EA Sports' has always had an edge on competitor Winning Eleven because of its extensive use of the FIFA license, and in FIFA 11 developer EA Canada wants to bring the heart of that license – the players – to the forefront.
"[In FIFA 10], some attributes are very, very noticeable, others not so noticeable," says FIFA 11 creative director Gary Paterson. "So, we've been working hard to make sure that all these attributes have an effect on the game so that when you play the game, you feel like – when you get your hands on Fàbregas or Lampard – that he can do something that other people can't. We've been working really hard on emphasizing those attribute effects, getting visual cues from them."
When Paterson talks about making the star players standout, he isn't just talking about tweaking their attribute scores or skill moves (although this is happening). He's describing how the team at developer EA Canada is working to bring more personality to its players for FIFA 11 through diverse areas such as passing, shot placement, agility, and more. When Paterson refers to "visual cues" coming from players, he's not only talking about some of the new body types that the game is using, but also their animations and how gamers should be able to see the difference onscreen in how different players act on the pitch. For instance, the better players might dribble the ball by keeping it closer to their feet; making more frequent, quicker touches on the ball. This is compared with a less proficient player who might dribble the ball farther ahead of him.
Paterson also hopes that FIFA 11 should come across as an improved game when gamers notice the CPU players. One area that has been added is the overall offensive and defensive work rate of players. Paterson compares Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov by saying that in FIFA 11 both will be "completely different players." Rooney will run back to help the defense as well as make offensive runs. Berbatov, meanwhile, "will barely make a forward run, never mind run back and help his defenders." The team is also addressing other AI issues such as keepers dealing with chip shots better, as well as knowing when to sprint out and fall back to their net.
Players like Wayne Rooney will stand out in a variety of ways.
Developer EA Canada wants more CPU-controlled players vying for crosses into the box
Along with players expressing their attributes on the pitch, Paterson says FIFA 11 should show more variance in its passing game in an attempt to highlight players' differing ability to pass the ball and receive passes. The development team talked to members of the FIFA community, who bemoaned "ping-pong passing," where you could make your way up the pitch in FIFA 10 using only a few, laser-guided passes. "It just feels like a bit of a cheat," admits Paterson. "It doesn't feel like there's enough emotion or sense of achievement associated with doing that because it feels so easy to create that [scoring] chance. These guys are asking for more depth."
Although the passing mechanic is the same, getting a 100 percent perfect pass is now harder. Over- or under-hitting the ball is more common in FIFA 11, and players receive and handle passes differently. Paterson assures fans of all skill levels, however, that the team's intent is not to make the game unplayable, but merely more realistic. You'll still be making most passes, but a ball that is not passed or handled perfectly could slow down your attack and give defenders a better shot at recouping or intercept the ball.
The game's presentation will also allow more personality by letting gamers customize the music and chants of their favorite club. You can take any club and set up whatever crowd chants, entrance music, goal-scoring music, etc. you want from your hard drive. Speaking of the hard drive, FIFA 11 now allows you to save and share video highlights.
Hopefully Paterson and the team can make good on their ambitions for FIFA 11 and, in turn, make the game and its players come alive.