FIFA 11 for the Wii feels to me like a game trying too hard to be like its more grown up siblings (spread as it is across pretty much every available platform). But, you know, there’s something to be said for just being yourself - why try and grow up too fast? Embrace who you are, little FIFA 11 for the Wii. You’re the FIFA that parents will choose for their kids. You’re the FIFA that had the opportunity to bust out a full and flavoursome arcade mode. It’s what people expect of you! You’re on the Wii! Act your age!
I have a friend who slung games over the counter at a shop overseas for a while. Now, we Kiwis don’t have quite the same magical pricing for our systems as... everyone else on the planet, so for a moment I’m going to leave regional differences out of this story. He was telling me that in North America, it’s not uncommon for people to walk into a store for a PS3 or Xbox, see the Wii and it’s low price (by comparison) and pick one of those as well, without even planning it. Add to that the people who buy one purpose and there’s a nice little market out there; consider also that many of the hands on Wii remotes around the world are little and attached to people under 10.
The problem facing FIFA 11 for the Wii, is that there is no possible way soccer fans could want to buy the Wii version over the PS3 version; even in households where they have both. Perhaps a lot of mums will pick it up for their children - and of course causal gamers who only have a Wii and want to play a soccer game might go there - but this title is simply not good enough to be the first choice.
Really, the best thing about it is that like the other FIFA games, it’s very customisable. This means that with enough dallying in menus, you can actually put together a competent few hours entertainment. You may even go back. It also includes a unique mode - Hit the Streets - which is the arcade nod that you expect in any Wii version of a popular franchise (i.e. Need for Speed Nitro. FIFA 11 Wii could have been a really good iteration if this mode had been executed well, but it just falls a bit short, which is a major disappointment.
The whole indoor/street soccer 5-on-5 idea is a good one. It offers something a bit different, and should allow good scope for building elite teams and enjoying a bit of frenetic multiplayer action. The key word there being action. However, apart from a few powerups - some of which are at least irreverent, such as big vs little, which shrinks one team for a limited time - there’s not much that separates this from being a 5-on-5 version of boring old field football. Enclosed spaces spice things up a bit, but my biggest gripe is that there is no real feeling of speed. This is almost rubbed in your face by the super speed powerup, which seems to make zero difference.
The ability to customise teams, kit, net size and many other facets of your street match manage to keep it from being a complete disaster, and you will see perhaps flashes of the mode that Hit the Streets might have been. But as my old grandmammy used to say, wish in one hand, crap in the other, and see which fills up first. Each time you think, “man, this could have been a really cool mode if...” it’s a fresh Liverpool kiss.
Overall control of the game, in all modes, is actually not too bad. I am convinced the sprint button does almost nothing, as a lack of speed dogs matches on a regular pitch too, but the varied control options with the Wii mean you should be able to find one you like. Gamers who have played soccer sims on other platforms will probably opt for the Classic Controller option if it’s available, as the Wii’s motion sensitive controls don’t add a lot to the proceedings, apart from giving a one-handed option. Sensible-ish controls are helped by decent AI, so you never feel like you’re floundering too much.
To say the graphics are serviceable is almost as bad as rubbishing them, right? Well we all know it’s no good ranting about the Wii is in this regard. On the field you have a single-action simian-like crowd, blobby looking players (at least they move realistically) and a woefully astroturf-like pitch. The ball hitting the net in slow-mo is weak to say the least and I’m sorry to say things don’t get a hell of a lot better in any of the other modes either. I maintain that if the gameplay was out of this world, the graphics wouldn’t even matter, especially to the young kids who are likely to end up with this game as a stocking stuffer. But, there you go.
Because of the lack of pace and finesse, the poor sound is even more noticeable. Without action on the field, there is no real atmosphere, and that bleak feeling doubles when you get to a street game where there is no crowd. At least the regular games have some of that good old stadium singalong feel, and commentary that is believable and mostly seamless. Even with the players calling to each other in their native languages (a nice touch) and some good music, it’s lacking. Actually, let me be fair about the music; it’s better than good. That’s one major plus here; music that is varied, licensed and, again, customisable to some extent.
Like other officially licensed games, the Wii version of FIFA 11 comes stacked with real teams, real players and very real stats. The ability to choose your team from a “popular” list saves you having to scroll through zillions of teams you’ve never heard of to find a really good one if all you want is a 20-0 romp against the AI.
Sporting as it does a career mode, a quick play option, Hit the Steets, an underdog story uprising mode and a management mode, it’s impossible to ignore that there is at least some value here. Without this (and, as I said, the ability to pretty much build the game you want - even if you can’t fix the sound and visuals) FIFA 11 for the Wii would be smack on average. It would be a game that succeeds simply by being on the market, and by offering the FIFA franchise to people who chose/got stuck with the Wii.
But it could have been so much better if this game was FIFA: Hit the Streets - licensed teams and names with all the effort put into a killer arcade mode. The half-and-half version is a bit of a nil-all-draw on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon.