FIFA games tend to get short shrift on the PC. The past four years have seen us lumbered with lazy PlayStation 2 legacy ports, while current console owners have basked in a franchise that's gone from strength to strength.
This year, however, EA has upped its game, porting the engine from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of last year's FIFA 10 to the PC. And this engine has been spruced up with improvements from summer's FIFA World Cup 2010 title: you get 360-degree dribbling, customisable set-pieces and improved collision detection between players, for example.
Don't worry that the engine is a year old; FIFA 10 received widespread praise, and these additions only improve its already impressive footballing brain. At least it did once we'd turned off most of the game's passing and movement assists, and plugged in an Xbox 360 control pad.
With shackles loosened, FIFA 11's previously predictable gameplay becomes more involving. The free-flowing nature of the game is married to excellent AI, and the 360-degree ball control and movement lends the game an air of realism that takes it beyond the serious fans' favourite, Pro Evolution Soccer.
Of course, FIFA's gameplay isn't perfect. We found it especially difficult to score from headers thanks to some impenetrable opposition defences. And free kicks - despite EA's claims about the increased depth of its system - were tricky to execute. The lack of a PES-style power gauge makes it difficult to judge the strength of shots, and the direction indicators seen in older FIFA titles are missing, too.
EA's presentation is as slick as ever. Loading screens serve up a neat player-vs-goalkeeper training ground challenge, and menus are easy to navigate. The graphics are superb too, with spot-on player likenesses, fluid movement maintained across thousands of animations, and a broad selection of impressive stadia.
And then there's FIFA's licensing, which ensures that more than 30 leagues, 500 teams and 15,000 players are given their proper names. It's certainly a contrast to this year's Pro Evolution Soccer, where the average Premiership weekend could feature clashes between such household names as The Potteries and Merseyside Red.
Commentary is provided by Sky Sports' regulars Martin Tyler and Andy Gray, but the pair engage in embarrassing small-talk, refer inaccurately to the onscreen action and spout team-specific facts and opinions that are out of date.
The numerous game modes yield mixed results. While the two main areas are undoubtedly time-sinks - the Be a Pro and Manager modes have you controlling players and clubs respectively - they're still a year behind the FIFA curve, as our console cousins are getting stuck into Career mode, which combines and improves both. It's the closest thing the FIFA franchise has to Pro Evolution Soccer's addictive Master League, so it's a shame not to see it in the PC version.
For the time being, as long as you have a gamepad to make the most of it, FIFA 11 does still play a game of soccer that beats the latest Pro Evolution Soccer to the title of best PC soccer game. Perhaps next year we'll see it finally catch up with the rest of the FIFA family.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk