Chances are you've probably read a load of FIFA 11 reviews already. The usual plaudits have been handed out riddled with the usual, but completely justified, clichés of 'best sports simulation' and the 'closest you'll get to actually playing football' or 'captures the excitement of soccer expertly'. What you probably haven't seen yet is folk talking about the online modes or indeed basing their opinions on finished copies of FIFA 11 - the same stuff you'll be getting, or not depending on how you feel about the game. Well, rest assured because we're here to deliver these very things and a whole lot more, including where to get your team's MP3 chants from.
Above: Man Yoo's Wayne Rooney represents the near identical players you can expect this season
Career we go
It goes without saying that FIFA 11 is packed to the brim with modes to keep you happy. Amongst the vast array of things you can compete in are the English FA Cup, the French leagues or your own custom tournaments. Then there's the manager mode. A much maligned feature from FIFA 10 (check out the astonishing list of bugs on this forum thread) is rightly fixed in FIFA 11, but even now it's still not perfect.
The board of your chosen club can be notoriously harsh and sack you with little warning. I was playing as Manchester United and after eleven games we were in the Big Four and following a thrashing of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge I received a mail saying my job was under review. A nil-nil draw in the next game to Bolton and I'm given my marching orders. Ouch.
Above: Team news is presented in an e-mail style to create the illusion of being the manager. Sort of works
Unfortunately, FIFA 11 is marred by the cripplingly long load times between menus. And waiting for the calendar to update in Manager Mode is enough time to stick the kettle on and maybe load up the washing machine. We're still slightly dubious about the transfer system throwing up unusual transfers (Ryan Giggs to Liverpool, anyone?) but on a whole being able to play as a single player on the pitch, the manager or player/manager is a nice touch to add more variety to proceedings.
Touch of personality
On the pitch, there isn't a huge standout tweak in FIFA 11's football than the previous year. However, there are loads of little nuances that manage to improve on FIFA 10 and then some. Personality+TM
means that technically gifted players such as Man United's ginger prince, Paul Scholes, might not be as quick as others but his range of passing means that you can realistically dissect an opponent with his accurate ball-play. It also affects players like Barcelona's Andres Iniesta who's not the tallest of men but with the ball sticking to him like glue, he won't just get bullied off the ball by the bigger boys.
Above: Defensive characteristics include sliding in expertly and toe-poking the ball away
Considering that most footie games usually highlight top players by simply making them faster than the rest, EA's Personality+ strikes a landmark for the genre, heck, most sports games by creating such individuality. It really does add up to make FIFA 11 one hell of a realistic affair. And for the most part (pan-hands still flail about here) even the keepers have been improved so they can now make stunning double saves to keep your team in it.
On the downside, the new passing system that's been implemented is a curious beast. At times you can be pinging the ball around like a professional and the next all your passes are flying in a direction you swear you never even pushed the stick in. You can switch the auto-assists on full if you really want to hit the ball to feet 99% of the time but then it detracts from the simulation slightly.
See the next page for creation tools, online play and MP3 chants