The FIFA series is by far the biggest-selling sports game franchise in the world. That's because football, or soccer as it's otherwise known, is the sport of choice for most of the civilised world - and, indeed, much of the uncivilised world too. The latest addition to the series, FIFA 11, was released across multiple platforms at the end of last year, and also made an appearance on iPad. With a long vacation looming on the horizon, I downloaded a copy to my trusty tablet so I could play it on my travels, and I'm very glad I did: FIFA 11 provided many hours of footballing entertainment as I whiled away the hours in airports and in bed when I woke up way too early due to jetlag.
On the face of it, FIFA 11 delivers almost everything it's console siblings do. It features a fully comprehensive list of major and minor football teams from all over the world, which players can choose and guide through League, Cup, and Friendly contests. Teams can be customised and fettled, tactics can be tweaked and obsessed over, and starting line-ups can be changed and refined until you've found the perfect balance.
In terms of gameplay, FIFA 11 maintains the feel of its console brethren very well, through subtly strategic and steadily paced action. If you've played other FIFA games before, you'll immediately feel at home; if not, it'll take a little while for you to get used to the slight but necessary delay in the players' response times. Players don't shoot the second you give the order, or change the direction of their run the moment you alter their trajectory - this may be the iPad version, but factors like momentum and body-shape still influence the way the game is played.
It can be a little frustrating at first, because it feels like the players aren't responsive enough, but once you acclimatise to the pace of the gameplay you can put together flowing moves and pick apart your opponents with well-coordinated passing plays. Once that starts happening it's very easy to get sucked in, which is helped in no small part by the intuitive virtual joypad and buttons.
FIFA 11's graphics aren't quite as detailed as the full-blown console versions, but in the context of the iPad the game is visually splendid. The animations are impressively fluid, and while some of the close-up graphics are a little chunky I could always recognise my team's players. The sound is similarly excellent: there's plenty of commentary, and even if it does occasionally drift into the generic it nevertheless gives the game an authentic feel.
The only real disappointment for me was the lack of drama in contests, and the lack of statistics. I won the league with my team, but the game didn't do a particularly good job of recognising that 38-game feat. I also didn't get the chance to look at the league table at the end of the season, or analyse my team's overall performance. Perhaps this was left out because of some technical reason, but after investing so much time and effort it was difficult not to feel slightly cheated. I'd like to revel in my achievement a little and get to see the final tally of scorers for the season, and how the other clubs did in the league.
I also experienced a few start-up crashes and a couple of in-game crashes - always at a menu, mind you, and not in the middle of a game. But all these negative points are minor irritations in the grand scheme of things, and none stop FIFA 11 from being a must-buy for any football fan.
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