The FIFA series is by far the biggest selling sports game franchise around the world. That's because football, or soccer as it's otherwise known, is the sport of choice for most of the world. The latest addition to the series, FIFA 11, was released across multiple platforms at the end of last year and also made an appearance on iPad.
Knowing I was heading off to Europe for a long vacation, I downloaded a copy to my trusty tablet so I could play it on my travels, and I'm very glad I did: FIFA 11 provided many, many hours of footballing entertainment as I whiled away my time sitting in airports and in bed for several mornings when I woke up waaay too early due to jetlag.
On the face of it, FIFA 11 pretty much delivers everything it's "bigger" console siblings do. It features a fully comprehensive list of just about every major and minor football team you can think of around the world, which players can choose and guide through League, Cup and Friendly contests. Teams can be customised and fettled, tactics can be tweaked and obsessed over, and starting lineups fiddled with until you're happy with your team's setup.
I actually found the formation customisation aspect to be very useful, since your team's tactical setup can go a long way in helping counter and overcome a stronger opponent.
Gameplay-wise, FIFA 11 maintains the franchise's feel very well through its slightly strategic, and steadily paced action. By that, I mean that players don't always immediately respond to your commands, they act upon them as soon as they are able.
If you've played other FIFA games before, you'll immediately feel at home, if not it'll take a little while for you to begin to think ahead a little, telling your player to take a shot a step or two ahead of where he is so that he can properly wind up, or turning just before you get to a byline so that the player has time to slow down and change direction.
It's a little frustrating at first, because it feels like your players aren't responding immediately, but once you get the pace of the gameplay, you can put together flowing moves and pick apart your opponents with well-coordinated passing plays. And once that starts happening, it's easy to get very sucked into the game, especially thanks to the game's virtual joypad and buttons, which are intuitive and easy to get to grips with.
While FIFA 11's graphics mightn't be quite as detailed as the full blown console versions, I'm pretty amazed at their quality on the iPad. Animations are good, and while some of the close-up graphics are a bit chunky, overall the game holds together well, I could recognise my team's players from both a distance and close up, and the action moves smoothly.
Sound is similarly excellent: There's plenty of commentary and even if it does occasionally drift into the overly generic, it nevertheless gives the game an authentic feel and helps make the game an impressive piece of software to demonstrate the iPad.
The only thing that was a disappointment for me was the slight lack of drama in contests, and the lack of statistics. I won the league with my team, but didn't feel the game did a particularly good job of recognising that 38-game feat. I also didn't get the chance to look at the league table at the end of the season, or analyse my team's overall performance. Perhaps this was left out because of some technical reason, but regardless, I did feel a bit gypped.
I'd like to revel in my achievement a little and get to see the final tally of scorers for the season and see how the other clubs did in the league. I did also experience a few startup crashes and a couple of in-game crashes, always at a menu, and not in the middle of a game.
But all these negative points are fairly minor irritations in the grand scheme of things, and don't stop FIFA 11 being an absolute must-buy for any soccer fan.