most prestigious tournament, the Champions League, over FIFA.

      I can’t express how much better I like PES’s become a legend mode over FIFA 11′s. I like having to work my way onto the sub’s bench, then going from there. In FIFA 11 you just get up and go! Choose your team and you’re already its star. No thanks. Plus I don’t like that FIFA tells you what to do, where the “danger” is, where to be in position, etc. With PES the only information you get is your own stamina: the rest is up to you, and how you play it determines the next step in your career. I like it.

      Overall, I cast aside the FIFA games when they moved to a next-gen graphics engine for the consoles while not changing a G-D thing for the PC version until this year. That meant that the same graphics engine that ran FIFA06 (which I LOVED) ran FIFA10. Since they decided to forsake PC gamers, I’ll side with PES any day.

      • Dave C says:

        @DinMN – in FIFA’s “Be a Pro” mode, you don’t just become your team’s “star” straight away – you actually start off playing in the reserve team. Once you start impressing with the reserves, THEN you get into the full team.

        However, it does seem to miss the important intermediary step of being a sub for the first team. But I guess sitting on the bench doesn’t translate well into a football game…

        • DinMN says:

          OK, I stand corrected as to the beginning of the Be a Pro. Sorry about that. Admittedly I only played it for about a week before I started into PES2011.

          Being on the bench *can* translate well into a game, and PES2010 did that last year, I thought. As a pro, you went from Reserve Team B to Reserve Team A, which meant that shortly you would be on the subs bench. After a series of good (read: decent) performances as a sub, you get to start, but normally only play for 60 minutes max. I know it’s formulaic, but I thought it worked well. PES2011 lacks the training matches that it’s predecessor had, and I miss them.

          My main beef with FIFA11′s Be a Pro is, well, the control you have. *When I was playing* every time I asked for a pass I got it. My shooting was pretty decent as a 17 year old (oh how I wish that were true in real life!), my crosses constantly found their targets, and I started (what I thought was) my first match, but I’ll take your word that it was a reserve match. I always imagined anyone’s first foray into pro football (except the occasional maestro) to be powerless and puny. Shots going WAY OFF, crosses hardly ever connecting, etc. That’s why I like PES’s mode. I will say, however, that PES2011 has made it much easier than PES2010, and I wish it would regress slightly to PES2010′s difficulty. I also liked NOT being able to choose what team I wanted to be on. Then the payoff for getting onto a team you love is so so much more.

          • Rajon says:

            One other important thing that you forgot to mention about FIFA 11 (its maybe because you didnt play it enough) and pretty much every one here also forgot to mention was that during transfer between the clubs, they don’t even offer the player a single penny..other than position that you can play for. (No money involved what so ever)

            I found that very disappointing to tell you the truth and very weird. The only thing that PES lags is the commentry of the game.

            Fifa 11 has done an excellent job with it while PES 11 commentry is very boring and annoying and inaccurate.

            I hope PES12 will be a perfect one for KONAMI.

  10. Mark the Dog says:

    I am a Chelsea fan. I also like the total experience. I always start as manager of Chelsea and then go and win every trophy I can. I then move the manager to Serie A, Budesliga, La Liga, Eridiviese, etc… and tries to win all of those trophies. I pick the best team available, which in Serie A means Napoli or Fiorintina; you don’t have enough prestige for Inter or Milan. It’s nice to learn about those teams and leagues.

    I would like to see all the stadiums available, both in the EPL as well as other leagues.

  11. Casey G. says:

    Pro Evo >>> FIFA, end.

  12. Callum says:

    Are those ratings fopr Villa with Live Season on?

    Because I know with the default ratings Ashley Young is Villas best player at 83
    I’m pretty sure James Collins is only 78
    Cuellar and Dunne are both ahead of him in CB position at 79 & 81

    Also, i’ll join that Premierleague on Fifa if I can? I’m not actually signed up to this site, I just found it on google, but I will sign up now if need be

  13. jORDAN says:

    I find the game quite dull online, not a gameplay issue, just the fact that you only ever seem to play against real madrid, it soon becomes very boring. Its like you are playing the same match on repeat. It also means that unless you’re content in only winning occassionaly, you have to do likewise and consistently be one of only a few teams that give you a chance of winning.

    • The Gaffer says:

      When I played the FIFA World Cup video game during the summer, almost all of the players I played against online chose Spain. Now that I’m playing FIFA 11 online, most of the opponents I play against online pick Barcelona. It’s a bit predictable but still it’s nice to see Barcelona get beat now and again.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  14. Footballfool says:

    I guess there is no better time than now to ask the questions that I have about gaming. I’m not much of a gamer. I have a PS2 that I actually won a couple of years ago and only have played sports games. Madden, MLB The Show and NCAA Football. During this years’ World Cup, I bought FIFA 10. I immediately loved it. Now that I have heard some of this talk about playing on-line, I have been considering purchasing a PS3 or XBOX360 so I could play on-line. The thing is that I have some questions. Is it easy to start up (on-line) ? And can you update/download the team rosters ? This would be kind of important to me. And since I stink at playing, are there “levels” to play (like beginners, intermediate and so on) ? Which system would be better if I just play sports games? Feel free to enlighten me about anything else I may have questions about or should be concerned about.

    Thanks

  15. Dave C says:

    Not sure why anyone would criticize FIFA for including “tertiary” leagues…it’s not harming anyone – if you don’t want to play as a Danish or Swiss team, just don’t do it.

    I’m not even THAT bothered about the generic stadiums, or generic player-faces. They are only a superficial things, and I’d far rather have them get the game play right.

    That said, I wish they’d just iron out all the dumb glitches BEFORE releasing the game – like manager mode freezing up or leaving you with $2bn debt at random after you’ve invested hours of playing-time into the game…

    • Dave C says:

      Also, does the “Be a Pro” mode last longer than 4 yrs this time round? I always thought that was extremely dumb…

  16. Footballfool says:

    So is there any more room in the EPL Talk league?

  17. Bob smith says:

    I think having the second tier leagues is good I’m from America and I know a bunch of Americans who would and will actually queue up fc Dallas Colorado rapids I play most of my games with Chelsea but I play a good number of games with Seattle sounders or fc Dallas so I will agree to disagree on not having second tier leagues. But great article other than that.

  18. Mahlon Christensen says:

    Hello,

    My EPL fandom has progressed to the point where I’m itching to try one of the various football video games, so I have some questions which I hope will help determine which is the right game for me. Having not been a console gamer for 10 years, I’m limited to the PC, currently I only have a mouse.

    Fifa 11 was my first choice, but I read somewhere that it’s not mouseable, is this true?

    So this led me to consider the various Football Manager games, Fifa Manager and Football Manager seem to be the two best. Are they mouseable? Does anyone have an opinion as to which is better? I’m primarily interested in the English leagues(EPL, Championship, FL 1&2) but wouldn’t mind being able to play champions league as well.

    Any help that you can give me will be greatly appreciated :)

    Cheers,
    Mahlon

    • The Gaffer says:

      Mahlon, excellent question. Hopefully one of the readers can answer your question.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Mahlon Christensen says:

      Thanks Gaffer,

      I am probably going to buy a PS3 soon and really want to buy FIFA 11. I’ve seen online on youtube that it has a really good career manager mode, most of the videos I’ve seen online, the people seem to still want to control the players even in manager mode. I just wanted to know if there was a way to let the CPU control the players, but still watch the games?

      Most EA sports games I used to play had this sort of “coach” mode, but I haven’t played an EA title in 10 years. I’m really looking forward to playing FIFA!

      As always, thanks in advance for any help.

      Cheers,
      Mahlon

  19. None Given says:

    Here is another great FIFA 11 guide:

    http://superiorskills.blogspot.com/

    It is not done but still good!

  20. Joe says:

    Mahlon,

    If you would prefer to just watch matches then Football Manager 2011 would definately be the way to go, being a far better game than fifa manager. However if you actually wanted control over your team and would be fine with a bit less depth then you should get fifa. And yes, you use your mouse on Football Manager.

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