If you had to choose a single complaint to level at last year’s FIFA 10 – and nobody is likely to be spoilt for choice in that department – then it would probably be the ever-so-slightly simplistic and repetitive nature of crossed balls. In FIFA 10 there was only a few set ways in which crosses could be dealt with, and working out how best to exploit each play’s subsequent player animations, usually resulted in some gamers (particularly during online matches) feeling that they had to perpetually follow the same specific attack pattern.

Those problems are now a thing of the past. By prioritising the expansion of this dynamic, EA Canada have not only brought their patented brand of hyper-realism to what is arguably the only part of FIFA 10 that was lacking it, they’ve also managed to perfectly accentuate one of the most exciting scenarios that ever takes place in the real-world game. Like almost every other comparable mechanic in the game, there now appear to be an endless amount of ways to deal with long passes and corners.

Because of the alarmingly precise level of control that the game now allows you during those moments, scoring a rosy peach of a goal from a corner or the wing has never felt so exhilarating. Instances of confused frenzy in the box happen with much less frequency too, and anyone who previously found that a series of haphazard light passes worked as a tool in securing themselves a cheap goal, are now going to have no choice but to raise their game.

The rest of the gameplay has been similarly touched up. Trying to utilise FIFA 10’s slightly cartoonish ping-pong passing won’t get you anywhere anymore, and you’ll have to work so much harder to ensure that all of your players constantly move into workable positions. And if you try to to pull off an instantaneous 180 degree turn before passing the ball on during an attack (something that FIFA 10 almost always allowed) you’re likely to find yourself endlessly tumbling to the ground.

Personality plus, a brand new system that gives star players some of their real-life attributes, is a rousing success. Every game ends up being entirely different from the last, and on occasion you’ll find yourself having to completely modify your battle-plan if a specific player gains possession. In FIFA 10 each striker moved and attacked in the same way as any other. Here, you’ll see some startlingly accurate animated replications of how some well-known players move and control the ball, and you’ll quickly learn how and when to use them in all of the right situations.

If Torres or Ronaldo are barrelling towards your goal, you’re going to have to deal with them in ways that’ll often prove to be less effective against the likes of Rooney or Tevez. The unique player animations are often genuinely uncanny, even during small, hard-to-miss moments. During one game that we played, an off-side call was made that resulted in John Terry applauding briefly, before hunching his shoulders and trundling back into position; it looked so authentic that it seemed as if the man himself had been motion-captured for it.

The Be A Pro and Be A Manager modes have been streamlined into one, and if you wish you can switch between roles at any point during your career. You are now also given the option to play as the goalkeeper for the first time, and this mode makes for a refreshing change of pace. Good goalkeeping requires a consistent level of concentration and timing, and if you were initially suspecting that online 11v11 matchmaking would frequently time-out because of a lack of willing keepers, rest assured that this’ll almost certainly never be the case. The goalie’s control scheme is addictive and rewarding.

The menus are a bit slicker, the stadium crowd sounds appear to have been re-recorded and sound positively amazing, and online ranked matches are now almost as smooth as offline games. In the simplest possible terms, FIFA 10 was the best football game ever made, and FIFA 11 is immeasurably better. That’s it. What else were you expecting?

Watch the FIFA 11 trailer here:


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