For years now, we've been playing FIFA on the 360, and with every year that goes by, we've been starting to wonder if this is really a football game for us. While a few years ago, they seemed to have the balance just right, with a healthy mix of realism and fun, in recent years, they seem to have been leaning so heavily towards the realism side of the fence, it's getting hard to tell the game apart from the real thing. And for the armchair manager, yeah, that's a great thing. They can sit and play a game that has all of their players and teams looking, sounding, and even performing just like their real life counterparts.
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But what about the rest of us?
What about those of us who don't follow football as a religion, but have a passing interest in the sport? What about those of us who've been put off by those same changes to make FIFA on the 360 a more "realistic" experience? And what about those of us who remember the glory days of Sensible Soccer, and other arcadey football games, and just want to have a good time.
For us, there is FIFA 11 on the Wii.
It's hard to describe just how much of a breath of fresh air FIFA 11 feels like. Even though it's similar to the previous instalments, if you've never tried FIFA on the Wii before, then this is the game you should try. Almost every single thing about it seems to have been logically done, and designed with one goal in mind - to let you play how you want to play.
A lot brighter, bolder, and more colourful than the other incarnations, the differences even become obvious in the menus. Logical, and easy to navigate, even the interface lets you know that this is a game that's been carefully pored over to make it as fun to play as possible.
Dropping into a game, you'll be presented with a variety of control schemes that let you tailor the game to your needs. From complex, multi-button schemes that use the Classic Controller, or a Gamecube pad, to the "All Play" mode, which makes it so you just have to press A or B depending on the situation, and everything in between, FIFA 11 is a game that even your granny could play. It's unintimidating, and above all else, it's a heck of a lot of fun.
When you actually step out on the pitch, things instantly feel... fun! The ball sticks to your feet when you run, letting you turn on the spot, and the opposition, while they'll give you a challenge, never seem to run rings around you. Passes are performed efficiently, and usually connect - with none of this rubbish from the new games that actively tries to make your passes not connect if you're playing with a less skilful player. Fouls occur a lot less often, with the referees often turning a blind eye to lesser offences, to let you keep playing the game. It's so logical, you're even given a warning when a player becomes offside - a little yellow flag appears above their head, warning you not to pass to them, which completely negates one of the most frustrating parts of other football games. There's even a little arrow that appears above your player's head, telling you which way you're meant to be shooting! You wouldn't believe how many times that's caught people out on other games...
Designed to be played together, FIFA 11 comes into its own when you and a few friends form a team - or go against another team of your friends. Letting up to four people play together on the same Wii, FIFA's a great multiplayer game, just because it's so easy to get the hang of. As a case in point, Sarah, whose previous record was a 13-0 loss when she played against her brother, managed to draw 1-1 against me, twice, despite never having played the game before, or really touched a football game in years.
Even the career mode of the game rewards you for playing through with your friends. In Battle for Glory mode, you take control of your favourite team, and, along with your friends, put them on the path to glory. While the other console version of FIFA get bogged down here with pen pushing and number balancing, in FIFA 11 on the Wii, there's none of it - instead, you get a number of stars, and a number of transfer points to spend on new players. If you do decide to make an offer for a player, so long as you can pay the asking price in stars and transfer points, the team will always accept. Yes, it's not that realistic, but it does let you make a team out of your favourite players over the progress of a few seasons - and that's if you choose to fiddle with your team at all.
You see, you don't actually have to fiddle around with any of the behind the scenes stuff at all. All you have to do is play the matches, and win them, with a handy loading screen before each game telling you where you are in the league to give you extra impetus to win.
Before you play each match, you'll be asked to select a challenge, which usually comes in the form of an answer to the press or the football board. Setting yourself a goal, such as keeping a clean sheet, or getting Podolski to score a hat trick, you'll be presented with an easy, medium, and hard objective, with the number of points you'll receive for each varying according to the challenge. Complete the goal, and you'll earn the points - and if those points fill a progress bar, you'll be rewarded by getting the chance to draw a number of cards. These cards will grant you a special bonus, in whichever match you choose to deploy them on, ranging from increased passing accuracy, to the game-winning 100% shot accuracy. The sheer fun of the latter cannot be overstated, as pulling off shots from the halfway line will usually at least challenge the keeper, whilst from anywhere closer, with full shot power behind it, you'll usually be firing a screamer the goalie won't have a chance of catching that almost bursts out the back of the net. In an even better twist, the more people you're playing with, the more cards you'll get to choose - so the better you play as a team, the more help you can get.
FIFA 11 on the Wii is easily the best football game on the console, and is also the best football game we've ever played - by a long shot. Stripping out the boring simulation side of things, and focusing on the fun, with a selection of control schemes that are so simple, almost literally anyone could play it, we're going to be hoping the 360 version takes a few hints from the Wii next year. It's not quite the perfect football game, as often, the teams you play against can be a bit too challenging, even on the easiest difficulties, but with all things considered, FIFA 11 on the Wii is easily this year's champion.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii