FIFA 12 review
- FIFA 12
- EA Canada
Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format reviewed: PS3
Developer: EA Canada
Made2Game FIFA 12 review score: 9/10
This shouldn’t be a good time for me to be writing a FIFA 12 review. Or playing the game day in and night out for a week or so. I have, you see, fallen out of love with football.
Since I could walk (and that is a very, very long time ago) everything has been football. Live matches, televised matches, endless amounts of newsprint, hours and days and years of debate and conversation. West Ham, England, Match of the Day, Sky Sports in HD, playing on a Sunday, five-a-side on a Wednesday. All the time endlessly talking and debating results, players, tactics and trivia.
But not anymore. Football has gone too far. The rise of super clubs fuelled by TV millions who in turn transform talented kids into swaggering stooges more interested in their Baby Bentley and Hello! cover than winning a World Cup is making football sick and me sick of it.
No, this shouldn’t be a good time for me and FIFA 12 – especially as FIFA moves ever closer to the kind of Sky Sports-infused experience with every passing year.
Slick and polish
Take the Career Mode. Repackaged and rebooted with a slick interface and a more obviously recognisable transfer system (driven by much smarter AI, according to producer David Rutter) it shows distinct signs of the sickness afflicting the modern game. It’s not long into your career that you find players moaning about wages or not being picked and talking to the press to get a move.
FIFA 12 also revels in that most obvious of examples of football’s fall into a big-money circus act: Transfer Deadline Day. While there’s no Jim White excitedly shouting to bored reporters outside training grounds, FIFA 12 does what it can to rack up the tension with breaking news and last minute drama.
There's a slickness to the presentation that clearly apes Sky Sports-style TV
You can also see it in the new-look menus, camera angles and build-ups: FIFA 12 wants nothing more than to give you that Big Match Premier League feeling, the excitement of a Man United vs Chelsea title decider.
I *heart* FIFA
But despite all that I’m totally in love with FIFA 12. In FIFA 12 the TV-aping slick presentation and new features aren’t hiding a shallow lack of talent and tactical nous. In fact it actually serves to highlight the remarkable changes on the pitch.
While everyone who follows these things or has played the demo will already know about the ‘trinity’ of changes made to the gameplay for FIFA 12 it’s still amazing just how much they transform how you play the game – and how it makes you feel.
The new physics engine – or Collision Detection Engine as EA like to call it – is the most obvious change. It fixes the nagging problem that FIFAs past have all had: fixed animations combined with heavy handed thumbing leading to bottled rage as the animations play out in the most cumbersome manner and ruin your game.
Now you get players barging, falling and colliding; you get the ball running freely; you get something close to real physics. The effect – once you get over the surprise – is instantly reassuring and comfortable: Yes, *this* is how it is meant to be. The engine isn’t perfect, however, and there’s fun to be had in watching some comical off-the-ball encounters as players crash into each other, slapstick-style.
The collision detection engine makes for meatier tackles and more realistic physics
You should get a similarly reassuring bolt when you start turning in tiny circles with the ball and holding off other players using the new close control. The most interesting thing is that being able to make tiny corrections while dribbling is about more than individual play – it changes the tactics as well.
Where in previous FIFAs there was a virtue in getting the ball down and passing, you had to work the ball out wide first, restricting the sorts of formations and tactics you could use successfully. Not in FIFA 12. Close control means you can fire the ball into feet and hold it up; you can trick your way through the middle (if you’re good enough); you can play slick passing football with the knowledge that you’re able to skip away from tackles.
The new defending system – Tactical Defending - is less obviously a success. When you fire up the game you get a quick tutorial so you understand that THINGS HAVE CHANGED. However while the jockeying system is clearly a move in the right direction – the need to stop people tackling by just barging in holding X and sprint – it doesn’t feel like FIFA 12 has quite cracked it. The jockeying is a little too technical and precise to work fluidly and the standing and slide tackles are much harder to control – presumably to stop you using them so much.
It might be that Tactical Defending turns out to be something that just takes time to get used to, or it might be the thing Rutter and his team spend a lot of time polishing for FIFA 13.
The combined impact of the three changes is to make FIFA 12 a different experience from FIFA 11: more fluid, certainly, but also more physical (you can feel the crunching tackles) and more cerebral (you have to think tactically about your game).
One of the quirks of these kinds of changes - essentially mechanical gameplay upgrades – is that they’re not really noticeable visually. The look and feel of FIFA 12 isn’t much changed a year on and most of the elements from FIFA 11 are still in place.
What else is in the box?
There are non-gameplay changes as well, of course. The most noticeable, in that it’s the subject of the opening video, is EA Sports Football Club - where you can scoop up XP for your chosen side by playing games. The other biggie is the Head To Head Seasons where you have 10 seasons of 10 games each to go through the leagues.
While we like the look of both of these it’ll take a while to see if they’re going to actually work – we’ll let you know what we think in a month or two. We’d love to get your opinion on these as well.
One thing that we can judge already is the aforementioned Transfer Deadline Day. It induces the same kind of breathless excitement as the real thing as the news clicks through and is a smart addition. In fact, it’s one of a few clever changes to the career mode. You can now ‘stall’ transfer deals, for instance, and move your budget around between wages and your player fund.
FIFA 12 is very different from FIFA 11 - while looking almost identical
The overall impact of the tweaks, new modes and gameplay changes is huge – it’s a very different game to FIFA 11 and will take a few people unawares. It’s also a better game than FIFA 11.
Right now, to me, football feels like Elvis in Vegas, squeezing into a sequined outfit and serenading a braying audience that has overpaid for its tickets. I can see a future where football has eaten itself to death: Elvis-on-the-toilet style.
FIFA 12, though, has pulled off a remarkable trick. By getting closer to the game it’s become a much more pure experience. Purer than you’ll find following the real thing.
The glitz and grotesquery of modern football are rendered what they should be – a sideshow to what happens on the pitch. And what happens on the pitch in FIFA 12 is as close as we’ve had to an authentic footballing experience.
Words by Rich Keith (Twitter: @rjkeith)
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