The world of English football seems to be caving in around us. Our national team recently failed to beat Montenegro (most recent footballing nation on the planet I’ll have you know!), and Wayne Rooney has proven himself to be not so much our British Bulldog as a confused pug who seems just as disorientated on the pitch as off it.
So how do I link my frustrated rant to the iPhone version of Fifa 11? Well, playing a football game is a great way to enjoy the beautiful game while at the same time removing yourself from the infuriating politics of real-world football. In a game there are no sex scandals, no American club owners, and no excessive salary demands. It’s just digital replicas of all your favourite stars doing exactly as you command. So instead of reading about the latest footie scandal in the METRO on your way to work, why not dig in to the handheld version of the best football game on the planet instead? Well, maybe because it’s not that good.
The main problem with FIFA 11 is that it plays like a slow-motion replay. Apparently, this may be something to do with the absurd 900MB file size which the iPhone is simply not used to handling. Either way, the brutally slow frame-rate casts a shadow over the whole game and dampens just about any positive aspects of the game.
Glaringly poor performance aside, the gameplay in FIFA is functional, if basic. There are three buttons to press depending on whether you’re attacking or defending, and double-tapping the screen has your player pull off a random trick. This control system does the job, but lacks innovation; wouldn’t it be great to curl the ball using the touch-screen, or direct your passes by dragging your finger in the right direction, or do ANYTHING that utilised the unique touch capabilities of the iPhone? The control system is responsive enough, it’s just very unimaginative.
As expected with FIFA, this game is fully licensed and has up-to-date squads, sponsors and stadia. All the big European cups and leagues are there, from the FA Cup to the Johnstone Paint Trophy, and in this respect the game is very varied and dandy. It’s just a shame that playing the matches feels like wading through a swamp rather than running around a football pitch.
No footie game would be complete without some semi-abstract commentary, and the iPhone version of FIFA is no exception. A couple of my favourite quotes are ‘He’s got to be accurate when the pitch is as wet as it is today’ (?!) and the completely mood-dampening ‘It’s not a great save, it’s a good save.’ Aside from such random soundbites, the commentators remain fairly quiet throughout the games, doing little to alleviate the game’s non-atmosphere.
Considering FIFA is the undisputed king of football games on other formats, this iPhone offering feels like a lazy effort. The iPhone is a platform with plenty of innovative potential and FIFA 11 exploits none of it. Sure, scoring a goal feels great (doesn’t it always?) but getting to that point feels painful due to the game being unable to handle the graphics at a good speed. FIFA’s trademark all-encompassing licensing isn’t enough to redeem this unimaginative cash-in.