FIFA 11 Review Time

Puyol over Arsenal? Yeah, realistic.

FIFA 11 has just been released. This means many of you, and myself, will be spending many many many hours playing online or creating extensive dynasties in Career Mode. Personally I play offline for the most part, usually getting to the 5th or 6th year of my career (at which time Puyol is normally found hobbling around the pitch with a cane and a flowing white bear). Being as this is a Barcelona blog we are focusing on the Blaugrana in the game and how they stack up with their real life counterparts.

Sports in video games are a difficult thing for a developer to master. Many of the smaller aspects and nuances of the games are easily lost in creation such as shoulder feints (a key move in the repertoire of a player like Messi who jinks and janks everywhere) or ball deflections in the box. It is even more difficult in basketball games, but you get the picture. Other issues persist in terms of balance between teams and even players because while a Chelsea is almost certainly going to beat a Mallorca on a regular basis (if they ever played), there are times when Mallorca could pull the shocker, and the game has to account for that. Similarly, developers have to avoid framerate drops and other graphical errors. Basically, it’s pothole after pothole, not to mention the realism factor.

Thankfully, these problems seem to be largely absent from this year’s FIFA game. The game features an incredibly intricate jukes and player dribbling movement system meant to more carefully mimic real player interaction as well as a physics engine that take ball flight dynamics and deflections into account. Another plus has been the addition of player personalities, which has been a complaint for many years. In year past, a player like Xavi would play exactly like Xabi Alonso and Pique would play similarly to John Terry. This seems to have been largely removed, at least for the more well known players in the game. Messi moves like Messi, scooting through the interior and taking slower shots after making solid moves. Puyol bullies around, flies through the air, and generally moves like the Transformer he is. It’s a welcome addition. Even teams now use their true-to-life formations more correctly where a 4-3-3 incorporates player movement more correctly (to a degree) and tries to account for player positioning more accurately. In my opinion the game has had many positive changes as well as a graphical facelift since its last iteration.

The creators have done an admirable job sifting through a lot of the smaller problems with last year’s game and changing them represent a better product in terms of overall quality and design. Manager Mode has been overhauled and turned into Career Mode, allowing the player to either play as one player for a few seasons, serve as a Manager only (similar to the Football Manager series where all games are simmed and only administrative/personnel decisions are made), or act as the Player/Manager (a combination of the two using either one player, the whole team, or simming generally). Other modes seem to have remained largely intact from last year. I cannot speak much to the online component as I rarely touch it.

Get up Messi!

Enough of all that though, you came for specific talk about the Barça boys. First up, the ratings for all the players. Please remember a few things when reading these: star players, especially offensive guys always have higher ratings, as do big name players (which is why Mascherano is higher than Busquets). Defenders are always discounted to a degree so far as I can tell, which would explain why one of the best defenders in club football, Pique, is rated in the low 80s.

Messi – 90
David Villa – 88
Xavi – 87
Puyol – 86
Valdes – 85
Iniesta – 85
Ibrahimovic – 85 (loan)
Pique – 83
Javier Mascherano – 82
Pedro – 82
Dani Alves – 82
Hleb – 82 (loan)
Keita – 81
Busquets – 80
Bojan -79
Eric Abidal – 79
Maxwell – 78
Adriano – 78
Milito – 78
M. Caceres – 77 (loan)
Henrique – 77 (loan)
Keirrison – 76 (loan)
Pinto – 73
dos Santos – 72
Jeffren – 72
Thiago – 71
Muniesa – 65
Ruben Mino – 62

The ratings are all askew, but they always are. It’s also hard to quantify how much “better” one player is than another. No one doubts Messi is the best in the world (he has the highest rating), but how does his 90 compare with Puyol’s 86, when they are so dissimilar in every regard of their game? Sure Messi is faster, quicker, and better with the ball, but Puyol is great in the air, is stronger, and an excellent ground tackler. This is the problem with sports roster ratings, there are so many variables. I try not to put so much stock in them and tend to look more at how the players compare to their namesakes.

In terms of general play the EA Sports guys seem to have done an admirable job. Like I said earlier, the player personality feature has done wonders for many large details as well as those more subtle to the keen Barça fan. P! runs like a weird little whirling dervish and Puyol when not being player-controlled goes to ground regularly. Pique moves very similarly to his more dashing counterpart and other players exhibit striking characteristics. It must be said that these are not carbon copies by any stretch, but it is a huge step forward for FIFA when players actually use the same work rate and tendencies as they would in a real game, or something even close to it.

Tactically the game is not outstanding, but it does have its nuances. I am hoping for a more tactically-challenging experience next year. However, the “classic” 4-3-3 is there. It still does little justice to the Pep-Yaya-Busquets role as it seems to act more as a void at times than anything, although if a game can successfully match that position well we might as well all just prepare for the impending AI takeover. Messi serving a “false 9” works fairly well and the wings actually show very Barça-like characteristics at times, with Alves flying forward occasionally. It is not perfect but if nothing else the game represents the status quo for mainstream and slightly higher-minded football fans: a game that focuses more specifically on the players themselves and less on the systems they inhabit. The barebones tactics are there to be sure, but it’s not going to make the guys at Zonal Marking lose sleep tonight.

In the end though, I rate FIFA 11 very highly both in terms of the overall experience as well as Barça-centric. The sport’s premier club should get the start treatment and EA have not let us down. This is a very fun experience to be had playing as FC Barcelona or any other club you might fancy. If you grow tired of the big boys you can always move down and play with a middle-level second tier side and try to move them up into contention. It’s not perfect from a team standpoint, but it is a damn fine football game and an enjoyable play. I would definitely recommend this one.

Feel free to post your favorite strategies, moments, and whatever else about the game below. Questions are welcome too. I personally purchased the game for the PS3, so if you did as well, look me up as lukeisamazing and maybe we can play a game or 2. I have the same gamertag for Xbox Live if you guys want to add me there too.

Photos by EA Sports, from FIFA 11

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We calls 'em likes we sees 'em.


    • Luke
      October 1, 2010

      The entire world has now been Hleb’d!

  1. jose89
    October 1, 2010

    going to pic this up in a couple of hours, very psyched! Thanks for the review.

    • Luke
      October 1, 2010

      Take your “facts” and “information” elsewhere, this is some video game ish up in here!

  2. blitzen
    October 1, 2010

    I don’t play this sort of game, but I’d love to see more screenshots of Barca players.

    • Luke
      October 1, 2010

      I’ll take some while I am playing the game and post them on the blog if I can get EA’s website to work. It was being wonky yesterday.

  3. October 1, 2010

    Thanks for Kevin for posting my name in his last review. That’s like Pep calling me to exchange views about the following match selection. 🙂

    Luke, you should have contacted the game developers before publishing this post. The least you can demand is a free copy for the promotion you are making here.

    Is the font on the blog tiny or do I need eyes check?

    • Kxevin
      October 1, 2010

      Once again, you were right. And I was thinking the same thing. Let’s see: Busquets, Keita, Mascherano, Rubin match satisfaction. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few more “Ramzi was right” moments.

  4. Jnice
    October 1, 2010

    Gamertag Jnice17 for anyone who is ready to take a loss.

    I have a few issues with the ratings and the fact that Pedro and Busquets have generic faces, but I always do. Still, this FIFA is a good one. Soundtrack is weak, though. They let me down this year.

    • Luke
      October 1, 2010

      I would have complained about the ratings, but honestly, we could complain about that for weeks on end, ya know?

      Agree about the faces, a few are off, badly.

      • October 1, 2010

        Even when FIFA does the rating, people still complain! No wonder Kxevin is sick of it already.

      • vincent
        October 1, 2010

        is thiago bald in the game? it looks so.

  5. blitzen
    October 1, 2010

    This game is more my style:


    For the record, I found by searching the terms “Mourinho” and “evil”. 😀

  6. Kxevin
    October 1, 2010

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Perhaps somebody can play with the front line of Krkic/Messi/Pedro and see what the hell happens against Malllorca, eh? With Thiago at AM, or maybe Busquets/Iniesta/Keita in the midfield. Or does Jeffren get a runout?

    Can everyone tell that I don’t play video games?

  7. blitzen
    October 1, 2010

    Not to bring up the whole Ibrahimovic debate again, but here are the latest quotes attributed to Mino Raiola:


    “The Sweden international described his 2009 transfer from Inter Milan to Barcelona as a dream come true, but a strange relationship with Coach Pep Guardiola and a rather poor goal-scoring record let the player think differently. Adding to his confusion was the Blaugrana’s signing of David Villa before the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

    “Ibrahimovic asked me to get him out of Barcelona, because he was ashamed to stay there,” Mano Raiola was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

    SO if Raiola is to be believed, Ibra is the one who wanted to go.

    • Kxevin
      October 1, 2010

      To hell with them both. Good riddance to what has turned out to be bad rubbish. Maybe the key is to avoid talented players with pain in the ass agents.

      • BA
        October 1, 2010

        someone needs to tell Ibra it was a bit of a chickenshit move to run away as soon as he felt uncomfortable or that his place was being challenged, instead of talking through it in private or fighting for it. immature and spoiled, some might say.

        and Raiola is a true scumbag.

      • blitzen
        October 1, 2010

        I don’t see how he could possibly have been surprised that Villa was signed, it had been on the cards since the previous season, and Raiola certainly knew that, even if Ibra didn’t. It was only ever a question of working out the money. It seems what it boils down to is that, having already been benched for some games in favour of Bojan, he was afraid the arrival of Villa would push him out of the starting lineup altogether.

        So instead of working harder to earn his place and fit into the team the way Pep wanted him to, he cut his losses and ran. He wanted to be the undisputed star of the team, and he has that in Milan, for the moment, anyway–although there are already rumbles that some of the other players aren’t thrilled that he is the centre of service on the field. He is in top form right now, and good luck to him, but it will be interesting to see what happens when his performance slumps a bit.

        • Zlatan
          October 1, 2010

          It is Funny how you make assumption of how he felt and the way he thinks. Can you stick with the facts to be fair to the guy?

          • blitzen
            October 1, 2010

            I’m not the one who said he was “ashamed”, that was his agent, Raiola. What did he have to be ashamed of, if not being benched?

          • Kxevin
            October 1, 2010

            Exactly, bltzen. If we can assume that his agent speaks for him, then those ARE the facts.

        • Zlatan
          October 1, 2010

          “he was afraid the arrival of Villa would push him out of the starting lineup altogether”
          This is your assumption, not fact.
          “He wanted to be the undisputed star of the team”
          Another assumption that could be challenged.

        • Zlatan
          October 1, 2010

          He might be ashamed of ending his career this way

          • romario
            October 2, 2010

            actually this assumption is quite the right one.
            zlatan himself stated that he is not willing to sit on the bench ”I am 28 years old and can not afford to lose a year sitting on the bench and watching the weather,”

            agree with blitzen’s comment.

  8. Nik
    October 1, 2010

    Great review Luke. How does this year’s FIFA compare to last year’s in terms of overall value? From what I hear, it seems that more focus was put on adding little tweaks compared to adding anything major. Are the tweaks and little additions to this year’s version enough to justify the purchase if we already have FIFA 10?

    • Luke
      October 1, 2010

      To me it is significant enough to warrant the purchase. The game is drastically different and while it is mostly “little things” changing, those little things make a huge difference. Computer opponents use more sophisticated attacking, even on the lower levels, and even attempt to use step-overs and other skill moves they never did last year.

      Also, the overhaul of the Career system was so big for me because it was positively broken last year. It does not seem to be that way now.

        • Ryan
          October 1, 2010

          Yeah, I’m also on the fence, as I have both Fifa09 and 10. Still playing manager mode, with a rampant mid-20s Bojan leading the line. Somehow, Masch is my 3rd highest goal scorer…

          Do you know if you can upload your virtual pro from Fifa10 into Fifa11?

          • stowe
            October 2, 2010

            i remember playing fifa 06 with Corithians out of brazil. I had Masch, Tevez and Nilmar. Interesting to see how their careers have blossomed.

  9. Cesc Blanc
    October 1, 2010

    zonal marking is a one man army… not many guys 😉

  10. jaywhy08
    October 1, 2010

    if anyone wants to play my psn is goal-93, but be ready to lose 😀

  11. evilallan
    October 1, 2010

    can you play Barca B in FIFA11?

  12. Andrew
    October 1, 2010

    Is the Puyol over Arsenal comment supposed to be sarcastic?

  13. Nabeel
    October 1, 2010

    Dislike. Pro Evo alllll the wayyyyyyyy!!

    Pro Evo has also had a MUCH better rating system for years – where they try to quantify characteristics like agility and short-passing accuracy and stamina, leading to pentagon that tells you a helluva lot more about players than FIFA’s random rating ever does.

    • Luke
      October 1, 2010

      Not a FIFA v. PES thing here. I just happen to play FIFA. Please don’t turn it into that.

      • barca96
        October 1, 2010

        I really love how Luke handles this kinds of things. So calmly..

      • Nabeel
        October 3, 2010

        Haha, no I didn’t mean to start that debate. Just putting in my two cents. I’ve had that argument elsewhere and can’t make a judgement about FIFA 11 before I play it.

  14. Eklavya
    October 1, 2010

    This looks EPIC. I used to still play FIFA08 on PS2 even till FIFA10 came on. I played FIFA10 this summer with a cousin on a awesome computer till 3 in the morning with nobody else in house knowing! 😀

    Sadly, I don’t own a PS3 or Xbox360 but I’d kick all your asses anytime at this game 🙂

    But seriously, this game looks better than usual FIFA-one-year-later average. Thanks for the review Luke, I didn’t know so many modes had been modified!

      • ML
        October 2, 2010

        I play on PC too. Id just like to add that this years PC version looks outstanding, real value for money when compared to FIFA 10 and 09 (which i thought was better than 10) on PC.

        Greatly improved graphics and 360 dribbling feels great, especially if you have a Xbox controller thats compatible with windows. 🙂

        • Eklavya
          October 2, 2010

          “especially if you have a Xbox controller thats compatible with windows.”

          Yeah, that’s exactly how I played! 🙂

    October 1, 2010

    off topic:hristo stoitchkov make my day:madrid make me sick i don.t want to talk about them!haha!i love that guy!legend!

    • blitzen
      October 1, 2010

      What I liked was that he was also very respectful towards individual RM players, like Casillas and Xabi Alonso. Hate the team, not the players! (except Pepe, go ahead and hate him)

  16. poipoi
    October 1, 2010

    I don’t play games anymore…not saying that they are bad or anything in fact I like them a lot. is barça still THE most selected team to play with?

    just dropped by from vacation haven’t read a thing since then, don’t have computer and probably will spend some more days somewhere. all I wanted to say is that “it looks as if since keita scored poipoi dissapeared” … he scored the 1st vs athletic and we won just well, so that sentence kept coming to my mind sometimes when I was driving… lol … keita rules btw!! in his own way 😉

  17. blitzen
    October 1, 2010

    At the presentation of the Golden Boot to Messi, club president Sandro Rosell said, “We’ll never let you leave. You’ll be with us all of your life.”

    I’m sure he didn’t mean it to be quite as creepy as it sounds. 😀

    • NeverEver
      October 4, 2010


      it sounds like they have plans to entomb him at camp nou or something…

  18. Kxevin
    October 1, 2010

    The last video game I played was Colin McRae Rally. I stopped when one day, my wife said she had a dream that she was driving somewhere, and Nicky Grist, Colin McRae’s co-driver, was reading her pace notes instead of directions.

    When a game is on so often that it affects the dreams of the folks who have to listen subliminally, as you’re trying to win Rally Indonesia …. 😀

  19. Vj
    October 1, 2010

    Oh yeah, since September has ended, does it mean our most hated Queenie has abdicated? Huzzah!

  20. Larm
    October 1, 2010

    hey kxevin,

    its a little off topic, but i was thinking about your rating system. you said that players start at zero and work there way up. and i gots to thinking maybe for subs they should start at 5 and work their way up or down from there. i dont really have any justification for it, but it seems to make sense to me

    • October 1, 2010

      So if they didn’t do a thing, they Guarantee a 5.

      I think people are putting lot of time on this numerical thing. Really. I would even recommend terminating it from the previews but:

      1) It seems Kevin had invested lot of time perfecting his system, so its not fair to stop now.

      2) It generates debates which seems to be a good thing for the comments session.

      Though I highly recommend focusing on the preview text more than the numbers.

      • Larm
        October 1, 2010

        actually no, i was gonna say the incomplete rating still is a possible rating. its just it seems unfair if a guy subs in makes a couple complete passes, and receives a low rating.

        i usually agree with his ratings (with the exception of the ratings for pep himself, i feel like he gets away with having no backup plan and his subbing is usually poor)

        either way, keep up the good work yall.

  21. Helge
    October 1, 2010

    Which player has the highest rating of all, not only Barca players?

    Rooney, Sneijder, Crynaldo etc., if this rating doesn’t want to be a bad joke, they’ll not hit the 90 points mark!

  22. jnelson
    October 1, 2010

    whats up wit Messi always being out-ran by defenders and getting punked like Bojan. don’t they know Messi is faster with the ball than without? oh and WHY!? WHY!? does Ibra have to return after the first year!!! maybe they’re predicting a serious malignant affliction. a total shame. total shame.

    • Ryan
      October 2, 2010

      Yeah, the other thing that always gets me is how the CPU-controlled Messi loves to hug the line and cross the ball as if he were Navas. At least Iniesta’s forcefield is non-existent in the game. 😀

  23. sab
    October 2, 2010

    off topic.

    ryan giggs interview,one of the classiest footballer.


  24. vincent
    October 2, 2010

    the autosave feature is bugging me. it can’t be turned off.

    • ML
      October 2, 2010

      Second that. Seems to be a problem with simming or skipping matches, according to a friend.

  25. Eklavya
    October 2, 2010

    You know you need to get de-addicted to this site when you have a dream where the “thumbs up/down” next to the comments come back, but with the whole page refreshing when you click on them and you having to scroll back down and re-find the comment you were reading.


  26. Kxevin
    October 2, 2010

    What’s the story on Jonathan Dos Santos? Thiago, Nolito and Riverola were called up to first team duties for Mallorca, to strengthen the squad, but no Dos Santos. This was also true of Rubin Kazan. He got almost 70 minutes in the last B match, so he’s healthy.

  27. Louis
    October 2, 2010

    I heard Career Mode sucks compared to FIFA 10. I also heard you can no longer scout and sign players.. is this true?

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