Electronic Arts' FIFA-endorsed soccer series has turned into an absolute juggernaut in recent years, with many hailing the most recent FIFA 10 as its crowning glory. FIFA 11, released on September 28 in North America and October 1 in Europe, has a job to do in order to beat last year's finest moment.
Indeed, while FIFA 10 was considered a massive step forward for the series, with FIFA 11 refinements have been applied to nearly every element of the game. Leagues and matches are as customizable as ever, replays can be exported to consoles or the web, and an improved Creation Centre permits the conception of new players, teams, and kits.
Graphics are crisp, audio is of a high standard, and the varied soundtrack won commendation. Players can now play in any position - including as goalkeeper - meaning that online matches can become true 11-a-side tussles.
The introduction of EA Sports' Personality+ schema characterizes star players with their own recognizable movements, and footballers can now jostle, joggle and nudge their opponents to a greater degree, reflecting the strength and agility of modern athletes.
On the downside, while goalkeeping is one of this year's new features, playing as a goalie can become more than a tad dull, especially in career mode, and Personality+ doesn't extend far beyond the sport's most well-known figures.
For many, whether FIFA 11 is marginally better or worse than its predecessor is moot - with updated rosters and kits, and bells and whistles added to the online experience, most will be moving on in order to keep step with their friends and the rest of the online community.
While failing to make the same giant strides as FIFA 10 is understandable, FIFA 11's return to incremental improvements does leave a chink in the series' armor for its great rival to exploit. Pro Evolution Soccer has been off the pace of late, but at least now has a chance to close the gap if it can summon fresh inspiration for next year.
FIFA 11 (360, PS3)
Also available on DS, PC, PSP, PS2, Wii.
Release: North America, September 28. Europe, September 30. UK, October 1.
Age Rating: Everyone / 3+
G4TV - 5/5 "It's rare that you'll find a game that's this deep, this entertaining, this customizable, and just flat out fun"
IGN - 9.5/10 "The flow of the soccer in FIFA 11 is as great as ever."
GameReactor (SE) - 9/10 "Punishes sloppy play and rewards well-rehearsed passing and shooting"
VideoGamer - 9/10 "FIFA 10, but better."
Game Informer - 8.75/10 "Weak spots keep the entire package from being Total Football."
Gamekult (FR) - 8/10 "Deserves to be the first game to introduce true 11 vs 11"
Eurogamer - 8/10 "Enormous fun and brilliantly engineered, but has lost some momentum"
1UP - B "Could be much more than it already is"
Price: $59.99 / €59.99 / £49.99 (360, PS3); from $29.99 / €29.99 / £25.99 to $49.99 / €49.99 / £34.99 on other platforms.