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FIFA 11 Hands-on

As some of the Dtoid UK guys know, I'm one of the team over at Footy-Boots.com, and as part of that, yesterday I was invited to the ever-impressive Emirates Stadium for some hands on time with the that latest in the FIFA dynasty, and some Q&A time with the developers.

But rather than just copy-pasting my preview for my other website, I'll be taking a bit of extra time to go into some of the stuff that the Dtoid community will be interested in, and generally go a bit more in-depth.

And also, on here, I get to mention the word 'penis'.

Publisher: EA Sports
Console Previewed: PS3
Build: Demo

Graphically, the game improves on the benchmark set by FIFA 10, by simply doing more of the simple things right. As well as tweaking textures on the grass and adding a new level of detail to the player’s hair and kits, EA Sports boasts that this game features more ‘Star Faces’ than ever before – meaning that you can expect more of your favourite players to look more realistic than ever.

This will come as a huge feather in the FIFA cap, as the Pro Evolution Soccer series had much more authentic-looking player models last year.

In fact, the whole game seems to have had the ‘colour’ levels turned up a bit more over last year’s edition, meaning that the game immediately looks more exciting and vibrant.

As soon as you get your hands on FIFA 11, fans of the series will notice the pacing of the game has been lowered significantly from the universally lauded FIFA 10.

This slight tweak in pacing is something of a double-edged sword for the long-running series. On the upside, the game feels much more deliberate and thoughtful when playing with top teams – the revamped passing system (more on that later) is clearly the reason for the change in pace, as it encourages even the best FIFA player to consider each forward move carefully, rather than just Lob-through-ball’ing their way over an opponents back four.

The downside to this change is unfortunately a touch more frustrating – as the players that suffer most from this change in pace are wingers and forwards. It’s much harder to simply burn past sluggish centre-backs with pacey attackers, which can be hugely annoying as you look to destroy a centre-back with Lionel Messi, only for the slower pace to allow the defender enough time to block you.

The passing mode has been tweaked, and you're going to have to hold the pass and through-ball buttons for longer to get the sort of passes you got in '10. It sounds like it'll be a pain in the ass, but it's actually much more satisfying than just pinging passes between your midfield.

You get a much greater sense of 'weighting' each pass between players, and after a few games you'll find yourself accidentally passing to the wrong player less and less, thanks to this greater degree of control.

But, if you’re the one doing the defending, it’s hugely rewarding to deny what would have been a sure-fire chance in previous incarnations of FIFA. New animations and a revised probability engine make blocking the attacker from the front hugely satisfying; if you take satisfaction from staunch defensive performances, you’re going to love FIFA 11.

Whilst on the subject of new animations, there’s been a whole new set of celebrations cooked up for FIFA 11. Some of the highlights included the classy Kaka ‘Hands-Clasped-in-Prayer’ and the almost-over-the-top group Ricky-Gervais-esque dancing. We’ve got a feeling that we’ll be seeing that one a lot in the online mode.

As revealed at Gamescom (Big love to Hollie and the team for the Gamescom coverage!) this weekend, the online mode is getting some exciting new features too; 11 v 11 Be a Pro and controllable goalkeepers.

The increased Be a Pro team sizes are nice, but everyone will be itching to get their mitts on the Goalkeeper mode more than anything else, as this is the first time this feature has ever been included in the FIFA series!

There are two key visual differences that you’ll notice when stepping between the sticks for the first time. The main one is the Position indicator, which handily recommends where your ‘keeper’s positioning should be in relation to the ball. You are, of course, free to ignore this indicator if you fancy a more unorthodox style of goalkeeping – but it definitely makes the whole experience much less intimidating.

The other key difference is the ‘tracer’ that comes off the football when it’s coming into the area. As anyone that’s played the Be a Pro mode in FIFA 10 can appreciate – the directly behind the player camera angle would make it extremely difficult for a ’keeper to judge a ball coming in high, and this ribbon that follows the ball in flight evens the playing field a bit.

As for controlling the keeper – EA have done a surprisingly intuitive job for their first time at ‘keeper controlling. Rather than having diving assigned to a button, it’s instead mapped to the right analogue stick. This not only means that you can control the intensity of a keeper’s dive – but it also prevents the game accidentally interpreting kicks as dives and vice versa.

Away from the pitch, FIFA 11 is all about a mind-melting array of customizable options.

From the Creation Centre, you’ll be able to not only Create players using EA’s industry leading GameFace technology (including 3 more ‘body types’ than last season) but they’ll also be able to make their own Club, choose a stadium, and even create a custom kit and crest (though kits and crests will be based on templates, rather than a full ‘create your own’ feature).

But the customization doesn’t stop there – this year you’ll be able to use any audio file on your system’s hard drive as a custom chant – so you and your buddies can sing your hearts out for your custom player/custom team and have it modulated by the crowd in-game.

Though if you use this feature to create the noise of the Vuvuzela, I’m afraid I just won’t be able to condone that!

Finally, in the Q&A with EA Sports Vancouver's David Rutter, some interesting tid-bits were shared regarding some of the more intimate details of the game.

Big questions for balancing the online mode have been addressed, such as custom formations and cheap 'lob-pass' shots have all been looked into and addressed, and smaller questions such as have FIFA secured additional licensing for international federations like the Ivory Coast were also addressed (that's a No for all you Drogba and Kalou fans, by the way).

Rutter was also exceedingly coy about DLC, both launch day and future; the only launch day DLC that he would confirm is the Live Season stat updates, and responded with a firm 'No Comment' on the subject of a return for the addictive Ultimate Team mode.

The EA Sports man also explained the Creation Centre, explaining that Kits and Crests are restricted to recolouring a large range of templates, rather than a fully fledged graphic editor as he 'knows what people are like first we'll have hundreds of kits and crests with penises on them, and we'll spend ages taking them down then my inbox will be flooded by people asking 'Why can't I have my team running around with penises on their kits and crests'.

Clearly Mr. Rutter has been around the internet long enough to know that rule.

Overall, we definitely felt that FIFA 11 is a big step up for the series – but the biggest steps are made away form the core gameplay.

The Creation Centre is going to be a huge hit, with talk of Facebook integration for sharing your designs with your friends. The Goalkeeping is also a fun addition, those playing multiplayer with their friends now even have the option of playing as the keeper in the loading screen arena, while their friend takes shots – though I do worry about people being…silly with their goalkeeping responsibilities in the online mode!

The new pacing is going to be something that’s potentially divisive among FIFA fans. The majority will welcome the more tactical, slower paced gameplay. After a few games I found it even more rewarding to eek the perfect through-ball to Higuain and tuck it past the keeper, rather than just blazing past the opposition with Ronaldo.

But I’m guessing that some will miss the high-speed ‘ping-pong passing’ of FIFA 10 (though there is an option on the Pause menu to turn the game speed up to high if you really struggle to adjust) - the good news is the demo's going to land on the 15th of September, so you'll have time to judge for yourself soon enough!

I'm diving out for a pub quiz now - but if anyone's got any questions I'll do my utmost to answer them upon my return!
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About Kyliusone of us since 6:19 AM on 09.23.2008

Hello Internet!

My name's Kyle, I'm a 22 year old UK Gamer from Leeds who's been gaming since I got my hands on my older brother's Vectrex.

I've owned most systems, from the Master System to the Dreamcast, the NES to the N64. The past two gens I've been rocking the Xbox and the 360 and have really enjoyed the games on offer.

Ouside of games I love Football - I'm a contributor and reviewer for www.footy-boots.com, and I play every chance I get. I'm also a big lover of music, I play with my boys in a band Lowfields www.myspace.com/lowfields.

Xbox LIVE:Kylius Maximus


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