The online matchmaking could use a huge revamp, though. Like any online multiplayer, you seem to always be playing against guys who are way better than you. If EA can do matchmaking in shooters, why can't they get it right for FIFA?
If playing against random people isn't your bag, FIFA 11 expands the Lounge Mode introduced last year. This feature reminds me of nothing more than a virtual dorm floor, where each guy has a team and you play against each other for bragging rights. It's awesome that FIFA 11 tracks stats in lounge matches; claiming that you are the best overall scorer is more convincing when you can prove it with numbers.
In the career mode, you have the option to play just your position, but honestly that gets a little monotonous. But, thankfully, if you're playing offline or by yourself, the AI of the other players seems more intelligent. In the past, your teammates would idly watch a striker dribbling past them or never break towards open ground, but in FIFA 11, I was surprised by how often the player that I wasn't controlling made a tackle or got open. You're still forced to switch players often, in a control relegated to the difficult to reach left bumper, but you can also force your teammates to press the ball on defense or send them on a run. It's much more fun to play as a team in FIFA 11 instead of one star outshining them all.
These are just bells and whistles to the actual gameplay of kicking a ball around on a field of grass. Thanks to the fluid animations and responsive controls, just dribbling the ball or performing fakes and tricks feels great. Perhaps the greatest testament to the success of FIFA is the loading screens, which ports you to the "Arena" with just your player and a goalkeeper. It's so incredibly fun and natural trying to score as many goals as possible that I often forgot that I was loading anything.
The Arena is easily accessible from the main menu at any time, and there are "Accomplishments" that you can unlock to give your virtual pro extra points in shooting or passing. So there is a game element to the Arena, but that's just icing on the cake of the best loading screen ever.
I've already had fun playing FIFA 11 and I will likely get more out of it in the months to come. It does what every sports game is meant to do: set up situations where playing the basic game element, like kicking a round ball into a net, is as enjoyable as possible.
Bottom Line: FIFA 11 is a well-made soccer game, but it doesn't make any huge leaps in game design or feel. The added features like more sensitive passing and the famous stars' individuality are great on paper, but don't add a lot of value.
Recommendation: If you dig soccer, you've probably already got a copy. But if you're short on cash, you can probably get away with waiting a bit until the price drops.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Game: FIFA 11
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Platforms: PC, MAC, Nintendo DS, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon (360), Amazon (PS3)