After countless online games over the weekend, I can confirm that FIFA 11 is strong in the virtual arena. A major negative to the ambitious list of modes and options on offer is that, at the time of writing, it's riddled with annoying bugs. Taking your Virtual Pro into an 11 vs. 11 match is an absolute joy as you contribute to take down another team of players... when it works. Most attempts resulted in the game crashing and throwing me back to the main menu. At one point, I was locked in a lobby as the players came and left but I was unable to jump out and had to reset my PS3 to escape.
Another inexcusable mistake is the fact you only get 40 seconds to set-up your team prior to kick-off. This is nowhere near enough time, especially if you're going up against a team that you need to adjust your formation to combat against.
There's also a strange bug which loads your previous team's players into your newly selected team's kits and then crashes. Some games even continued to play out for me while my opponent was complaining down the mic that their's had frozen. Worst of all, some people that are forced to reset as the game has crashed end up with a naughty DNF (Did Not Finish) mark on their record. Surely a month of beta testing with the community would've ironed this out.
Above: The two most popular teams in FIFA 11 online. Not everyone can support these two, right?
I'd be surprised if there wasn't a patch to fix the online problems soon, but when it does work, FIFA 11 is superb. The ability to filter out your opponents to a tee is a great feature. You can choose language, skill level and more to really focus on the type of player you want to go up against. And the all new 11 vs. 11, where you can now play as the keeper, is a bit frustrating at first but once you land in a team that are willing to stick to their position and not storm up the pitch all the time, really is exceptional. Especially if your little Virtual Pro gets the man of the match award.
Get in the game
The creation tools in FIFA 11 have been upgraded to allow a far more comprehensive version of yourself to be stuck into the boots of your digital incarnation. Head here... http://www.ea.com/uk/football/fifa/game-face
and with two photos (one face on and the other side on) you can easily knock up a new player. See...
Above: Digital me. Still can't believe I have to unlock my natural large curls though
As well as creating characters and new teams you can also stick your own chants into the game, so your favourite club will always sing familiar songs as you play. You can find them here for a price
but if you, erm, search really hard, you can find them for free. Not that I condone that sort of business. The whole personalisation side of things in FIFA 11 heightens the atmosphere while you're playing so it's well worth plugging a few hours into sorting things out.
In summary, FIFA 11 is a fantastic package of football for novices and the hardcore footie zealots. The gameplay tweaks have created a sports game where you'll never play the same match twice thanks to the unpredictability of proceedings.
There are still a few issues with the online side of things so if you're thinking of picking this up solely for multiplayer purposes then you might be left a bit cold right now. But offline there's more than enough to sate any footballing hunger you've had since the World Cup and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better football game for a long time.
4th October 2010