The leaves are beginning to change, there is a chill in the air, and baseball’s post season is beginning. It must be time for football. No, not that football. Futbol. As with most sports, EA Sports dominates the landscape, and FIFA 11 does not disappoint.
FIFA 11 continues EA Sports’ tradition of being the best soccer game around, and this year it is definitely the best sport simulation available. From the lush green pitch to the size of Carles Puyol’s ears, everything about this game is top notch. The only thing missing is riots in the stands.
The main element an avid FIFA player will notice is the new Pro Passing system. This really separates the men from the boys. No longer can gamers get away with passing the ball recklessly and assuming it will just get sucked to the player’s boot, like in years past. This year, accuracy and kick power play a much larger roll.
For experienced players this just adds to the realism, which is FIFA 11’s strongest suit. For new or less-skilled players it can be much harder to mount a solid, quick offensive attack, as it is now much easier for an errant pass to be picked up by the opposing team and driven back the other way.
Moving into the goal box, EA Sports has developed the new Be A Goalkeeper mode. This is an expansion of the Virtual Pro mode that allows gamers to create a player and play as him through his entire career. Players take control of the goalie and handle not only his on the field playing, but also act as a field general for the rest of the team.
This is a mode everyone should try out. It is very fun, but for players who are not seriously committed to being a goalie, it can become very tedious and boring. Standing in the goal and barking orders is fun for a bit, but playing for a team with a very strong offense can result in a long day of just wandering around the penalty box.
Be A Goalkeeper brings to mind memories of playing MLB The Show's Road To The Show mode as a catcher. It also is a very interesting mode, though it requires a lot of effort for little pay off.
Most players will spend the majority of their time in Career Mode, where they may choose to be a Player, Manager or Player/Manager.
In the Player Career Mode, gamers take control of a Virtual Pro. Similar to Madden’s Superstar Mode and NHL’s Be A Pro, gamers only have control of their own player as he progresses through his career.
Taking a player from lowly bench warmer to international superstar can be an exceedingly fun journey. There is no feeling greater in a sports game then getting the ball on a break-away and driving home the goal that wins the game.
One of the nice parts of this mode is that the player is always evolving. There are a vast amount of achievements that will help build the character’s skills and style with unlockable cleats, socks, and other accessories.
Manager Career Mode is the traditional “franchise” mode found in all other sports games. Gamers have full control of not only the play on the field, but also the front office. They'll have to prove that they have what it takes on the field as well as behind a desk by working to bring other players to their team and making a powerhouse team on the field.
Manager Career Mode is extremely deep and, as with most “franchise” modes, that is not only its greatest asset, but also its Achilles’ heel. Hours can be spent getting lost in managerial menus only to feel like it has all been for nothing, but landing that big name player off the field can be just as rewarding as leading your team to victory on it.
Player/Manager Career Mode offers the best of both worlds. Players get to manage the team and play as a Virtual Pro, battling to bring home the championship. Combining the other two modes allows players to build an amazing team, with themselves as the centerpiece.
Sadly, there have been many issues with the online aspect of FIFA 11. While the gameplay has been great, there have been many issues with EA’s Online Pass and Be A Pro club mode.
On launch day, and for a few days after, many players were unable to validate their Online Pass codes. To play multiplayer the work-around is to simple: use the 7-day free trail that is available. However, doing that only allows for playing online multiplayer matches. Features such as importing a player or team made with the Creation Centre, or even creating a team to play online, are restricted.
This lead to a very frustrating first few days. I picked up my copy at a midnight launch and spent 30 minutes entering and re-entering the Online Pass code because I assumed I was typing the code in wrong. This lead to a headache and a restless night of sleep.
The next day, when the servers were fully functional, players needed to enter their Online Pass code to get an error message saying the code was already in use, then jump back to the Xbox 360 dashboard and re-enter the game. At which point they would get a message saying the Online Pass was corrupt, and that they should retry downloading it. After that, finally the code actually took and enabled the ability to use the added features that the full Online Pass has over the free trail.
The last issue I had with the online part of the game is the lack of ability to join a friend's Be A Pro team. Once the team captain sent out invites to players, they would rapidly disappear as if they were never sent, leaving the manager to see “No players approached” on their squad screen. It seems that this issue too has been fixed, but it has been a very trying launch for fans of FIFA online.
Once players actually get onto the pitch with friends, it is simply one of the best online experiences out there. Whether playing one-on-one, or up to eleven-on-eleven, the fun is fast paced and definitely an experience everyone needs to join in on. For playing online, a headset is a must. I played on a team with someone who didn’t have one, and every time there was a free ball, we both went after it.
FIFA 11 is the most beautiful, deep sports games ever created. Taking the great base of FIFA 10 and adding the improvements of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa have made for an unparalleled soccer game. The only hope is that Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 can continue its rebuilding period and push EA Sports in the future to keep improving the FIFA franchise.
EA Sports’ FIFA 11 is available now for all major platforms and handheld devices.