The latest Wii title in EA Sports' FIFA franchise doesn't offer the visual realism of its HD counterparts, but it does offer an accessible game of football that is a lot of fun to play. The normal 11-versus-11 action is bolstered by easy to set up online games, a separate street football mode, and, most exciting of all, the glorious return of the much-loved five-a-side indoor mode that hasn't made an appearance since FIFA: Road to World Cup 98. FIFA 11 makes the best of the Wii hardware and offers the most complete experience in the series yet.
To create a football game that appeals to fans of all ages and abilities, EA Sports has given FIFA 11 a number of control schemes. The first and most basic of these is All Play control, which hands movement of your players over to the CPU, so that all you need to do is pass, tackle, and shoot. This gives you the chance to just get used to the fundamentals of the gameplay or, indeed, the sport itself. FIFA 11 includes a training mode to help you get used to the controls in a closed environment, but it offers nothing in the way of tutorials to teach football newcomers the best ways to use specific techniques during matches. If you're familiar with the sport you can skip the Wii-Remote-only All Play controls and move straight on to the Remote and Nunchuk option. Here, you are in control of movement, as well as passing, shooting, and the other fundamentals. The gameplay is fluid enough with this control scheme, but if you normally play FIFA games with a traditional control pad, it can take a few matches before you get used to the button layout. That's because this option requires multiple button presses for techniques that normally only require one button in other versions, such as lobbed passes. If you consider yourself a seasoned FIFA pro, then the Classic Controller option is the one for you. This configuration closely represents the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 controls and offers the most gameplay depth, with the ability for slightly more accurate passing and shooting, which is hugely important on the harder difficulty setting. Unfortunately, there is no option to use a Nintendo GameCube controller.
Controlling FIFA 11 can be as easy or as complex as you desire, but the gameplay itself remains simple compared to the versions on other platforms. Passing is far easier, requiring only a tap of a button to execute so that the ball almost always goes where you would expect. Tackling is also very easy, though with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controls, you have to shake the remote to perform a slide tackle, and the controls are a little sluggish when defending. Shooting is the most enjoyable part of FIFA 11. The game is much less strict than other football games when it comes to the difference between shot power and accuracy. This means that you'll quickly be scoring spectacular-looking goals from well outside the opposition's penalty area. That's not to say that scoring is too easy. The goalkeepers are adept at shot stopping and will often perform incredible diving saves. At first, this is great fun to watch, but after you've seen a goalie impossibly tip the ball just onto the post a few times in a row, it begins to feel scripted and creates false tension in matches. Overall, though, the basic 11-versus-11 game in the Wii version is hugely enjoyable and the goalies and talking don't detract much from the excitement of the fast-paced matches. The simple gameplay is easy for casual football fans to pick up and even if you have played a lot of FIFA 11 on other platforms, you will still have plenty of fun with the spectacular goals possible on the Wii.
The street football and indoor five-a-side in FIFA 11 are much faster than the normal 11-versus-11 matches and encourage you to use tricks and skill moves to overcome the opposition. Wall passes are just as key in these modes as they are in real indoor football. There are also power-ups that can be activated, such as shrinking the other team or giving your strikers the ability to hit a shot with huge curve. One of the funniest elements of these modes, though, is the option to use different types of goals. In addition to normal street-sized goals, you can play with half-height goals, tiny goals (with no goalies), and raised goals, which are like basketball hoops that require you to use chip shots to score. This arcade like approach to the sport is one of the most exciting aspects of FIFA 11 on the Wii. The appeal of these modes stretches beyond casual players, with five-a-side returning, it also creates plenty of nostalgia for diehard FIFA fans.
The main career mode for FIFA on the Wii this year is called Streets to Stadiums. As in the Be-a-Pro mode from previous Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 FIFA games, you create and take control of a single player. You choose his position and then upgrade his attributes and skills as his career progresses. Unlike Be-a-Pro, though, you don't start by playing in the reserves for the team of your choice. Instead, you take the role of a street football player and must work your way up through the ranks of this unique version of the sport before being spotted by a professional team. It's a refreshing take on the football game career mode that makes eventually playing for a top team feel like a real achievement. To speed up progression, you are asked to choose fame moments before each match. These are objectives designed to give you extra experience points toward attribute upgrades. You can choose from easy objectives (such as scoring a goal), which offer fewer experience points, or harder ones (such as scoring with a lobbed shot), which offer more. The twist is that if you fail an objective you have chosen, you will also have its experience point value deducted from your total. At first glance, this seems harsh in a more casual football game, but it does create an interesting balance of risk versus reward. There are also unlockable game boosters, which, when used before a match, offer certain gameplay variations that can work in your favor, such as faster players or harder shots. Some of these can even be combined to form extra powerful boosters, such as preventing the opposition goalkeeper from catching the ball. Streets to Stadiums does a brilliant job of creating a compelling and deep career mode that is very well suited to the Wii audience that may not want a full sim experience.
On the other hand, those of you who want a more traditional football experience can jump into Battle for Glory mode. This is very similar to the old Manager mode from previous versions of FIFA on other platforms. You manage the club of your choice, playing the matches yourself if you wish, meeting objectives from the board of directors, and negotiating transfer deals. This mode functions more or less as you'd expect, though there are some elements that have been softened for the Wii. Players do not carry over levels of fatigue between matches and the AI is significantly less active in the transfer market when compared to the career mode on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Though some aspects of Battle for Glory mode have been tailored to suit more casual players, it still manages to provide a satisfying traditional game mode that works well alongside Streets to Stadiums.
The online mode in FIFA 11 is one of the best in a sports game for the Wii. For the most part, the online gameplay is free of lag and runs just as smoothly as the offline game. Logging in with an EA.com account gives you access to EA Messenger, which contains its own buddy list and messaging options. This is a great idea, which allows EA Sports to get around the notorious problems with Wii friend codes and makes it much easier to match up with friends in FIFA 11. However, the friend code option is still functional in FIFA 11 if you wish to use it. Unfortunately, while the online play runs incredibly smoothly, it does not include as many game types as you might expect from a FIFA game. There are ranked and unranked quick-match variants, as well as an unranked two-versus-two co-op mode. However, you can't play the street mode or indoor matches online, and there are no online leagues. Having said that, there are very few Wii games that can compete with just how well the matches actually run in FIFA 11, with a very minimal amount of latency.
When it comes to the visuals, EA Sports has clearly recognized the limitations of the Wii hardware and found interesting ways to work with them, instead of treating them as a hindrance. Rather than looking like a low-res port of the HD versions, FIFA 11 on the Wii has cartoon graphics that will look familiar to anyone who has played other EA Sports games on the Wii. Even when running in 480p mode, the visuals complement the more relaxed approach to gameplay. Unfortunately, though, the player likenesses are of a very mixed quality. Many of the players look great in their comically disproportionate cartoon versions, but the facial likenesses are inconsistent in their quality, even in the top teams.
Sound design, like the graphics, is exaggerated, which adds further to the overall feel of a more relaxed and less sim like experience. Strong tackles, hard shots and the sound of the ball hitting the goal frame are all overstated and compliment the graphics very well. Players can also be heard shouting instructions to each other in their native languages. Commentary is provided by Clive Tyldesley (who replaces Martin Tyler for the Wii version) and Andy Gray and is of the high standard that fans have come to expect from the FIFA series. The Wii version of FIFA 11 also has the same great licensed music as the other platforms.
FIFA 11 for the Wii is a unique take on the football video game and provides an entirely different experience to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions. It offers a more relaxed--but still compelling--experience for young players and casual fans while supplying a mostly lag-free online mode and terrific nostalgia for longtime FIFA fans. If you are looking for a realistic football experience, then the versions of FIFA for other platforms are still the way to go, but FIFA 11 for the Wii is a very good package that is well suited to Nintendo's console.