FIFA 11 Xbox 360 Review

October 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – EA – Developer – EA Canada – Genre –  Sports – Players – 1-22 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Every year, the accusation levelled at EA is that their newest sports games are merely an update of what has gone before, with minor graphical changes and gameplay tweaks. And as this is the third FIFA game in just over a year – including the excellent World Cup game – is there really much different in this latest instalment?

The first step is to secure an Online Pass for playing games online, with the option of a free 7-day trial. For second-hand buyers, this will mean either hoping the code on the back of the manual has not been used or paying to purchase an Online Pass. The next port of call is the Arena, allowing the player to practice their skills – either as an attacker, or now as a goalkeeper. Kick Off gives the usual Friendly option and the new Be a Goalkeeper selection to stand between the sticks for a whole match.

Creating a Virtual Pro – with optional Game Face created and downloaded from EA’s website – should be the next step. As this created player is used in the Career mode and online, the person controlling him will earn Accomplishments for doing certain things: from completing passes to beating a defender, this adds a nice sense of progression. The Creation mode also allows the player to make kits.

The Career mode can be tackled in three ways – as a Player, a Player Manager or a Manager. In all cases the person with the joypad can choose to play as a Virtual Pro or to control the whole team. If your Virtual Pro is not picked for a match, is injured or suspended, then the match will be simulated with a scrolling list of key moments (goals, injuries, cards) appearing. The Sky Sports information menu and the familiar calendar view return from previous games, giving you headlines on what is happening and e-mails from the club staff to keep you up to date.

Has the curse of the EA cover star already struck Rooney?

Online there are several different ways of playing. The first is the standard Head to Head match, and next up is Team Play – which gives the chance of having 11 humans compete against 11 humans over Xbox Live. The Lounge is a way for friends to play together.

Graphically, the player likenesses continue to impress and the whole thing runs very smoothly. The stadium casts shadows on the pitch on a bright summer’s day and the close-ups move fluidly. There are a few quirks – piles of snow on the sidelines when the weather is just overcast in September, or the occasional glitch as a player model is slow to load in. There was also one instance of an invisible player during an online match. Commentary from Martin Tyler and Andy Gray is good, but continues the trend of recent EA sports games of being just a little repetitive as you play more games. Crowd sounds and chants add to the atmosphere, with being able to import your own music as a team chant being a good addition. The EA Trax selection is as diverse as ever and works well. A much wider range of player-controlled celebrations are fun, but the Match Highlights option often misses out the best bits.

The AI is for the most part spot on, creating tense games and showing very few mistakes. However, at the higher skill levels and most notably in the Career mode, two evenly matched teams will produce a lot of midfield scrapping and not much fluid play. But the freewheeling, free scoring FIFA of the past is now gone. Online the performance is disappointing. Games frequently disconnect (despite an update promising to fix many server issues) and there is lag. Generally the better the player you are playing against, the less likely you will get someone quitting early or playing badly (such as constantly being caught offside).

Overall then, it’s the same as it has been over the last couple of years. FIFA has produced the best play, but it is not without its little bugs and annoyances. FIFA also has all the licensed leagues and real player names that its rival lacks. Is it a vital purchase for football fans? Probably. Is it worth a higher score? No, because despite some changes it really feels like an update and not a whole new game. FIFA 11 may have gone straight to the top of the UK software charts but it will have to work to retain its crown as the best football game around.