By Dudacles 3 Comments
I've been playing a lot of FIFA over the years, and the last couple of 'em, I've also been gathering some experience with Pro Evolution Soccer. I've pretty much ignored the marketing campaign for both games (because looking at trailers or dev interviews is something that bores me immensely, with their slanted and PR-manipulated views on the game), but I'll always jump at a chance to play the demos when they get released, because how the new games play is ultimately what matters most. I've downloaded both on my PS3 (a controller that I am not at all accustomed to, considering I only bought it recently and thus have always played FIFA on my 360 and PS2) and am here to briefly report to you my findings. I will admit I own neither Pro Evo 2009 nor 2010, so I can't offer any useful comments on the new features PES2011 possesses. What I can do is comment on the gameplay itself, and compare it to the new FIFA. Off we go.
The FIFA 11 demo
Kaka has not had a terribly good season over at Real last year, plagued by injury and an all-round bad form. However, EA have decided to use him as poster boy, as he's your player in the Arena. Much like every other demo EA Sports demo, most of the features are greyed out, and then most that aren't simply lead to promotional blocks of text detailing what new features they put into the game. There are three real features here: you can mess around with some of the players in the Arena, trying to score goals, free kicks, penalties and looking at some of the new tricks. Or you could play a short match of 3-minute halves with one out of seven high-profile teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid. The most notable addition, however, is the new "Be A Pro Keeper", the gameplay mechanics of which you can try your hand at by switching sides in the Arena.
Playing as the keeper feels a big gimmicky, however. They did a decent job of making it work: you can move around the keeper, dive at a shot with the right stick, press Triangle/Y to run out and slap away a cross and press Square/X to slide into a ball. To help you with this, plenty of aids are included, such as a line that predicts the trajectory of the shot. It works quite well as a diversion, but I honestly can't see it being fun for an entire match, let alone for one, if not multiple seasons of Be A Pro. In the Arena, the player is constantly coming at you, but could you imagine constantly standing around waiting for the dumb AI to get to you? Seeing as the opposing goalie is a part of the AI, he will no doubt be better at it as well, and seeing as you'll have practically no direct control over them other than the rudimentary "you might want to give a pass dude" commands that have been in there since FIFA 08, I reckon we'll have frustrating matches on our hands. But that is, of course, purely speculation.
What is more interesting is how the game plays when you're taking control of the ten outfield players. FIFA 10 was arguably the best footy game ever made when it came out a year ago, marking a small but notably improvement over FIFA 09. Much in the same vein, FIFA 11 makes some changes that change the game, but overall, I'd say none of the changes here are big enough to warrant immediately putting down another 60 to 70 euros or bucks. If that's what you were wondering, there it is. None of the gameplay changes are of the same magnitude as the touted "360 degree dribbling" that was introduced in FIFA 10, just to give you an idea. Since the game is coming out at the end of the month, we can also assume the game will have long gone gold by now, so what is here can be seen as representative of the final game.
So, what is actually new? EA made a big deal of the new "player personalities", which give each player certain traits. Real-life playmakers are far better at through balls and long balls than your average left-back, for instance. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Whether the personalities will still be anywhere near realistic when you go down to the lesser-known clubs remains to be seen. There are a lot of players represented in FIFA games these days, with its over thirty leagues and bands of international teams. Will your favourite Coca-Cola Championship playmaker even have the right hair colour? Doubtful. Alas, EA is, contrary to popular belief, made up of humans who can only do so much. However, even in the demo, some inconsistencies have been found. Players like Drogba aren't deemed 5-star tricksters when the man is one of the most technically gifted strikers I've ever seen (and I'm not even a Chelsea fan, mind you), which makes you wonder just how big the margin for error is. What this system means on the pitch is that player build, speed, shooting proficiency, passing proficiency and technical ability is even more pronounced. People complained about the so-called "tick-tack passing" being too easy to perform in FIFA 10, and EA responded by grabbing the system by the neck and dragging it completely in the opposite direction. Stringing together passes in this game is quite challenging. The whole thing's been made significantly slower, and players tend to let passes go completely awry a lot more than you'd expect from players of this stature if you don't turn and face your target. The system felt slightly clunky at first, coming from many, many matches of FIFA 10, but I grew accustomed to it and now actually consider it an improvement. However, the new "free-form" passing can also act somewhat funky at times. I've already had multiple instances where the game quite simply didn't listen to, turning a short tap that I'd aimed directly at a fellow player into a humongous through ball into no-man's-land. In the same vein, I've actually been enraged a couple of times by players who somehow interpreted my pass towards the center as the command to back-heel the ball straight out of play... which is stupid no matter how you look at it.
Another problem surfaced: the new handball feature. I can understand that this feature is extremely hard to implement for a developer. In the past games, no distinction was made between the hands and any other part of the body, which led to truly ridiculous situations in which balls bounce off hands made of rock and go flying in random directions--without the player being able to do anything about it. I've scored hilarious goals and own-goals this way, though they really shouldn't have existed. But then again, the rule is subject to interpretation in real life, with face protection and player intention being things that have to taken into account. You can't really translate this into such an unscripted game, however, so pretty much any contact leads to a hand ball. This turns into a major problem when a free kick bounces onto the hands of a player in the wall--a penalty is instantly given. Thrice now have I seen this happen, two times of them against me. I was probably just unlucky, but you as a player cannot control this, and it is rage-inducing when a players of yours randomly hits the ball with his hand in the box, especially with the animation system and ball physics becoming more advanced--and thus more unpredictable--with each following iteration. You can turn the handballs off, but then, what is the point of the new feature?
The biggest change, to me, is the new, looser feel of running with the ball and jostling for it. As I said, with the ever-evolving ball physics and animations comes a new sense of realism, but also some pitfalls. Trapping a ball looks and feels more realistic now, as does muscling past defenders. More than ever, the players' legs and the ball feel like different entities, interacting with each other but also being completely separate. This is entirely personal opinion of course, but too much of this may in the end make FIFA less fun for me. The more basic and scripted these games are, the easier it is to execute complicated maneouvres and make the game look cool in general. In FIFA 11, these moments are more rare, but also more satisfying. It is a matter of preference I suppose. In the end, I feel FIFA 11 seems to have made some gameplay changes for the better, but while I have described them in drawn-out fashion here, they still feel small in the grand scheme of things. Whether the modes have changed positively is also impossible to judge from the demo, of course. Although, really, all that should ever matter is the gameplay.
A cool new addition has also been implemented in the Replay feature. First off, the entire match is now recorded, allowing you to go back and view it in its entirety--though only while you're still in the game. You can save videos that still have the same standard 11 to 12 second limit for uploads, to be viewed on EA's website. I've made a quick and bland one for the purposes of this blog (and I couldn't get it to embed properly, so here's the link.) Furthermore, the game will automatically select 10 match highlights, the replays of which you can view and edit in the après-match menu. These replays typically only show goals and attempts at goals, unfortunately, leaving successful tricks and such by the wayside, but it finally allows you to upload online goals onto the site. This is a great feature.
And with that, I am going to conclude this blog. I know I said that I would post impressions on Pro Evo 11 as well, but time constraints force me to push that back to a later blog. I hope this information will help anyone curious as to whether FIFA 11 is a worthwhile game to put down for.