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FIFA 11 Review

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The Ballon d'Or of football games

★★★★

As Adam & Joe once remarked,"Ball ball ball! Footy footy footy!" If the act of kicking an inflated pig's bladder around a green pitch doesn't fill your heart with flag-waving joy, then the annual FIFA jamboree will be completely lost on you. Move along. Alternatively, you might be Tom Hicks or George Gillett.

But if you're a gamer and love the reassuring sound of leather on ethylene-vinyl acetate and thermoplastic polyurethanes, then the advent of a new edition of FIFA - now pretty much established as the daddy of football games, sending Pro Evo crying into a corner - is like Christmas come early. And this year is no exception.

As ever, the graphics are astoundingly realistic, ­almost terrifyingly so, in fact, particularly when the fizzog of an ersatz Wayne Rooney fills your screen without warning. The commentary from the Sky dream-team of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, is as top-notch as ever (although this reviewer could have done without the bizarre reference to Heysel and Hillsborough, reducing two of the biggest tragedies in the game to the status of background info).

But, as Jose Mourinho knows, talking is best done on the pitch, and it's there where FIFA 11 shows its hand. The career mode has been refined, allowing you to choose between playing as your own pro (a new take on the Be A Pro mode), managing the club of your dreams or combining the two to become a player manager, which can be all kinds of fun, if terribly time-consuming.
When you get on the pitch, it's clear that the tweaks to the gameplay have made FIFA 11 a much more difficult beast and thus, more rewarding when you ultimately crack it.

One-twos are harder to pull off this season, defenders are savvier than ever before, and there's an incredible amount of importance placed on how you line up on the pitch. Go too defensive and you'll have about as much chance of scoring as [CENSORED] in a [CENSORED]. Front-load your side and you'll be wide open at the back ­and trust us, there's nothing more embarrassing than being pummelled 5-1 at home. By Blackpool.

The online mode is as fun as always, and if you can galvanise enough of your mates, you can take part in proper 11 v 11 games (there's now an option to play as the keeper too), just like you used to do in the real world, but without the huffing and puffing and humiliation and pain. And that's FIFA to a tee: don't like a result? Just replay until you do. It's football with all the pain taken out.

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