27 Reviews

FIFA 11

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better...

FIFA is quickly becoming the hardest franchise to review in the entirety of the video game galaxy. Basically, it's been making us look like mugs ever since FIFA 09.


The revamped entry - which came after the slug-fest that was FIFA 08 - made critics stand up, applaud and declare console football back on track. FIFA 10 trotted out of the tunnels a year later, bringing the likes of 360 dribbling with it. It offered fluid, flexible play on the field - and lit up score boards everywhere.

"The definitive football game" we all called it. But we were premature. Along came FIFA World Cup, which would go on to brighten up our otherwise miserable summer of soccer with a flair-filled yet balanced take on the beautiful game. It managed to combine the weighty, authentic feel of FIFA and the screaming, pad-clenching moments of PES at its near best.

There are only so many times critics can say, "This is as good as it gets," before being shown something better the following year. It hurts our ego.

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The other reason FIFA is a bitch to critique is because the footy sim has become so sophisticated that the annual improvements are more about subtle adjustments than big engine and feature updates. Somehow though, those slight changes seem to have a significant impact every time.

So what's the flagship tweak this year? It's called Personality+, a system where different player types are easily defined, thanks to certain traits and a mechanism that determines everything from a player's shot accuracy to his stamina.

It means that Sol Campbell should visibly play much differently to Aaron Lennon - and we should finally be able to lament a player's abilities on the pitch without getting the "well, you're controlling them" response.

When we first tested out FIFA 11, however, players still all seemed to have roughly the same feel to them. For a while we were wondering whether Personality+ had any real effect at all.

It was then that we witnessed Theo Walcott attempt to tackle Zat Knight - and bounce right off the big man. With our eyes opened, we started to look for more evidence; and noticed Lee Chung Yong (yeah, we were playing as Bolton, what of it?) flail his arms to keep balance as he scrambled around a left back on the wing.

Sure, it sounds like a big sparkly new feature, and we're sure EA Sports will plaster it all over the box. But the truth is, Personality+ is a classic subtle tweak, rather than an in-your-face overhaul.

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You'll find Rooney often wants to be deep in the field, getting stuck into middle of the park; Lampard and Gerrard can fire rockets at the net; we nearly lost control with Aaron Lennon when we burst past a defender; and you're far more likely to score a header with the likes of John Carew or Kevin Davies (come on you Whites) than Darren Bent.

In terms of most players, Personality+ won't have a massive effect on your game. That could be a criticism; but, then again, how much worth really is there, for example, in studying how John O'Shea moves?

Elsewhere, the basic feel of FIFA 11 will be pretty familiar to those who played World Cup - but will be a big step up if you've been hanging on since FIFA 10. Players are much more nimble, meaning that 360 dribbling can be properly taken advantage of with tighter turns and intricate dribbling routes.

In moments of inspired stick skill, you'll surprise yourself as you knock the ball around defenders with a number of deft touches in a small space.

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