Welcome to the Champions League of football games

When it came to football games I was always a Pro Evolution Soccer man. However, since the dawn of the current generation of games consoles, like other fans, I'd suffered through several iterations of PES that failed to live up to expectations, struggling to come to terms with the graphical capabilities offered by the hardware and seemingly taking a step backwards in gameplay terms at the same time. And the ever-popular FIFA franchise was no solution, seemingly still stuck in creating a more arcade-based take on the sport that traded depth for special moves.

And then came last year's FIFA 10. Here was the true successor to PES's legacy, the very pinnacle of football games. The ever-present flashy graphics and official licences were now balanced by the most incredible design and gameplay (thanks in no mall part to the wonders of 360-degree dribbling). So how exactly would EA Sports improve on the game for this year's edition? Truth be told, in small, but noticeable, ways that will undoubtedly delight the franchise's legions of fans.

Virtual personalities
The big sell this year is the much-heralded arrival of Personality Plus. Thanks to some programming wizardry the individual players now behave much more like their real selves when on the virtual pitch. Their runs, passes, dribbles and shots are now much more accurate to how the players operate in the real sport, creating a greater sense of individuality amongst the characters that make up your (and the opponent's) team. Each player's behaviour on pitch is now much more believable, with burly defenders dispossessing speedy forwards of the ball with much more frequency. Personality Plus also brings with it an increased range of goal celebrations, although how much joy you'll deride from that really depends on how long you're prepared to wait before getting back to the game after putting one in the back of the net.

Another big gameplay feature this year is the Pro Passing System, which allows you to play longer passes down the field by holding down the button for longer. It can be a little frustrating at first, when what you thought would be a rapid-fire pass to a nearby colleague zooms straight past them and ends up at the feet of an opposition player further down the pitch. But you soon get used to it. Which is more than can be said for the revised penalties mode, which manages the astonishing feat of being both rather simple and needlessly obtuse at the same time.

If none of this sounds like major revisions to the gameplay, well that's because they aren't. But, it all adds up to a more refined, exciting and tactical interpretation of the sport. And Personality Plus might seem like little more than a gimmick, it's astonishing how much it adds to the authenticity of the game.

Be a goalie!
Off the pitch there are more tweaks and improvement, kicking off with a much more manageable and easy-to-navigate menu system for the Career Mode. The existence of a full calendar makes it much easier to see what games are lined up and plan accordingly, while the ever-present email feedback from your board of directors helps to build the virtual world around you. On top of that, the Be a Pro mode gets an additional feature this year in the form of Be a Goalie. While this does finally allow for full eleven-player online teams, as expected it's deathly dull being stuck back in goal and I truly pity those relegated to the role in online squads.

So there you have it. While there are more some additional new features that we haven't had the space to cover here, none of them mark any kind of major change to the game. Instead EA Sports has simply taken the very best football game on the market and refined it in various ways. Is that enough to make it a must-have purchase? Well, as far as I'm concerned, yes it does. FIFA 11 is a fantastic game and one I'll be playing continually until FIFA 12 shows up and tries to steal its crown.

PS3 (version tested)/Xbox 360/Wii/NDS/PSP/PS2, EA Sports, £49.99, On sale now