When it comes to sports titles on the Wii, the question these days is whether a given game can even come close to its Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 counterparts. One criticism has been that Wii versions are often cash-ins on the primary versions. Another is that the games are stripped down ports with inferior graphics and non-functional waggle controls thrown in. I’m happy to say the FIFA Soccer 11 on the Wii, while it doesn’t quite measure up to its counterparts, has received enough attention to be a solid game in its own right.
The first question that arises is how the controls for a soccer game translate to Nintendo’s system. With FIFA 11, this is actually a strength of the title. There are numerous options for control, including remote only, nunchuk and remote, classic controller, etc. For those who don’t like motion control, you can simply plug in the classic controller and enjoy an arcade soccer experience. For those who do, the nunchuck/remote combination performs very well, and it’s my recommendation.
Player control is handled with the analog stick, and main performance buttons are tied to the remote. Combinations of the nunchuk’s triggers and face buttons will allow you to pull off variations of passes, shots, and moves, while the D-pad allows for further innovations. The one aspect of the game that does not work well, in terms of motion control, is slide-tackling. A well-executed slide-tackle has always been a valuable tool in FIFA games, if not overused. In FIFA 11, it is mapped to a motion with the Wii remote that I still cannot execute consistently. Much of the time, the motion simply is not recognized, and it can really hurt you. However, overall the game controls brilliantly.
The default difficulty of the Wii version has been scaled back significantly. This is most likely due to the much younger average age of Wii owners. You’ll need to manually ramp up the skill of opposing goal-keepers, for example, as on the default levels it is simply too easy to score goals especially from a distance. You CAN adjust this, however, so this is not as much of a gripe against the game as it is a recommendation.
As far as ways to play, EA has gone in a different direction on the Wii. A big addition is the ability to play indoor soccer and street soccer. You can play indoors or out, adjust the size of the court, the size of the net, and so on. It’s a nice diversion, and is incorporated into the Streets to Stadiums mode. Streets to Stadiums is the best thing about FIFA 11, hands down. It’s a variation of the Be a Pro mode we all know and love. In this mode, you’ll start out as an amateur player on a street soccer league somewhere in Brazil. You’ll play games and accomplish goals to earn experience points, which you can spend on upgrading your skills and new gear. After a season, you’ll get picked up by a low-level club where you can continue to improve your game, with the ultimate goal of getting a spot on your favorite squad. You control only your player, so everything from positioning to teamwork is important. It’s immersive and rewarding, and a nice RPG angle on a soccer career.
Battle for Glory mode is the equivalent of a manager mode, and puts you in charge of the front office of a club. You’ll make all of the decisions about contracts, trades, playing time, captaincy, etc. It’s not nearly as deep as its 360/PS3 counterparts, but then again, it’s not for the same audience. In fact, all of the modes are less deep but it does not come across as a hindrance, but rather as a way to be more accessible. It just works.
The online aspect of FIFA 11, while arguably shallow, does what it does very well. You can jump into quick matches in full-field, street, or indoor settings. My online games were smooth and 100% uninterrupted. It would have been good to see online leagues, but at least what is here is executed very nicely.
Often in sports titles on the Wii, we see developers try to make the player models look as realistic as possible. The problem is that given the Wii’s graphical limitations, these efforts always end up looking shoddy. However, EA has used an excellent strategy to avoid this mistake. They’ve used a cartoon style to create player models that are humorously shaped and glossy, and look kind of
like toys. By doing so, they have avoided making the game inferior graphically instead, it’s just different. Because it uses less power, it also runs very smoothly as well. In the audio department, Andy Gray and Clive Tyldesley do an excellent job, as usual, and the soundtrack is lively.
EA deserves a lot of credit here for breaking the mold of Wii versions of core sports games. By altering both the gameplay style and the visual style, they’ve managed to create an experience that, while not as deep and involving, is inviting and enjoyable in its own way.