It’s all about the bullet points. Annual sports franchises, especially the already popular ones like FIFA, have a hard time adding enough new stuff each year to make people keep buying their game. So every year you have these new features advertised in big block letters across the back of the box to tell you how much better this year’s game is compared to the last. The same is the case with FIFA 11. The question is do these bullet points really make it a better game?

The first of these new features that you’ll notice when you play FIFA 11 is Pro Passing. It is designed to give the player complete passing freedom, allowing you to pass exactly where you want to and regulate the amount of power behind the pass. FIFA games have had the manual passing option in the past as well, where you could remove the AI assist and accurately direct the pass rather than letting the AI predict where you intended to pass. Pro Passing is nothing but a middle ground between AI-assisted and manual, giving you the freedom to pass into open spaces, but at the same time retaining enough AI assistance to reduce the number of misdirected passes. This now gives you the opportunity to pull off some thrilling long-range through passes that will cut through defenses if directed and powered accurately.

What we didn’t enjoy quite as much was how much power you need to put into a pass to even get it from a central defender to a wing back. The farther you intend to pass, the longer you’ll need to hold down the pass button. That’s understandable, because in real life too making a long pass requires time and space. What renders this ineffective though is that while the pass power is realistic, the default game speed is not. Gameplay in FIFA 11 is considerably slower than last year, but it’s still not slow enough to accommodate its passing system, and this often results in midfield scraps where possession changes hands every few seconds because you won’t always find the time and space needed to connect passes.

Making it even harder to retain possession are the overpowered defenders. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing as Messi; any defender, or defensive midfielder too for that matter, can dispossess you with ease. If you’re the attacker, you’re better off playing the pass-and-move game rather than taking a defender on. Playing as Juventus, with their notoriously shaky back line, a situation where you’re on the defensive with the likes of Messi and Iniesta leading an ominous Barcelona attack towards your goal should make you nervous. Not so in FIFA 11, because you can be sure that even if one of those guys – the best in the world, mind you –

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