FIFA Soccer 11 Review (Wii)

It seems like Wii sports games fall into one of three categories: games aimed purely at kids, poor ports of Xbox 360/PS3 games or games specifically tweaked for optimal play on the Wii.

Madden 11 is a good example of the last type: It’s still football, but it’s style and gameplay have been tweaked to take advantage of what the Wii does best.

FIFA 11 also tries to squeeze into that category. The game is not perfect or sim, but it fills the soccer niche well enough for a console not known for its sports prowess.

11-on-11 Gameplay

To begin, the play on the pitch seems a bit antiquated. The game is missing things like the newly added Pro Passing system and 360-degree controls. This opens up the game to things like running wingers the length of the field, which will turn some people off. This does not mean the gameplay is bad, just lagging behind what we have seen in the innovation department during the past couple years.

Some of the features that make the gameplay more family friendly are welcome; others are somewhat annoying. First, loose-ball landing spots are indicated with a closing circle, which helps isolate proper positioning despite the low-res graphics. Other icons help distinguish a double team or a potential offside call. These additions are helpful, clear and unobtrusive.

Other modifications for the system do not work as well. Using a standard Wii remote/Nunchuk setup puts passing and crossing on the same button. To cross, you hold the button longer. This results in lots of hopeful firm passes turning into lobbed, and out of place, crosses. Using this system will require a lot of practice.

That said, the "pointing" control scheme will require even more practice. Unlike Madden, where I think the "remote as pointer" works, it’s extremely difficult to control the game this way. It’s not that it is poorly handled; it is just remarkably unintuitive. I can see this setup being the favorite scheme of some -- assuming they put in a lot of time with the game -- but for most others the classic controller will be the go-to option.

Despite the lack of a go-to control scheme and limited innovation, I found this to be a very smooth game of football. Again, it sort of plays like a last-generation game, but it is still a pleasure to play with the right mindset.

Taking It To the Streets

A new addition this year is Hit the Streets, a five-on-five pseudo-indoor soccer experience that leans towards the arcade side of things. Layered on top of a rather predictable arcade soccer game, complete with wall passes and crazy shot deflections, is a power-up system. Performing well fills up a meter. When it fills up, you get a random power-up. Some of these power-ups are standard, like a slow-mo power shot. Others are more creative, such as shrinking the other team to kid-size.

This mode seems pretty light, but it is a fun mode to play if you like arcade sports games. I did not find it as addicting as other over-the-top games, but perhaps that’s because it’s not as over the top as it could be. Besides the power-ups and wall usage, it does not go too far outside the box. I’m not sure that’s a good or bad thing, but just know going in that this mode plays it pretty safe.

Career Player

Utilizing the gameplay of the "Streets" mode is the Streets to Stadiums mode, the game’s seemingly obligatory career mode. Here you create a player and work through the five-on-five ranks, hopefully making it to a career in the big stadiums. It’s a fun mode, especially if you like the street gameplay. There is a task/reward system that helps you develop your player, and while it's not as deep as what’s available on the PS3/Xbox 360 version of the game, it is still a rewarding experience that is worth your time.

The other mode of note is Battle For Glory, a managerial game of sorts, as well as the only franchise/dynasty mode available on the disk. The mode consists of classic 11-on-11 league play, but it features an upgrade system similar to the career mode.

By completing certain tasks of your choice, called Manager Moments, you can earn points and power-ups. By using these points and power-ups, you can improve your team or give yourself an advantage over the opponent. If you think of the old Madden Cards, then you have the right idea of what to expect here. It’s not exactly sim, but it fits the console and makes the games interesting, even if you are heavily favored or getting blown out. An interesting element of this system is the ability to combine earned power-ups into superior advantages, almost like an RPG crafting system. Again, this is not necessarily a suitable replacement for a normal league mode, but it is a interesting take on a a standard FIFA game.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I do not think FIFA 11 does enough to capture a unique feel in the vein of Madden 11, but it does play well and look good, and it will probably be favored over the more difficult 360/PS3 version by children and casual fans. In all, it does an appropriate and decent job filling the soccer niche on Nintendo’s console -- just don’t expect a complete port of the Xbox 360/PS3 version.

On the Pitch: You will find smooth gameplay with enough modifications to help newcomers, but it lacks some of the newer innovations you might have seen in the Xbox 360/PS3 versions of the game.

Graphics: The graphics are good on the pitch. The interface and menus are colorful and clean.

Audio: The commentary is limited, and all of the sound is flat and tinny. The occasional celebratory sound out of the Wii remote is kind of neat.

Entertainment Value: Two entertaining modes, plus online and tournament mode make this a nice package. Still, both the career and managerial modes are limited compared to what they could be.

Learning Curve: Some tutorials help explain things, but there are enough options, including All-Play, to make the game easy enough for anyone.

Online: The lobby system is a step up from most Wii games, but I experienced occasional lag.

Score: 7.0 (Good)

FIFA Soccer 11 Score
Smooth and reliable gameplay.
Accessible for everyone.
Fun modes.
11-on-11 feels 'old'.
Control issues.
Limited Depth.
out of 10
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