Tuesday, August 3, 2010

FIFA 2011 new photo

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FIFA 2011 new  photo

Nothing and nobody's perfect. In life, this gradually becomes apparent of your parents as you reach adolescence, then of 'the system' in your late teens, and ultimately of love as you reach adulthood. In gaming, this means that even a 10/10 game still has its flaws. When we gave FIFA 10 the perfect score last year, it wasn't because we thought it couldn't possibly be any better. Instead, we felt that EA Canada had crafted the greatest football game ever made at that point in time, and we stick by that. But it was far from perfect.

Dodgy commentary lines and a player rating system (essential for the Be-A-Pro mode) that was a bit overly clinical were but a couple of examples of the more nitpicky shortcomings of FIFA 10. By far and away though, the most significant gap in the game could be found in player traits and abilities. This has been a problem since long before FIFA 10 though.  For all of FIFA's mo-capped footie superstars that have featured on the cover of its games over the years, bearing ridiculously lifelike appearances in-game, the level of distinction between players throughout the gameplay has been notoriously weak.

For too long, the defining factors between players came down to physical presence (i.e. their size, speed, and strength). By the admission of David Rutter, FIFA's Producer, the best way to win in FIFA 10 is to place seven huge defenders at the back and one very fast striker up front. Now, EA Canada is turning its attentions to the subtler side of player characteristics, like their first touch, vision, and tendency to run at opponents. This is what should finally make players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta as dominant as Christiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

At a recent hands on event in EA's UK offices, we got the chance to put this new 'Personality+' FIFA 11 feature through its paces. To do this, it struck us that the best way to make 'Personality+' really sing would be to play one lowly squad against a Premier League powerhouse - what better combination than Rutter's own Stevenage FC against Tottenham? With Tottenham as the AI side and us playing as Stevenage, the level of differentiation between players was immediately noticeable. For example, Tom Huddlestone played his bullying defensive midfielder role faultlessly, always in the right position sitting just above the centre-backs and consistently jostling opposing forwards off the ball.

Another example of these improved player traits was how Jermaine Defoe and Aaron Lennon relied on their speed and dribbling skill. As soon as they got ball to feet, both players had a strong tendency to run at opponents and dart at confusing angles to dupe defenders. Also noticeable was how much the AI used skill moves to achieve this. You could play through FIFA 10 for hours on end before seeing an AI player even attempt a skill move, let alone in the right context. EA Canada is approaching this problem head-on in FIFA 11 and, even from our short playtest, the positive results of the studio's hard work were clear to see.

On the Stevenage side, there was a stronger tendency for passes to go astray, while shots on goal usually lacked sting and accuracy unless the shot taker was well balanced. Granted, these kind of basic levellers have been part and parcel of the FIFA experience for years now, but the key this year is that they appear to be less clinical. It's not just that the passes lacked power, or that the players were merely slower. Finer details such as poor technique and sloppier ball control came through much stronger than what we've become used to from previous FIFAs, and it's these sort of factors that will add character to the game. However, while 'Personality+' may be the most substantive addition to FIFA 11, it won't be the only one.

'360 Degree Fight For Possession' is another new feature this year, which will essentially build on the success of the jostling system that EA Canada introduced in FIFA 09. Imagine a real game of football for a moment, and try to recall the way that attacking players will back into defenders to try and shield the ball as it's passed into them, or how defenders will attempt to ferry a ball out of touch by using their body to block any incoming attackers. This is essentially the kind of dynamic that '360 Degree Fight For Possession' is aiming for and, as with the jostling system before it, it looks like it's going to implement the kind of animations that will actually improve the gameplay experience as much as they do the visual appeal.

In terms of modes, EA's only announcement on this so far is not so much the confirmation of a new mode but the tying together of two already established ones. In FIFA 11, the Manager and Be-A-Pro modes will be wrapped-up into a single Career Mode. As with Be-A-Pro, gamers can start the mode as a real player, created player, or Virtual Pro and then build up their career to become a player manager or manager (ahh, player managers - that takes us back...). Alternatively, players can chose to simply skip the Be-A-Pro features and start the mode as a manager through a potential 15 seasons of football. Click through here for Rutter's take on the new setup.

FIFA 11 will be starting down a new path with 'Personality+'. We're certain that the improvements will make a big impact this year but, like with the jostling system over the last few years, we have faith that EA Canada won't simply drop 'Personality+' into FIFA 11 and then leave it. Instead, it seems likely that the improvements will be continually iterated through FIFAs 12, 13, 14 and beyond, and this is what makes the series so good at the moment. Not merely that it adds decent new features, but that it sticks with them until they're executed to near-perfection.

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