Ask any aspiring young footballer what he wants to be when he grows up, and you’re likely to get a similar sort of answer wherever you go: strikers. Everyone wants the glory of being the one to put the ball into the back of the net, but few want the pressure or responsibility of defending their own goal.
The team at EA must have heard differently, because at Gamescom 2010 the publisher announced that the upcoming version of FIFA 11 will add the ability to play full 11-players-per-side football online, as well as offline goalie management. Of course, no one wants to be standing around for 90 minutes waiting for their time to shine, and rather than be stuck watching everyone else have all the fun, players who pull on the gloves will be given a few new tools to keep things fresh and interesting.
The first is a real-time set of shot indicators, showing the optimal recommended standing position for your keeper, and a guide to the incoming trajectory of shots. While initially it may sound like a cheat sheet to easy mode, offensive players still have the ability to chip and curl the ball past the keeper, and there’s no indication of power until the ball leaves the attacker’s boot. Players steer the keeper around using the left stick like any other player, while keeping the ball out can be done with the right stick, or with a single button press in simplified mode.
The other new tool is called Call to Arms. It's a raised isometric view of the field when your side has the ball and is going on an offensive rampage. As the keeper, you will be able to call for players to pass and set up plays with single button presses superimposed over the players on and off the ball. It’s a nifty way to give the guy down the opposite end of the field a hand in the glory of scoring.
For the really adventurous, or the cocky, there’s even the option to play your keeper as part of the rest of the pack, leaving the box to run the ball yourself. It’s a risky move, because if you concede the ball, the opposition AI is smart enough to take a shot, even from its own half if they spy a chance at an unguarded net.
FIFA 10 promised an improved level of physicality to play, and while it managed to deliver as players jostled for possession, FIFA 11 takes it a step further with the chance to barge and hold players even if they don’t have the ball. A little bit of nudge in backplay may provide you with just the window you need to make a clean break from the player marking you.
FIFA 11 also adds learning AI to its laundry list of new features. Want some real competition from the CPU? Teach it your trick moves by recording samples of your brilliance on the pitch. and have the game analyse the performance for use in a future match. A new video tool also allows players to view, adjust, and edit their own highlights packages, saving them to the console’s hard drive for showing someone who missed out on seeing your performance live, or rubbing it in the face of your deflated opposition. The World Cup may be over for another four years, but plenty of people are still running a temperature with football fever. The raft of new features being built on the solid foundation of last year's game has us itching to pull on the studs and hit the grass when the game is released in late September this year.