FIFA 11 Hands-On Preview - Donning the Gloves of Football's Unsung Heroes
Written Sunday, September 19, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
FIFA 11's biggest addition revolves around the oft ignored goalkeeping position, allowing you to become the unsung hero - or a liability - in the ‘Be A Pro’ mode and also for the first time in the franchise’s lengthy history, an 11 on 11 mode. Now I know this was a requested feature, but I can hear the dissenters now: "Why the hell would I want to be a goalkeeper? It's a thankless job!" Yes, that much is true; your goal-scorers and midfield playmakers are usually the personnel that get all the praise and limelight, but if you ever dreamed of being the unsung hero, now's your chance.
The extent of your control over the goalkeeper in FIFA 11’s new mode is unparalleled and like the Be A Pro mode, the view switches from the traditional side on view, to the more apt goal to goal camera angle. The controls are relatively simple and it’s a fairly easy trade to pick up, although, it’s definitely a mode with the scope to truly master. Using the left analogue stick to navigate - players can either position themselves or use L1 to auto position the keeper - and the right stick to dive, the controls couldn’t be any more straightforward.
Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you can take that one step further by charging down attackers and then diving at their feet using circle or even hitting R1 for an “anticipation save” which can be particularly handy if you’re good at reading which way the attacker is set to shoot. To take things to the next level and possibly the most satisfying aspect of the whole mode, players can also come out and punch, simply by holding the triangle button and I have to say, connecting with a good punch - especially against a devilish cross - is more satisfying than creating that perfect through ball for a friend. Just beware though, it’s very easy to do a David James and miss the ball entirely, so it’s all about perception - “Is this mine?” “Can I make this punch or is it too risky?”… you know, the things the gloved saviours have to go through every weekend.
Thankfully, when in goalkeeper mode EA have implemented various ways to keep you occupied in those long periods of downtime - of which there are a lot. By clicking select, you can zoom in on the action and see how the rest of your team are doing; and you can even “suggest” they shoot, play a through ball or cross, although whether they listen is a different question. That being said, when I told Torres to shoot from 40 yards, he did, so use it sparingly. There also exists the ability to bark orders to your defence, telling them to push up, close down, play the offside trap or just sit back and soak up the pressure. However, even with all these little things to do to keep you amused, it’s a very lonely affair, more so than Be A Pro, and I can’t see how anyone would have the patience to stick it out for 15 seasons, especially when you spend most of your time acting as a spectator.
Heading back into the outfield positions, it's hard to see how much FIFA 11 has really improved upon its predecessor. I even busted out FIFA 10 again before hand just so I could really compare the experiences. EA are keen to push this new notion of “Personality +” – giving in-game players traits of their real life counterparts – which could be absent for long periods of the game and then all of a sudden, Messi will go on one of those darting runs or John Terry will throw his way in front of the ball as if he’s Kevin Costner protecting Miss Houston. In that way, one could say it’s true to life, as we all know Messi has the ability to be almost a ghost on the odd occasion, popping up at the most inconvenient time with a moment of brilliance.
FIFA 11 also welcomes a new 360 degree “Fight For Possession” mechanic, allowing players to fight for possession of the ball through perfectly legal jostling for possession. It seems that this new aggressive feature actually makes it easier to dispossess players, although it really doesn’t change the action on offer that much.
The most notable gameplay improvement for me is the new “Pro Passing,” which lets you carve out the perfect through ball/pass, based solely on your skill – angling the direction of the joystick and judging the weight of the pass in other words. Admittedly, it did take some time to get used to it, but after a handful of games, I was soon pinging pinpoint accurate passes down the line, dissecting the defence with a pass that could easily pass through the eye of a needle and if someone put a 50 pence piece on the pitch, I reckon I could have hit that as well. It definitely gives you more control over your passing.
The one aspect in recent years I’ve always found FIFA to be weaker than its rival, PES, is in the dribbling and although there are a whole load of new moves to use with the left trigger and the right analogue stick, it still seems to be hard to master and it’s almost impossible to use it to get past the AI on the harder difficulties. If EA Canada can get that right for FIFA 12, it’d be hard to deny they had the perfect package - even if you’re a die-hard PES fan.
The other notable additions are quite minor in comparison, like the ability to individually select replays rather than sit and skip them until you get to the one you want, the new penalty system which they brought forward from the World Cup title and a handful of new customisation tools. They’re that minor that EA even found it appropriate to tag them with “New,” otherwise you may have missed them.
For the most part, the subtle tweaks and the new additions - notably the Be A Goalkeeper mode - combine to make this look like the best FIFA yet. Sure, the gameplay hasn’t really been enhanced dramatically and if you’re not a fan of the oft ignored heroes between the sticks, then it’s hard to say, “You must buy this!” judged on first impression.
However, the subtle enhancements do mean that the gameplay is a lot more fluid than usual, whether it’s the Personality +, the pinpoint accurate Pro Passing or the all new - or at least improved - jostling for possession on the ball. They all combine though to make the action on the field a little less predictable; “What will Messi do next?”… “Who will win out of a tussle between Drogba and Vidic?” Whether that’ll be enough to make it a definite purchase in the next few weeks remains to be seen and we’ll have to wait until we’re knee deep in the final version to answer that question. Early signs do indicate that FIFA 11 will retain the title though, which is I suppose all anyone wants to know these days - whatever happened to my beloved PES?
FIFA 11 is scheduled for a September 28th release in North America and an October 1st release in Europe.