Control the goalieBe A Pro goalkeeper mode was our first FIFA 11 experience this year and to say we were bored senseless is a gross misunderstatement. It’s actually a pointless mode when playing offline. Sure you get to see the match from a different viewpoint, but we just spent most of the game standing still scratching our nuts. We had one shot to contend with in 90 minutes, didn’t have any corners to defend and only took one goal kick. Online, however, it’s a total different experience. Previously you could play 10 vs.10 online, but now you can also play as the goalkeeper. Having a non A.I. goalkeeper online really changes things tactically. The team really reles on having a good goalkeeper, so stray out of position too far and you'll have team-mates on your back. Make a great save, however, and you're the hero. It's far better than having to rely on the A.I. goalkeeper like last year and makes this a real worthwhile inclusion this year. Going up for a corner in the last minute with the chance of scoring a goal is a huge temptation for any goalie...there's even an achievement for it.
Last year's critised Manager Mode has also had a facelift. Career mode and Be A Pro Mode mode have been fused together and you now get to play through 15 seasons choosing to be the player, manager, or player manager. FIFA 11 offers a watered down managerial mdoe with options such as transfer market, coaching options and emails updating you on player's progress adding some depth. Don't expect a deep simulation of the day to day runnings of a football club though, this is more of fantasy-football style approach to soccer management with the ability to practically buy anyone who you want from the transfer market. As a result, it's not the most exciting of game modes to play, but then FIFA has never really been about managing a team for us, it's about the game on the pitch.
And it's on the pitch where you'll notice a real difference to player behaviour. The stat-heavy system whirs away behind the scenes and takes into account a lot of factors on the pitch to determine where your passes and shots end up. Whether you're unbalanced, standing still or running are just a few of the factors that affect your pass placement. In FIFA 10 the ball would zip across the pitch to a team-mate's foot even if you'd pointed the stick in roughly the right direction. That doesn't happen now, you need to be placement perfect. Immediately FIFA 11 seems a lot more challenging and far easier to make a mistake, or get passed defenders with a skill trick. Opponent A.I. jostle aggressively for the ball and mark tighter so it’s harder to find spaces. The result is a more compact and challenging game online and offline - there's a lot of tackles coming from midfield and far fewer one on one chance. If you're used to playing FIFA 10, the first batch of games you'll play can be a little frustrating as you wrestle with the changes and enhanced A.I. Some may not like it, but there's no doubt that the more physical feel of FIFA 11 does capture the intensity and passion of the English game.