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The annual battle between EA Sports’ FIFA and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer kicked off with both titles upping their game for that season.
FIFA 11’s biggest new feature adds the ability to play as a goalkeeper to the ‘Be a Pro’ mode. Pro Evo’s improvements are mostly cosmetic, but the presentation of the new installment was mightily impressive.
FIFA has had traditionally held the aesthetic advantage, though this has changed in recent years.
That FIFA edition looks as slick as ever but the ultra-realistic models Pro Evo has provided for football’s biggest names gives PES a definite edge in this department.
Both titles have continued their visual evolution however and undoubtedly look better than ever.
Pro Evo’s greatest weakness has always been a lack of official licenses and FIFA again trounces its rival in this department.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 served up the entire French Ligue 1 and Dutch Eredivisie, the majority of Spain’s La Liga and every team besides Palermo from the Italian Serie A.
Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs were the only fully licensed sides from the English Premier League.
In contrast, FIFA had fully licensed leagues from around the world, from Australia to the United States.
The top two flights of French, German, Italian and Spanish football are fully licensed, while the top four English leagues are present and correct.
Both games feature improvements to the game mode that allows you to play as a single player in a side of 11.
FIFA has definitely got the advantage here, with the ability to play as a goalkeeper and compete online in games of 11 vs. 11 added.
That new feature brought FIFA closer than ever to accurately replicating the beautiful game.
Impressive as the new feature was, it’s debatable how much fun can actually be had playing as a goalkeeper online, having nothing to do for most of the match and getting abuse yelled at you through your headset when you fail to make a save.
The gameplay has always been Pro Evo’s strong point and its superiority here is pretty much the only reason the title has ever stood a chance against the fully licensed FIFA series.
Both titles boast massively improved passing, with the direction and strength with which the pass is hit now playing a far greater part in where it actually ends up.
Which of the improved passing systems is actually superior is probably a matter of personal preference, but FIFA’s does seem to slightly edge it, allowing gamers to beautifully string passes together and tear an opponent’s defence to shreds.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 showcases massively improved off-the-ball movement, which FIFA was definitely the better at last time out.
Defenders no longer foolishly chase down attackers and attackers are far more likely to run into a decent position when you’re going forward.
The game boasts an intimidating array of options for tweaking the team’s strategy which only the truly hardcore will fully master.
FIFA 11’s strategic options are far more intuitive, with one button changing the teams approach from counter attack to applying pressure high up the pitch mid-game.
Pro Evo’s saving grace has always been the realism of its goals and the latest installment still lets you score screamers that put FIFA 11 to shame.
Konami seem to have mastered perfect ball physics and there’s nothing more satisfying than watching a long range effort bounce wildly after striking the back of the net.
FIFA suffers from a propensity towards freakish incidents that the player can do little to avoid, such as very harsh decisions being handed out to tackles that appear completely fair.
Coupled with the inferior goal animations and ball physics, FIFA 11 feels by far the less realistic of the two titles when it comes to the important moments.
The rest of the game plays like a dream, especially the improved passing.
It’s a shame they couldn’t shoehorn the glorious goals and sensible tackles of Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 into FIFA 11.
Nevertheless, the gameplay has continued to improve year-on-year and the gulf between the games has long dried to a narrow canal.
Written by Tom Wilkins
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