Hands on with FIFA 11


Most of my mates know that FIFA 10 is the game I play most on my Xbox 360. The 2010 iteration tempted me across from years of playing and loving Pro Evolution, which was no mean feat. The two competing titles, FIFA and Pro Evo, have been at loggerheads for years with fan boys on both sides proclaiming their title as the superior. However with last year’s releases, there was a consensus amongst critics that FIFA had surpassed Pro Evo for the first time, indeed becoming the biggest selling sports title ever. The gameplay has been honed over the years and, along with the official license, means that it has the edge. So can FIFA maintain that lead into 2011? I travelled to EA’s headquarters in London to find out.

FIFA 2011 on PC

The day kicks off with a presentation given by Ian Jarvis who is the producer on FIFA 11 for the PC. It’s the first time they’ve brought the next gen game engine to the PC and it’s been 2 years in development. The development team, who are seperate from the console developers, have used a hybrid of the FIFA engine along with enhancements from the World Cup title. New elements in gameplay include: chest trap in a particular direction (a bugbear of mine), the ability to fight for possession with more outcomes, 360 degree motion control and expert close control dribbling. The guys at EA have built in support for 35 different gamepads but obviously favour the 360 style one. The ability to LAN play will be a big draw for the title and it’s a welcome addition along with VOIP. The recommended specs don’t seem too out of this world so it should run well on most recent PCs.

Xbox 360 and PS3

Next up is David Rutter, Line Producer for the console versions. Dave outlines how proud the development team are of FIFA 10 but they’re also keen to address a few lingering frustrations which have come up since release. He’s aware of the fact that there needs to be a be a progression in how the game “feels” if people are to part with cash again for this installment. We’re shown screenshots of devtrack, the team’s way to track bugs and fix them. Dave points out items which have come directly from gamers and users of the EA Sports forums. It’s nice to see them addressing issues like this as it shows they’re not being complacent.

New gameplay elements
There’s a new pro passing system in place for FIFA 11 and we’re shown how both the passing and tackling systems work with wireframe players. It looks like perfecting passing is going to be a real task for the serious FIFA 11 heads. In terms of new gameplay elements: players now have better balance and you can shield space and jostle much better whilst running alongside a player. The AI has been upped with the ability to recognise patterns of play and also think beyond the immediate (ie. play a longer pass to start off a move rather than simple, easy pass).

Personality+
Personality+ is brand new for 2011. It combines visuals, animations and attributes to accurately portray players (ie. so Rooney heads, volleys etc like he would in real life). The Arsenal squad shown look bang on in body type, height, facial features etc so Personality+ looks like a definite winner.

Career Mode
Enjoyed ‘Be a Pro’ mode in FIFA 10? Well, it’s gone. Alas, don’t fear, it’s been replaced with Career Mode, allowing you to be a Player, Manager or Player/Manager through 15 seasons. The transfer engine has been revised, the interface is completely new and you can see results from the other leagues in Europe your not involved in.

Customization:
One point I was particularly impressed with is the ability to custimize audio within the game. You can assign specific chants/audio to events (ie when your team walks out onto the pitch or scores a goal) and you can create custom playlists from the tracks on your Xbox 360/PS3. There’s also the Creation Centre on easportsfootball.com where you can create players/teams and download them to your console. That launches with the game on October 1st.

So how does it play?

Really, really well. The new jostling mechanism brings things on a step and is a huge improvement. It’s hard to explain but Alan (mod on boards.ie FIFA forum) were most impressed by it. Previously, when running alongside a player who had the ball, it was difficult to get a foot in to steal it but the new mechanism makes it a bit easier. The various modes besides Exhibition were off limits considering the game is only 75% done but all of the in-game action seems to be quite polished. I grabbed a couple of games on the PC version and was astonished to see that it ran quite so well. From the few games I played, I would hesitate to say that it felt almost smoother than the console version. We’ll see come release though.

FIFA 11 will be available for the PlayStation3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, PlayStation2, Nintendo DS, PSP and mobile on October 1st.