FIFA Manager 11 Review.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I started playing FIFA Manager 11 if I’m honest. I haven’t really followed the game at any great length over the last few years due to my allegiance to the Football Manager series. What I was interested to find out though was whether FIFA Manager 11 was a match for Sega’s goliath series which is considered by fan and critic alike the quintessential football management experience.
You start off as always by setting up your manger profile and all the options you’d expect to see are available, age, nationality and favourite club amongst many others. But this familiar option set is spliced with some quite alarming design choices. You can create your manager face from a pretty awful range of pre-sets and choose which style of suit you want to wear. The suit option really annoys me because it’s never represented in game, it’s a throw away token gesture, nothing more.
Luckily there are options to remove some of the other gimmicky additions which could potentially intrude on your managerial experience. Is being able to invest your personal wealth in property, really necessary? In my opinion no but thankfully it can be deactivated during the game setup.
The styling of the menus is excellent; they’re bright, vibrant and teeming with information but some of this gloss seems to have been at the expense of usability. Things can feel a little too cluttered at times, with more overlay menus than you can shake a stick at. It can all be customised though which does help but I would have preferred something a little more refined to begin with.
The games major strength is the licensing. As you’d expect from an official FIFA game its implementation is comprehensive. From team badges and kits to league specific branding, it’s all there and packaged brilliantly. It gives a tremendous feeling of realism and immersion which is so important in this genre. There are also a rather impressive number of real player faces available, 13,000 to be exact. That sounds a lot but it only really takes in the top players and leagues present in the game.
I tend to hate pre-season in management games because apart from building up fitness and battering lower league opposition there isn’t really much point to it. But in FIFA Manager 11 you have the option to send your team away on a pre-season training camp. During the camp you can tailor the training and tactical areas you want the squad to focus on by assigning points which are limited. It’s a lovely feature which allows you to stamp your play style on the team early on.
Another worthy mention is the 3D match engine. The graphics and presentation are a big step up compared to any of its rivals but to be honest with EA’s back catalogue of FIFA game engines, it’s to be expected. The only problem I have with the 3D match engine is that the games take too long. Football management games are a long haul anyway without having to sit through 10 minutes of gameplay, its a personal thing but I was using the text mode in a flash.
The implementation of team and player tactics is an interesting one because within the 3D match view the implementation is poor. The navigation is clunky and you’re never really sure of what you’re changing. On the flip side the tactics implementation in the “Text Mode” is great. It’s simple, well presented and all the changes you make during a game are instant. If you tell the defence to play deeper; they do it straight away, no pausing and no loading.
As well as giving team talks and individual player orders you can also make player promises. This adds a new dimension to the player manager relationship because it allows you to set long term goals for your squad rather than only interacting before and after games. For example I told Chris Smalling that I would “turn him in to an International centre half” which he was mighty pleased with. It’s a really interesting mechanic and one I really enjoyed playing around with but it can backfire drastically if you choose the wrong options.
There are so many features in this game its untrue from the price of hotdogs, to training facilities, stadium management, youth teams, media conferences you really can control it all. But for new comers venturing in to FIFA Manager 11 for the first time it is a little daunting, even if you have football management experience.
I did have a few weird events come up during my play through though for instance within just a few weeks I was offered the national jobs of Estonia and the Faroe Islands. Personally I don’t think International management should be offered so early even if it is only with minor nations. I’d achieved nothing as a manager yet and declined out of principle rather than anything else. Some people may enjoy that kind of early International engagement but I found it a bit odd.
An interesting addition is the implementation of EA’s Live Season which I think fits the PC managerial experience much better than the console variant. Having real data in your game does change the dynamics of the experience and gives you more conundrums to solve as a manager. Of course if it isn’t your thing you can turn it off but it’s a nice feature to have none the less and one which compliments the games landscape nicely.
I guess the big criticisms of the football manager genre as a whole are the steep learning curve and that each game requires a major time investment. The core mode of FIFA Manger 11 needs masses of play time just to get to January let alone complete a season. Especially if you like to micro manage events on and off the field like I do. It’s about as far from “pick up and play” as you can get but EA may have just cracked this problem with an additional mode.
As a separate entity EA have added a World Cup 2010 game mode which allows you to play through this years tournament in South Africa in a more sheltered environment. All the club management fluff is removed and it’s all about team and player management in a one off tournament.
Rather than being a one man band making each and every decision you become simply a player motivator and football tactician. It’s a wonderful contrast to the main experience and when all the weight of day to day drudgery is removed the game really shines because it’s all about the football and nothing else.
Anyone who played FIFA World Cup 2010 on a next-gen console will be instantly familiar with the menu design; in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s identical. The earthy orange colour scheme with the FIFA.com styling is a joy and it makes the mode really stand out from its bigger club management brother.
If you blast through the mode you can probably complete a World Cup tournament in about 30 minutes but realistically 2 hours is probably a more reasonable time frame. But in comparison to the 100+ hours required in club management, the World Cup mode breaks down that time barrier nicely. For a quick, in depth assault on footballs greatest competition this mode is perfect and a must try for anyone who buys the game.
FIFA Manager 11 hits many nails on the head in terms of its style, licensing, depth and innovation but it contains unneeded gimmicky content which for a game so massive anyway is entirely unnecessary. If the team at EA Germany can strip away some of the “lifestyle” additions they’ve made I think the game as a whole would become more focussed. It’s a game which doesn’t really seem sure of itself; hardened simulation or fantasy football? It never really nails its colours to the mast but personally I think it does the hardened simulation features with more verve and confidence.
The Football Manager crowd won’t be crossing over to FIFA Manager 11 in their droves just yet but what this game has become perhaps for the first time is a credible alternative. It does many things better than FM and it does many things worse but for me its on the verge of something great. It just need a little more focus on usability and dropping the at times embarrassing gimmicks.
It’s not there quite yet but in the not too distant future this could very well end up upsetting one of the big players in the football management market.
FIFA Manager 11 is available Now at all good retailers and some bad ones as well.