FIFA 11 is the closest EA has come yet to finally delivering the best football game on the Wii, and it's all thanks to its new five-a-side game mode.
FIFA hasn't had a good five-a-side mode since the tremendous FIFA 98: Road To The World Cup, so its return in FIFA 11 is very welcome. Our favourite pitches are outdoors and, as in the old FIFA Street series, you're able to rebound passes off the wall and even wall-run to get past opponents.
The key to what makes this five-a-side mode so entertaining is the fact that, unlike FIFA Street, this mode is still mainly grounded in realism. The controls and skills are exactly the same as those in a full 11-on-11 match so there are no ridiculous cartwheel shots and no physics-defying flicks. In short, it feels like a real five-a-side game.
Having A Ball
FIFA 11 also has a new Streets To Stadiums mode. It's similar to the Be A Pro mode that's long been a part of the Xbox 360, PS3 and even DS versions of the game, and the fact that it's finally here is great news. You create a player and have to take them from complete anonymity to superstardom over the course of five seasons. It's slightly different to Be A Pro mode because rather than starting in the reserves with a club team, your first season takes place on the street football circuit instead.
This gives you a chance to get involved in some five-a-side footy before going pro the following season, and it's an addictive mode, mainly due to the challenges that are set before each match. You can choose which of these to accept, and each one you successfully complete will earn you fame points which let you unlock new skills and accessories. It's just a shame that this mode has only five seasons.
Ironically, if all you're looking for is standard eleven-a-side football, that's where FIFA 11 becomes less of an essential purchase. The normal friendly, tournament and Battle For Glory modes are more or less unchanged this year other than the obvious kit and squad updates, with the only real difference being the (much appreciated) removal of that slow motion effect every time you take a shot.
It's a shame, as Battle For Glory could have done with some more menu options to bring it more in line with the Manager mode in the other versions of FIFA 11. As it is, it's playable but you do little more than play games and sort transfers. This year, though, it's clear that the focus is on five-a-side multiplayer and the Streets To Stadiums mode, and we can happily report that both are superb additions.
This is an edited version of a review that will appear in issue 61 of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more in-depth analysis, screenshots and boxouts, buy the magazine when it goes on sale on 30 September.