FIFA ’11. Hands On Preview

Today, myself and the rest of the Blast Process team had a few moments to sit and play the newest iteration of EA Sport’s FIFA series of games at a first-look event held at HMV Manchester’s gamerbase.

As you can probably imagine, the changes that have been made are really noticeable straight away. However, here’s a compilation of changes I noticed during the 2 games that I played:

* Ball Control. The ball is a little more unpredictable. It moves more like a ball should, bouncing off players better than it has done in the past. I found it easier to tackle and retrieve possession of the ball compared to last years. I also noticed that when I went to take a goal kick, fellow Blast Processor Mike’s defender got a little in the way just as I took the shot, which caused the ball to bounce off his back, which used to happen in older versions of FIFA, but not something I’ve noticed in the last couple of years versions. Its a little hard to explain, but I did really like how they improved in this area in general.

* On-the-Fly Statistics. At random times during both games a statistic box would appear in the top left corner, displaying stats such as the ball possession for the match so far and such.

*Penalties. Now I admit, I skipped the recent World Cup FIFA title. The summers FIFA title changed the way penalties are taken slightly, and this new improvement has found its way into FIFA ’11. The new twist to taking penalties is a power bar, that goes from left to right that can be found just underneath the players name. This bar represents the penalty takers composure. The idea is to take the shot as the bars passes the green section of the bar, that can be found in the centre. The better the penalty taker, the larger the green section. If you mis-time the shot, and as I found out a couple of times, this can cause the taker to fall over or even completely blast the ball over the net.

While I’m happy that they’ve tried to make taking penalties more of a challenge, sadly I found the system a little difficult. Its true that I only had to take 4 (during a penalty shootout as the game finished 1-1), I personally found it quite difficult to keep the shot on target, nevermind beating the keeper. Practice makes perfect they do say, so I recommend you give a penalty shootout against the games A.I. ago just to get into the swing of things!

*Possession +. EA have improved the A.I. of certain highly rated players, such as Peter Cech and Wayne Rooney so that they ‘mimic’ how the real players act. For example, Rooney is good at holding up possession in the real world game, so as such, he’s now better than the average player in that department in the video game. Now I did only have a couple of games, but I didn’t really see the benefit of this new Possession + that EA are pushing so much. Perhaps players that are really benefiting from this new addition were unfortunate enough to spend most of their time under my control and without possession. It’ll be interesting, once the game is shipped, to see if I notice these changes when playing in the comfort of my own home.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing FIFA ’11, and I did particularly like how the ball moves a little more free now…but…and yes, theirs a but…are the changes they’ve made worth spending £40+ on?

The answer isn’t straight forward. I bought last years on day one and didn’t regret it, but with the amount of releases this Christmas (especially special/collectors editions), I don’t personally think FIFA ’11 will be a day one purchase. You’ve got the usual kit and player changes, along with the features mentioned above, which is great, I really enjoyed playing it, but it isn’t amazingly different from last years. I may change my mind once the new one ships, but for now I’ll be sticking with FIFA ’10 until possibly the new year.

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