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For: iPhone   Also on: DS, Mobile, 3DS

One F is for fun, the other frustration

Product: FIFA 11 | Developer: EA Mobile | Publisher: EA Mobile | Format: iPhone | Genre: Sports | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.0
FIFA 11 iPhone, thumbnail 1
Money can't buy you love, and it can't buy you football glory either.

The Premiership may be awash with teams happy to flash the cash - whether injected by Russian billionaires, or the odd Sheikh from the Middle East – but rarer are the examples where it's actually paid off.

Manchester City are still waiting to see the fruits of their windfall, for instance, while forerunners Chelsea, albeit with domestic honours aplenty, just cannot scoop that elusive first Champions League trophy.

The problem, so critics would have you believe, is that clubs packed with stars from around the globe find it hard to gel. They can play some amazing football in short bursts, but consistency is far harder to achieve.

Strong starter

Fittingly, FIFA 11 feels very much the product of this modern game.

For long periods, EA serves up some of the best football you're ever likely to play – and not just on iPhone, either. Then, to confound its success, it makes some stupid and frankly lazy mistakes. Like your average season, it's a spectacle full of beaming highs, and bewildering lows.

Said highs are, thankfully, what most people will remember. The game's greatest strength is its unparalleled ability to simulate a football match.

It's not glamourising the game to suggest that from the way the teams move around the pitch to the breadth of the impressive commentary track, FIFA 11 looks more like a real game of football than any other soccer sim on iPhone to date – it's a genuine step forward.

Tricky footing

The controls are a little tricky. 'Pass', 'shoot', and 'through ball' buttons in possession become 'standard tackle', 'slide tackle' and 'change player' when out of it.

When mastered, it's a setup that enables you to piece together the kind of pacey play that even the likes of Barca would be proud of.

It's almost as if FIFA 11 anticipates the moves you have planned in your head even before you set them in motion.

Players consistently make intelligent runs – by themselves, or at your command via a handy on screen swipe  – that enable you to break down opposing defences with aptitude rather than sheer luck or aggression.

On the rebound

On the flip side, FIFA 11 has a penchant for flukey goals.

Own goals from corners, deflected shots that fly into the back of the net, keepers coming out for one-on-ones and missing the ball altogether – they all happen here. As frustrating as it is when you're on the afflicted side, it all adds to the experience.

Such brilliance, however, only serves to make the missteps FIFA 11 makes more painful.

For one, its take on the offside rule is especially dodgy. While it generally catches players running into an offside position when heading toward goal (the game even marks those running beyond the last man with a handy flag icon), it seems to get a mite confused when those same players start to run backwards.

Even when they're still blatantly offside, the game's virtual linesmen have a habit of keeping their flags down, happily letting you pass the ball to the offender to score.

Last minute equaliser

Likewise, a similar easily avoidable misdemeanor are the funky controls in some of the menus. Team traits – such as counter attacking or zonal marking - are handled via sliders: swipe one way to turn the tactic on, the other way to turn it off.

At least, that's how it should work. While it's perfectly possible to disable a team's default settings via said sliders, it seems impossible to switch them back on again in the current version.

Another slight issue is the lack of online multiplayer, currently tagged on the game's opening menu as "coming soon."

All such faults are far from final, of course, but they do leave a bitter taste in the mouth when other elements of the game are so sweet.

It all leaves FIFA 11 feeling like a package with great promise, and the prospect of a bug-free FIFA 12 in a year's time is mouthwatering.

For now, what's on offer deserves sincere praise, even if needs some time to gel before it can truly be classed as one of the greats.
Reviewer photo
Keith Andrew | 1 October 2010
At times brilliant, FIFA 11 is also limited by odd fumbles to ensure that this is just the first step on the road to glory, rather than the crowning moment itself
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