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FIFA 11 The Reviewers Nightmare


Release date is upon us, in just over a week the game will be hitting the shelves all over the world. But just before that another milestone will hit, review day. It’s an interesting time for any game especially Fifa, so here are my thoughts.

Fifa 11 The Reviewers Nightmare

When the countdown to the newest iteration of Fifa begins each year there are always a few big dates which are pencilled in the calendar. The demo release, the full retail release and almost as important, review day. As the media embargo on reviews lifts around the world every gaming site and magazine will nail their colours to the mast and rate the success of the EA’s biggest sports franchise.

However, there are some serious issues to consider when it comes to reviewing Fifa specifically and in my opinion it can be some what of a poisoned chalice.

Take last years Fifa 10 reviews for example. That game was largely heralded as the best football game to date and received a Metacritic rating to enforce that. But just two weeks later the community had compiled a Manager Mode bug list with a massive 74 individual complaints. Now that is certainly not something you’d expect to see from the “greatest football game ever” so why did the reviewers miss it?

The biggest problem facing reviewers (FSB included) is the sheer size and magnitude of Fifa. It’s a game which if made correctly should be enjoyed and replayed by an avid fan base for an entire calendar year. So how can you possibly quantify an experience which can run in to hundreds of hours and thousands of matches in a review time no longer than a few weeks? The short answer is you can’t, which poses a huge problem for anyone writing a Fifa 11 review this year.

So where do you even start? Career Mode is going to be the obvious place to begin because of the well publicised overhaul. The new layout and improved features make it the headline target for any reviewer. Whilst Career Mode might indeed be obvious, reviewers will struggle to even scratch the surface let alone push the mode to its limits. The three new management options have seen to that on their own allowing each scenario to now potentially be played out in triplicate. Will any reviewer really mange to complete the full 15 seasons on offer and test each option fully? I very much doubt it.

As you can see just one mode in to Fifa 11’s review, the hours and problems are already mounting and that’s without throwing Gamer Face and Virtual Pro in to the Career Mode mix. Then you have all the online modes, offline modes, clubs, creation centre and the main draw to the Fifa series these days the gameplay.

By now you should be getting the picture, Fifa is huge. Perhaps too big for its own good when it comes to properly critiquing the goliath series. For gamers the variety and choice are a major plus point, there really is something in there for everyone and its one of the games major strengths. For a reviewer, it’s a nightmare.

I guess the closest comparison you can draw from another genre in terms of time involved would be an RPG like Oblivion or Fallout. Both these games can accumulate hundreds of hours of play time with ease and that makes reviewing these worlds a nightmare. The advantage for reviewers with these games though is that they focus on one character, one story and one world. Luxury Fifa reviewers don’t have.

In comparison to other game genres, sports titles themselves pose their own set of problems for reviewers anyway let alone Fifa. The main one being that they have no definitive beginning, middle or end. They’re designed with the sole purpose of representing a real life event in a gaming format that’s both enjoyable and realistic. There is no story, there are no plot lines, and there is no dramatic twist, its pure simulation that drives sports titles and nothing more. Having said that sports games are able to evoke more emotion and feeling than any thrilling story could hope to muster.

Another big issue centres on review scoring. Every gaming site these days seems to have a different review scale and view on how it should be used. They’re also pressured by the premise that any game which doesn’t get a 9 or 10 is perceived to be a failure by the gaming community. That’s a crazy stance to take and I for one find it refreshing to see gaming sites actually using the full review scale rather than pandering to the masses need for a high score. Even if it does mean they are peppered with criticism and discontent for it.

But my question is does Fifa 11 even require a score? For a subject matter that is so subjective and opinion splitting anyway (football) how can one man determine its success for everyone out there with a single digit response? Like it or not the chances are most people won’t even read the content of Fifa reviews anyway, instead they’ll jump straight to the score and take that as gospel. It’s sad that opinions are formed this way but I’m afraid it comes with the territory.

So why commit to something as meaningless as a number, especially when you know yourself that you’ve been unable to do the game true justice in the time you’ve been given. It’s a strange one which seems to stem more from the expectation that you must provide a score for it to be a proper review, which is something I strongly disagree with. That’s why when Tom and I produce our Fifa 11 reviews there will be no score, just a conclusion on how the game is performing at that time.

Judging the success of Fifa 11 will take months and it will require stringent testing by the whole community both online and offline. You then also have to factor in any possible updates EA release in patches which are now the staple of any major game release. So once again the goalposts will move, deeming the early reviews obsolete.

Fifa 11 will be judged best and most harshly by the community not on day one, not after the first patch but in 2-3 months when the true success of EA’s work will be gauged. If we’re all still chomping at the bit, craving another Fifa 11 hit after months of play time, then we can roll out the tens.

Dave Bryant

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