Some things in life are pretty much a dead cert, one of them being an annual update to the FIFA franchise. And before you can start singing ‘ere we go, here it is.
Football on consoles this generation has been a two-horse race, and until a couple of years ago (depending who you talk to) FIFA was always the close second until FIFA 09 brought some new tricks to the table. To cut to the chase, for anybody with a passing interest in football, FIFA 11 is another essential buy.
The new stuff: much of the fanfare around the new version will be about ‘Personality Plus’, an attribute-based system that supposedly makes players behave much more like their real-life counterparts. There is no doubt that a lot of effort has gone in to this, but the effect may yet be too subtle to pick up on.
The ‘Be a Pro’ game modes have been enhanced, allowing you to play as a goalkeeper, and this is not limited to leaning against a goalpost. Your performance is rated, as usual, on positioning, actions, and calling out plays to the players downfield. You can even come up for the occasional corner or free kick if you are feeling particularly like Peter Schmeichel today. Not only that; it is now possible to play full 11 vs. 11 games online complete with human keepers. ‘Be a Pro’ is also the very best way to experience FIFA online.
‘Pro passing’ is an attempt to bridge the gap between manual and automatic, giving the player more control of the speed and distance a ball will travel. The Manager Mode has been rolled over into a Career Mode, which has combined aspects of previous game types and packaged them nicely together.
There is also a focus on customisation, with the opportunity to add your own chants and music to the background noise; my tip is to keep an eye on the web – I’m sure there are some industrious fans making the most of this function already and the potential of beating Manchester United to a few ‘colourful’ tunes cannot be passed up.
Another nice and long overdue addition is the ability to save match highlights from the replays, and this is probably the most exciting tweak for me. Time and again I have thrashed through a nail-biting match, only to watch those golden moments at the end slip by. The developers have recognised that stopping mid-game to lay down a video clip does not suit everybody, and being able to tinker with your goal of the month after the match just makes sense.
The one issue I do have, and it’s probably all me, is that I never get control of the player I am expecting. This usually sees me sending players off in the wrong direction before I get to tussle over the ball, but apart from that (and the lack of Villa Park) I’m happy. It really is a nice bag of enhancements to an already top-class package. FIFA 11 has secured its place in my trophy cabinet for a long time to come.