Developer: EA
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Major EA Sports iOS releases always bring up the same questions for me. Will I be able to enjoy the iPhone version even a quarter as much as the console version? Will I fall into the harrowing pit of virtual joystick hell? The question that most people want to know though, deep down, is, “Should I buy it?”

On the console, and if you’re a soccer fan, buying FIFA 11 is a no brainer. The game will undoubtedly be beautiful, have all the players that you want to emulate, and typically has a presentation that is heads above the rest of the sports game competition (the decision to replace Martin Tyler with FIFA 06 commentator Clive Tyldesley irks me a bit, but I’m sure he’ll grow on me).

Like the rest of the iOS sports games that the world enthusiastically bought and then almost as quickly stopped playing, deciding whether or not FIFA 11 is a worthy buy is tough. At first look, FIFA 11 is beautiful looking soccer sim that that has everything that you’d want in an iOS game. It has slick commentary, fluid movements, and an easily navigable menu system. It takes a few minutes of playing though to really capture the essence of the game.

As expected, the control system will be what ultimately makes FIFA 11 a winner or a loser. FIFA 11 has a fairly standard virtual joystick setup (either fixed or floating) with three buttons situated on the right side. The buttons instantly change when you go from defense to offense, so one moment you could be trying to shoot and the next you could inadvertently be sliding into a hapless opponent. Other controls are all performed on the screen, such as a double tap for skill moves and a tap on a player to pass. These on screen controls are definitely where sports apps need to be heading, but having to alternate between virtual buttons and seamless screen tapping can be a bit overwhelming. Other than a few missed buttons, there’s really not too much to complain about with the controls, other than the fact that my left thumb has been rubbed raw from trying to do precision movements.

The gameplay itself is a bit of an adventure at times. Most of the game plays fairly smooth, with particularly good runs and goalie decisions, but there are a few hiccups. There were many instances in my play that the offsides penalty was called incorrectly or not called at all, but worst of all was the odd officiating by the main official. Every once in a while, I would do a dirty slide on a player and only get a foul, but a few times I had my goalie come out to dive on the ball on someones foot and get a red card. There were other various flaws, but most of them (like many of the ridiculous goals) didn’t really detract from the experience all that much. They just gave it, well, personality.

Oddly enough, my biggest complaint with the game was the stadium sound, something that the typical FIFA game nails right on the head. The commentary is spot on and made far less mistakes then I was expecting (my expectations were extremely low), but the stadium sound was far too quiet. Even with headphones the crowd was considerably more quiet than the commentators, leaving you with many moments of next to silence. Not to say that silence is bad, but I’d really like to experience a roar when I score a goal as the home team.

In the end, FIFA 11 will probably hold your attention longer than most other iOS sports sims, but it won’t keep you playing season after season. The game itself, for what it is, isn’t bad but the virtual joystick does become grating after long plays. It’s just not accurate or responsive enough to really capture the fluidity of soccer, and the game suffers for it. Unfortunately, FIFA 11 is one of those games that will be heavily played for a day or two and then will be lost somewhere around page 4 on your iDevice. You’ll look at it and know that you’ll probably never play it again, but you’ll never delete it because you know you’ll feel guilty. It’s really not a bad game, but it’s just not quite good enough to play time and time again.

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