If you keep your ear to the ground on FIFA news or you frequent the FIFA Forums you’ll know that the community aren’t all that happy with certain elements of FIFA 11. There are moans and groans that run in to their thousands but very little in comparison about what people actually like and what they thought EA did well with FIFA 11, which in terms of feedback is just as important.
I’ve dished out a fair bit of criticism myself this year (mostly constructive) but still I feel that to balance things out it’s time I had a look at what I actually like about FIFA 11 too. It’s very easy to get lost in the belief that FIFA 11 is a terrible game (which it’s not) less so to look at things from all angles.
It’s very important to me that all criticism is balanced; after all if you can dish it out you can take it back.
FIFA had a huge problem with player model interaction in cut scenes a few years ago; remember when every player had to be the same height? But in FIFA 11 EA banished that to history and changed something which simply needed fixing in to a brand new gameplay element of its own, Team Celebrations.
Celebrating scoring goals in FIFA had always been a pursuit for the individual. However big the goal or however funny the custom celebration you always felt alone in your goal scoring delights. The AI needed to understand what scoring a goal meant both individually and as a collective and Team Celebrations has without doubt delivered that feeling. Yes, the Team Celebrations are a little thin on the ground after months of play but as a starting point you really can’t fault the implementation.
Both technically and visually Team Celebrations are a triumph.
Room for Improvement: More team celebration variety, more spontaneity, varying camera angles and score line or situation specific celebrations.
If you think about how far FIFA’s goalkeepers have come since FIFA 08 it literally is night and day. FIFA 11 represented another marked improvement for goalkeeper behaviour and most importantly shot stopping. Goalkeepers close down angles much more realistically now and also respond much better to long range efforts too. After FIFA 10 it wasn’t just about getting goalies to save more, it was also about getting them to save less, especially from distance and EA have struck that balance brilliantly in FIFA 11.
This year also saw the introduction of Be A Goalkeeper which in terms of its controls was executed really well. I think everyone (myself included) was surprised at how natural the analogue stick was to dive and manoeuvre your goalkeeper. What BAG lacked though is the CPU AI to make being a goalkeeper engaging for long periods. One shot a match from the opposition AI just doesn’t cut it but the most difficult bit (the controls) were implemented really well.
EA’s decision to assign a permanent developer to goalkeepers is certainly paying dividends now and I’d expect another noticeable improvement to BAG and goalkeeper AI for FIFA 12.
Room for Improvement: Enhanced CPU AI in BAG, better awareness of the pitch boundaries, more diverse animations, improved goalkeeper personality.
One of everyone’s biggest complaints with FIFA 10 was that shooting was far too rigid meaning that only certain types of goals from very specific positions were even possible. We all wanted a more unpredictable shooting experience and with FIFA 11 we got it. Shooting is now bound by a much wider set of variables which make each shot feel individual and unique. Nothing is impossible and no position is off limits, you’re only bound by the limits of your own imagination.
What’s most impressive is the balance EA have found with shooting because all those physics changes could have made shooting wild and almost too unpredictable. The scales however are expertly balanced allowing just enough variation without it ever becoming ungainly. FIFA 11 has the best shooting a FIFA game has ever seen, bar none.
Room for Improvement: More top end pace similar to the levels seen in FIFA WC2010, better AI for volleys, accentuated shot spin and swerve.
It’s no secret that EA have the animation edge when it comes to football gaming but in FIFA 11 things went up yet another notch. Whilst Personality Plus wasn’t quite the revolution it promised the biggest improvement actually came from the new player models. EA added nine new base player models plus a selection of “special” ones, essentially to cater for Peter Crouch. Visually its added incredible variety to what we see on the pitch and the animation of these differing player frames can be quite exquisite at times.
From cushioned headers, to acrobatic goal line clearances FIFA 11 displays it all with incredible accuracy and precision. The only thing lacking really is a dose of real world physics and inertia to tone down some of the awkward moments where players tend to “skate” across the pitch. Based on EA’s previous physics work (see shooting) they’re more than capable of pulling this off but whether animation inertia is high on their priority list, I don’t know.
When FIFA 11 is in full flow there’s very little that can match its animation fluidity and when everything clicks, it’s simply stunning to watch.
Room for Improvement: Animation inertia and proper player physics, more player base models, more player specific animation sets and emphasis on emotion/personality based animations.
FIFA 11 isn’t a perfect game but it’s far from a terrible one either. Whilst there are some elements which disappointed many EA still managed to add some brilliant innovations to FIFA 11 some of which that went well beyond our initial expectations.
I guess that’s what makes FIFA 11 that much more frustrating because with things like shooting EA have done everything we asked for and more to perfect one of the gameplay’s most fundamental components. Showing levels of confidence and design precision that would be the envy of any studio let alone within the football genre. But then on the other hand you get served up Replay Theatre…
EA can take many positives away from FIFA 11 and there’s much to be proud of but now they need to focus on the consistency that takes these great individual features and merges them in to one flowing and cohesive FIFA package.