EA Sports has implemented game-changing features in key areas of the park that make for an altogether more tactical, charismatic experience - with FIFA 12, EA team has taken steps in different directions
FIFA 12 still that incredible fluidity of play, the incredibly detailed level of animation. FIFA still surprises you with goals you've never seen before, it still takes full advantage of exclusive licenses to provide the most authentic football experience bar the real deal.
But when you're off the ball you'll discover a more physical, thoughtful and authentic defensive game that forces even the most veteran FIFA champs to rethink their game plan entirely. EA's been very brave indeed.
FIFA 12: Collision detection
Aesthetically FIFA 12 doesn't look like it's changed an awful lot. Start up your first game and, apart from an attempt at presentation that resembles a TV broadcast highlight reel, everything looks very similar. But the overriding feeling is that FIFA is weightier and heavier and, while a fraction of that is down to slightly slower sprint speeds (although we're not talking FIFA 08 here) the biggest contributor is the clever physics based collision detection. It's essentially a more sophisticated version of the ragdoll model you can find in something like the Skate series.
Now players' body parts react to collisions depending on the position, direction and force of the impact. It makes for more tactical tussles, more realistic tumbles and more things to consider both on and off the ball. Players are forced to take their time, mix up play, work around obstacles and ride an extra level of tension. Overall, it's a great addition - but it's not without its quirks.
FIFA 12: Tackling
It's not the only back-of-the-box newcomer that forces you to seriously reconsider your approach to FIFA either. This year's edition sees tackling get a near complete overhaul. What it essentially does is take away the ability to home in on the ball with a defender. In previous editions you could hold A/X and send your man scampering after the ball automatically like a heat-seeking man-missile, confident he would effortlessly dispossess the attacker if he managed to make contact with the ball.
Life's not so easy anymore. Now, holding A/X only draws your defender so far. Instead of getting stuck in and doing all the work for you he'll stop short of the attack and jockey the opponent. In theory it's your job to move in the rest of the way and time your intercepting toe poke with a press of B/circle or slide with X/square. In practice your player never seems to be able to get close enough to stick a leg in, with an invisible wall stopping us from jockeying close enough to make contact with the ball. Not to worry though, since the option to tackle completely manually proves much more fruitful and, it turns out, far more satisfying.
FIFA 12: Pro Player Intelligence
It's all of the above then that guarantees this year's FIFA feels different, but it's far from the only set of tweaks EA Sports has delivered. Pro Player Intelligence, the AI buzzword which basically means computer players being made aware of their teammates skills and abilities, is one area that's seen a boost.
The idea is if you play against, for example, Stoke, then you should notice your opposition trying to find the head of Peter Crouch, whereas a team like Arsenal will probably try to pass more along the ground and into space looking to exploit the pace of Walcott. It's a feature that's very much under the hood and hard to really keep a tab on. That said, generally speaking, we haven't noticed too much advancement in AI from last year.
FIFA 12: Career mode and online
Off the pitch the Career Mode encompasses managers, players and player managers as well as getting a bit of an updated user interface to match its Sky Sports introduction preceding matches. There are a number of updates that flesh out your management experience, with new ways for players to get disenfranchised, more varied press reports and a more 'realistic' transfer system (although should we really have been able to sign Thierry Henry and Elano for Bolton?)
That's a mode that's most certainly at the top of its game here, though hardcore management sim fans will never be satisfied. Online FIFA 12 has a real chance of becoming the most competitive football game yet, with EA's Football Club interface accumulating experience points throughout every game mode and then tallying them to your real-life supported football team in the online Support your Team mode.
FIFA 12: Verdict
When it comes to 3pm on a Saturday afternoon FIFA shines like no other. Last year we said that EA Sports had reached a pinnacle in football simulation, and rather than attempting to build on the impossible it's been brave and steered slightly in a different direction. FIFA 12 isn't the total reinvention some expected just yet (and we're not sure real FIFA fans would want it to be) but this year's additions are certainly more than just updates of the same old features and they're the most significant we've seen in years.
FIFA has more character, depth and tactical weight than ever before, and with the new physics engine and tackling system comes promise for the future. Fefs, occasional oddness and Evra head stomps show the Impact Engine isn't the 100% finished article, but we're excited to see how it evolves in this new strain of strategic, physical and personality-plump FIFA.
FIFA 12 availability: Out now on all formats
FIFA 12 price: £39.99 on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and £29.99 on PC
You can check out CVG's full review here: