FIFA 11 is not a game you can pop in and play. It took less time to install Oblivion's Game of the Year content than it did to navigate FIFA's initial setup, which included inputting the cheap shot Online Pass – a one-use code which devalues your game almost as soon as the cellophane is breathed upon. The music – if at all possible – is even more frustrating than the series' earlier offerings, and the realisation that everything you do is integrated into something you don't remotely care about is equally as unpleasant.
You want to create something? Best use your PC. Unless its a player you want, in which case you have to suffer Martin Tyler's incessant droning while it dawns on you that FIFA 07's creation system was less cumbersome. On the subject of Martin Tyler, one of the first things you may notice once you do finally get to a match is that you're hearing the very same horseradish you heard three years ago. It's not just the same commentary team, it's the same commentary. Period.
While player animations have been improved immeasurably, actually playing it with a less than five star team feels clunky and stupid. Burton Albion aren't footballing luminaries, but if you've ever seen an 11th-tier football match, you may find the similarities uncanny. The general intelligence off the ball has been improved, but if a tackle is made the flaws come pouring out. Non-existant fouls will without doubt result in free kicks, but bulldozing NFL tackles go unchecked. This is nothing new – it's a complaint I've had since the last generation of football games – but the new animations should see you shouting questioning obscenities at the TV even more than the PS2 version of Mercenaries 2.
If the football match is occurring on the next pitch along, then being a goalkeeper is accurately portrayed. You can write reviews during lower-difficulty games, and because you're forced to wear beer-goggles, you can't even enjoy a match that's apparently being played half a mile away. On harder difficulties, this becomes a functional problem, because that long-ball that every keeper on the planet gathers up with ease? You can't actually see it. You'll quickly resort to following the pattern intensely, which means you're effectively playing any of the thousands of free real-time simon-says style games on miniclip. Congratulations on your purchase.
It's not all bad though. Playing as a top team on amateur is as brilliantly ridiculous as ever, and the vast array of spectacular goals possible is staggering. Games on harder difficulties often feel like a real contest, and being able to set your board's lenience in manager mode is a nice touch to give tougher careers a spot of longevity. One thing remains the same throughout every release. The best way to play FIFA is with your friends sat next to you. A suckerpunch from the computer is annoying. One from your brother is reason to demolish him in the replay.
I shouldn't have been expecting anything revolutionary, and I suppose it's my fault that I took such a negative stance, originally. Annual releases aren't going to be wildly different without complete engine overhauls, no matter what the big reviewers tell you, but if you want a solid football game with updated team rosters, FIFA 11 hits the spot.